The Loss of The Passing of Time

by Aidan Andrew Dun


Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery?’

The world was grief-stricken when the MV Sewol sank in waters off South Korea on the 16th of April, 2014, with the loss of three hundred and four lives. By far the majority of the victims were secondary-school students on an academic outing.

‘Sewol’ translates from Korean as ‘the passing of time’. The Buddha said “Man’s problem is his forgetting.” The ferry’s name itself seems to hint – to warn – that the passing of time may erase the memory of the many young people who needlessly lost their lives when the Sewol, recklessly overladen with a military cargo, went down in the treacherous straits of the Maenggol Channel.

The vessel was reportedly carrying more than three times the permitted tonnage and recently-added illegal passenger-decks almost certainly affected the stability of the ship. Investigations have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that the vessel was under-ballasted for commercial reasons connected with the cargo bound from Incheon to a naval base on the nearby island of Jeju.

The Loss of the Passing of Time is offered in the hope that its voice may join the massed chorus of those who are determined to remember, who will not forget.

The screaming sea
sang your dooms
fathoms down
in tombs of steel
the rapid strait’s
riptides sang your fates
crashed in anthems
where none could kneel.

Save, where you lay
in the sunken hull
in the flooded hell
on Good Friday
the divers bending
down, descending
in the name of love
to take above.

With overladen hold
for callous gold
with ballast-water
barely halfway-filled
with superstructures
two extra decks
she went down
in destiny’s vortex.

Through undercurrents
strong underchurn
with steering-gear
gone at the stern
her fatal turn
beneath full moon
triggered shift:
sudden list.

Not to blame
we light this flame
to name businessmen
deckhands unskilled.
For the departed
this kaddish is read
a prayer said
after shipwreck

For sons and daughters
since God so willed
under many waters
lost, star-crossed
futures stricken
all unfulfilled
and that blank sky
over the bereft.

Maker of the cruel sea
shaker of the earth
Almighty God
how shall those left
alone in shadows
cast by tragedy
give thanks to You for
bittersweet rainbows?

O worthless life
inside duality.
enduring, we
would blow a kiss to
stars eclipsed too soon
yet no gifts to the dead
save our tears shed.

O Holy One, such shifts
in booming deeps
such tilts of the heart
whirlpools and drifts.
Thy kingdom come on earth
somehow, some way
when he who weeps today
again keeps faith.

Peace, spirit saith
as through existent
epochs of pain
time’s vain boast
to cease with passing years
persistent tears
mocks and sneers
in desolation’s reign.

For whom the eighth bell
tolls unbearably:
one breath of life
cycles eternally
given, taken-back.
No death comes near
the unfrightened soul’s
fiery track.

Take solace
you who’ve prayed
beside the night-sea
where, without trace
love sank to hell
abandoned and betrayed:
the human face of God
shines with your tears.