The Oxen

The days pass him by with
the heat on his back.
The dirt in his face.
Sweat on his brow. 

He plows on
and on, and on.

With the sun’s faithful glow
and the rain’s nurturing gifts
The Oxen begins to watch his fields grow,
his labor yields a great bounty
as the seasons start to shift.
Much to The Oxen’s dismay,
the farmer takes him away.
To the corral, he goes,
just as he knows.
While the field is harvested and razed.

The grain is now stored in bins as tall as the sky,
The farmers are now fat and happy on bread, beer and rye.
While The Oxen shivers in his frozen stall
he begins to wonder if this is worth it at all.
The Oxen rests on his haystack prize.

The sun has returned, all is now well.
The soil and grass lift his spirit with their uplifting smell.
The Oxen prepares himself to return to work
when reality gives him a conspicuous jerk.
The farmer has sold him to dig trenches and wells.

The Oxen has given all that he can give.
Can one fear death when one hasn’t lived?
Hooven pads collapse in the mud.
Bladed whips lash into his blood.
The Oxen rises. Now a frail, crimson sieve.

The days pass him by
with the heat on his back.
The dirt in his face.
Sweat on his brow. 

He plows on
and on, and on.

Baggage – A Book Review

“Baggage”
by Wendy Phillips
Published by Coteau Books
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$14.95 9781550509700

“Baggage”, written by Wendy Phillips and published by Coteau Books is a fantastic teen read that covers dark themes with the seriousness that fits the subject matter and a narrative device that is relevant to young readers.

The story begins at the Vancouver airport and is set in British Columbia as a young, unidentified foreign boy is found near International Arrivals by a Canadian high school teacher named Ms. Nelson and one of her students Brittany. The boy has no family or friends in sight, no identification and appears to be malnourished. To make matters worse, he does not speak any languages that anyone in the airport understands. Understandably concerned, the teacher takes the boy to the customs office only to find that their only solution is to deport the boy as he is unidentified and claim that he may not even be protected by child protection laws. They take the boy, Thabo, into their homes to protest the deportation and to protect him at all costs. It is now up to Ms. Nelson, Brittany, her sister Leah, and their friend Kevin to inspire their school and their community to keep Thabo in Canada.

The novel is written in such a unique manner that is appropriate for young readers and undeniably poetic. Rather than following a traditional novel structure, the story instead progresses with short perspectives from each main character, including Thabo. At first, Thabo is a complete mystery, only short memories and actions that other characters notice provide a window into his young but troubled life. As Leah, the sister of the politically involved Brittany begins to learn Thabo’s native tongue the reader begins to get a glimpse into Thabo’s life. After Thabo takes sanctuary with a frustrated minister in the local church, disaster strikes and Thabo is taken by those that had abandoned him at the airport. The teenage characters Leah, Kevin, and Brittany showcase their true bravery as they go to rescue their new friend Thabo. The reader also learns that the community’s fears are real, that Thabo is a victim of human trafficking.

In conclusion, “Baggage” is a great read for a young reader to explore different writing styles and an enlightening adventure for adults that can be read within a day. Even though almost every page is from the perspective of a different character, the narrative works splendidly within this style. Phillips treats the reader to both a cohesive story and to truly breathtaking character development that stays with the reader long after the final page has closed.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

Wake Up

Wake up.
Do not miss the sunshine to escape harsh winds.
Weather the storm whether you like it or not.
You are stronger than ever,
think not of sleep again.  

Shape up,
or ship out,
as they say,
but ensure that the vessel is not leading astray.
You are the captain, the crew is afraid.
They will tell you the lifeboat is suicide,
a foolish man’s ride. 

Look alive,
feel dead.
Believe the jive,
drink the bread.

Question it,
get a hint. 

Fall asleep,

Wake Up.

Sour Leaf

Curiosity lead me to you,
and hysteria lead me away.

Convulsions. Panic. Madness. The Rabid Fear of Death.
Curses came as blessings,
A dying Phoenix rises to new life, new breath.
Curses become blood-red dressings.

Pungent smell, sweet as Hell.
Bubbling waters and burnt glass,
fuel the fires of philosophical battles, feed the questions whom dwell.
Smouldering minds, brazen liquid, shiftless ash.
Red-eyed and digesting disgust is the snake in the grass.

Cellulose comatose, sweet stupor.
Ravishing remedy, asinine answers, pathetic heights.
Cures cancers and alleviate all ails, a wonderful elixir.
The snake in the grass slithers from darker lands,
delighted to send his oil, the masses embrace the fangs, the bite.
Young fools replace the old, Death is their shrill demand.

Where there is smoke there is fire,
the heat draws closer.
The winds do not change on my desire,
Fires crackle. Will it scorch, or just make us wait on an unplugged toaster?