Chelsea Holdsworth, Untitled (2015)

Charlie        you are dead now
but I dare to speak because
in China the living speak
to their kindred     dead.
And you are one of my fathers.

Your iron bachelorhood perplexed
our horny youth:      we were born
to the snow of a praire town
to the empty streets of our
longing.    You built a railway
             to get there.

You were your own enduring     winter.
You were your abacus, your Chinaman’s
eyes. You were the long reach up
to the top of that bright showcase
where      for a few pennies
we bought a whole childhood.

Kimberly Voitic, Untitled (2015)

Only a Christmas calendar
told us your name:
Wong Toy, prop., Canada Café:
above the thin pad of months,
under the almost naked girl
in the white leather boots
who was never allowed to undress
in the rows of God-filled houses

which you were never
invited to enter.

Charlie, I knew my first touch
of Ellen Kiefer’s young breasts
in the second booth from the back
                      in your cafe.
It was the night of a hockey game.
You were out in the kitchen
making sandwiches and coffee.

You were your own enduring
winter.        You were our spring
and we        like meadowlarks
hearing the sun        boom
under the flat horizon
cracked the still dawn alive
with one ferocious         song.

So Charlie    this is a thank you
poem.    You are twenty years
dead.   I hope they buried you
sitting upright in your grave
the way you sat    pot-bellied
behind your jawbreakers
and your licorice plugs,
behind your tins of Ogden’s fine cut,
your treasury of cigars,

and the heart-shaped box of chocolates
that no one ever took home.

Evelyn Lau (2009) from A Grain of Rice. Fernie: Oolichan Books, 2012.



Robert Kroetsch was born on June 26, 1927 and grew up in a small village called Heisler, in Alberta. “Elegy for Wong Toy” is a thank-you poem to one of the Chinese workers who helped to build the CPR and who also owned a café in the town. The ending is powerful because the image of the heart-shaped box of chocolates captures the town’s lack of care and concern for this man. Toy’s café is full of sandwiches, coffee, jawbreakers, and tobacco to serve his customers. He was like a convenient comfort for may, but not respected.
— Harjit Dosanjh
The speaker states that the only reason the townspeople know Wong’s real name is because it was written on a Christmas calendar. No one bothered to learn his name. To them, he was “Charlie,” the café owner. While the speaker was growing up and touching Ellen Keifer’s breast in a booth of the café, Wong Toy was in the back, making coffee and sandwiches for his patrons. The speaker is thanking Wong Toy for his warmth, nurturing, and understanding. Wong never returned the coldness or the disinterest that was shown to him. It takes the speaker 20 years to write this poem, which suggests he did not think about or fully understand Wong Toy for quite some time.
— Ashley Liggett

Samantha Thomson, Untitled (2015)

Sasha Thomas, Untitled (2015)


Thomson uses muted or dusty colours. Wong Toy missed out on some of life’s most vibrant experiences because he was never accepted or truly included in anything by his community. The single chair suggests Toy spends his time alone and without companionship. People frequent his café and he often has people around him, but they do not take the time to include him in their lives outside of the café.
— Ashley Liggett
Holdsworth set her piece in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, which speaks to the many Chinese people who were isolated not just in small Albertan towns but all over the country. The painting is of a cold, dark alleyway with train tracks running down the centre. This connects to the poem in that Wong Toy had to build the railway to get to his small town, and everyone else was just born there. The emptiness gives the impression of just continuing on, and Wong Toy was given limited opportunities to change his course or situation.
— Ashley Liggett
The painting has lots of different blues, deep and light, and some strokes of white. Drinkwater’s main focus is the fact that Wong Toy was his own “enduring winter.” The feelings of loneliness, sadness, and gloominess are there, but the different shades of blue perhaps express different emotions and feelings. The streaks of white could allude to the little bit of light and good that surfaced in Toy’s life. The artist could also be using this whiteness to symbolize the gaps in his life where he was very much alone, or where he was not “invited to enter” or allowed to visit.
— Harjit Dosanjh

Kristina Drinkwater, Untitled (2015)

There was a confectionary aspect to Wong Toy’s café, where the speaker and his friends bought candy like “jawbreakers . . . licorice plugs.” It was a place where the speaker says, “for a few pennies we bought a whole childhood.” This piece expresses the appreciation and love that Wong Toy provided because of his café and the admiration he received from the children. However, there is an underlying darkness in this colourful piece. The deep blue in the background could suggest Toy’s loneliness peeking through as a contrast to the candy. Both Drinkwater and Voitic created projects that are bitter and sweet in different ways.
— Harjit Dosanjh


HARJIT DOSANJH (ENGLISH) is majoring in English at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Following the completion of her B.A., Harjit plans to become a teacher and looks forward to working with elementary school students. 

KRISTINA DRINKWATER (FINE ARTS) Kristina Drinkwater is majoring in Fine Arts and plans to become a freelance artist.

CHELSEA HOLDSWORTH (FINE ARTS) is majoring in Fine Arts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She plans to carry out her artistic ability into the tattoo world after graduation. 

KIMBERLY VOITIC (FINE ARTS) is working on completing her BFA at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. One day she plans to pursue a career teaching fine art at the highschool level.