Turtle Island 14,000

This has been a week of tragic news in British Columbia. An unmarked grave containing the remains of 215 children has been discovered at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops BC. My heart goes out and my tears fall for the children who died, their families, their communities and every indigenous person in Canada.

And I am asking myself- what material steps can I take towards reconciliation?

Often I explore my thoughts and ideas through poetry. This is something I wrote in 2017 as a ‘tongue in cheek’ take on the Canadian national anthem on the ‘150th birthday’ of Canada.

Please note that oral history and archaeological records have shown that people first came to Turtle Island (North America) an estimated 14,000 years ago.


Turtle Island 14,000 / Canada 150


O Canada!

Happy birthday to you

and your true patriot sons

and daughters who

have been here

a few short years

and vast millennia


140 centuries to be precise

1000 years before the sun shone

on the treasures of Tutankhamen

double the life span of the wheel

while mammoths and mastodons

roamed the ice with the first people


With glowing hearts

and candles we exhale

to blow out 150 flames

and salute the true north

strong and free

not forgetting

the Inuit, Cree and

all indigenous peoples

who first explored

these frozen lands


From far and wide

we stand on guard for thee

to protect this country

from bigotry and ignorance

inviting new immigrants, refugees

and reconciling with  

dark secrets of past oppressions

and those who suffered them

with restitution and celebration

giving us a second chance

to live glorious and free


Happy 14,000 Turtle Island!

Happy 150 Canada!


By Carys Owen


‘Grounded (Daxter’s Song)’ is an elegy for a dear soul.

Daxter was the brother of my dog, Kenzie. He was a very sweet and loving soul and when he died, Kenzie spent a lot of time lying in the dust bowls her brother had excavated for the purpose of cooling down on hot summer days. At the same time I was also mourning Daxter and some other recent losses in my life. Creating the poem and it’s accompanying block print was a healing experience for me. It was my way of finding peace.


Grounded (Daxter’s Song)


Dig a hollow in the earth

lay your soul down to rest


gather stillness all around

and quietly breathe the silence


know the joy of letting go

sink into the gentle loam


as heartbeat marries breath

and earth rises up to meet the sky


by Carys Owen

‘Grounded’ by Carys Owen (block print)

‘Mea Culpa (Guilty)’ was inspired by the grief I felt at reading about a massacre of 147 students at Garissa University in Kenya in 2015. At the time I saw a photo of one of the classrooms and one of the students had died with his arms around a friend. The humanity of this protective act next to the inhumanity of the massacre brought me to tears and made me realise that each person in this terrible situation had their own story, their own hopes and dreams. It set me thinking about how hard it is to hear and read of atrocities around the world and to be able to send my heart out to each hurting person.

At the same time I was working as an educator with a wonderful group of students on Quadra Island, BC. At the beginning of each year the students would create their own set of agreements. This particular year they chose the agreement ‘I will be kind to everyone’ and we practised it mindfully every day. I am very grateful for the wisdom of children.

Mea Culpa (Guilty)


Guilt stalks me like a wolf

 as words and images

drift over my head

of places I have never been

from times I have never known

of people I have never met

mired in pain and suffering


And somehow my head cares

but I feel empty in my chest

as my heart does not have the courage

to hurt for everyone

and chips away at the list of who to go out to

and who to comfort

who to mourn

always referring to self and weighing how much

this touches my life

and feeling grateful to live on a small peaceful island

on the west coast of Canada

but grateful in a fortress kind of way

that keeps these horrors out

and is relieved it is happening elsewhere


And I almost feel ashamed

but wonder why this is

because others feel the same

and so I look within to examine

my deficit of deep care


It seems I build a wall

or put on armour

or scurry into a shell

to shelter me from the pain

of news of car bombs


child soldiers

barrel bombs





Of all the inhumanities

that I can barely imagine

and dare not imagine

and don’t want to imagine


My guilt is a numbness

that anaesthetizes my eyes

from seeing the shattered lives

of people being

tortured, terrorized, brutalized


Homes razed to the ground

families ripped apart


A mother wails

and clutches her child

a boy is dragged roughly

to line up with his father and uncles

a girl stares blankly from a tear streaked face

unable to comprehend the violence


A class of students lie prostrate

gunned down

arms around each other

friends and lovers

dreamers and leaders

bright minds and lives



I try to dull the pain

for my own mind

to keep some hope

some faith

but as I deny my compassion

for my earthly family

my empathy atrophies

and I become that person

I do not wish to be


The one who chooses

who she will be kind to

ranking others as

more or less important

more or less human


When I turn down the noise

I hear the voices of children

in a classroom

on this small peaceful island

telling me                                           

the most important rule is

Be Kind To Everyone 

. by Carys Owen    



‘Never Alone’ was written in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic was spreading around the globe. It was inspired by a video of hospital staff singing Gerry Marsden’s Liverpool anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to staff on the isolation ward.

Never alone


We sit apart

and look for ways

to draw close together

we seek brightness

and fortitude to carry on

spill out love

and compassion

in ways we had forgotten


we knuckle down

and do what is asked

and so much more

because we are human

because we can remember

how to love

because this might be

our last chance to save each other

tied tight together

never alone

by Carys Owen

‘Smart dog’ reflects my interest in the relationships we have with digital technology and the juxtaposition with the analogue world. It was inspired by a wonderful friend and her intuitive nature:

Smart dog

In these days

of Smart phones

Smart TV’s

Smart kettles

Smart meters

I have the best one

she is a Smart dog

she needs no programming

no chip or training

she simply knows

that I am lost

and at sea

she moves in

looks intently

puts her face in mine

and leans close

touching me


announcing she is here

faithful, patient

unphased by tears

she tells me

this life isn’t so bad

and that many things

can be fixed

with a walk by the sea

and a scratch behind the ear

by Carys Owen

A few years ago I took a video and sound production course. My final project included some videos and recordings of my poetry. Here is ‘Smart Dog’ for you to enjoy in a different format:

Smart Dog Video by Carys Owen
%d bloggers like this: