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IMAGE: Daniel Calder

The Sinking of the

MV Sewol

David Starkey

David Starkey served as Santa Barbara’s 2009–2011 Poet Laureate. He is Director of the Creative Writing Program at Santa Barbara City College and Co-editor and Publisher of Gunpowder Press, as well as the author of seven full-length poetry collections. Over the past thirty years, he has published more than 500 poems in literary journals such as American Scholar, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner and Southern Review.

In the swift and changing

currents of the Maenggol

Channel, a sharp turn


to starboard, then the ship

listing to port, then hard

back to port. Soon,


the loading bay was flooded,

and the four hundred tons

of iron in the hold—destined


for the naval base—made

righting the ship impossible.

Ah, well, I heard an old man say,


as we watched the news

at LAX while waiting

for our plane, they are only lives


lost. We’ll all lose ours someday.

I turned to stare at him,

astonished, and he smiled,


his face heavy with sin,

his eyes like two portholes,

the water rushing in.