The Walk
by Gordon Bostic
Authors Press

"They weren’t allowed to pause nor pray
For those who now were dead.
Their only focus was the Walk
And pushing on ahead."

In an example of narrative poetry at its finest, this collection is essentially an epic poem where all the individual pieces flow into each other, telling one cohesive and spellbinding story of the Walk. Interestingly enough, in many ways, the vision of the work combines the atrocities of Stalin’s gulags with the competitive, man-eat-man-type phenomena of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. The one common theme that permeates both is the spirit of the human will, an unyielding quest for survival as darkness descends in its many heinous forms.

In this compilation, not only is Bostic’s command of poetry in full form, but his ability to dictate the pace and develop both characters and plotlines within the shortened structure of poetry is just as impeccable. The story revolves around the shadow government’s creation of an alternative form of punishment for criminals: the Walk. However, the author’s work is a classic case of the crime not fitting the punishment, as many of the perpetrators are in for comparatively harmless reasons, such as criticizing the government and loan fraud. Even homeless vets are not spared the Walk. Assigning a ruthless, devoid-of-humanity character in Belmont to supervise the prisoners, the government has seemingly found a way to ensure that no one makes it out of the Walk alive. Thus far, that is exactly what has happened. However, the current cast of “walkers” is unique in its own right. Spearheaded by Maryann, there is a unity in their actions that clashes head-on with the human nature principle of divide and conquer when life itself is at stake.

The Walk consists of a thirteen-day ordeal, though most perish well before then, hardly reaching even the end of the first week. As though they are participants in some competition, the entrants are pitted against each other with one simple strategy: an informant is planted within the ranks of the walkers, giving rise to the fear that anything they say to anyone will make its way back to the guards and likely lead to fatal consequences. Belmont and his goons (guards is not a fitting word for these barbarians) randomly pick prisoners to harass, sometimes to make an example, but other times, just because they can. While most prisoners live in utter fear, Maryann baffles both the prisoners and the guards through the sheer peace that floods her persona. She is prepared for whatever may or may not come.

Imagery reigns supreme in Bostic’s poetry, specifically engraving the searing image of a crucified body in the reader’s mind and segueing to more metaphysical and existential questions, such as the merits of free will. In other words, does God bear any blame for such depths of humanity’s darkness? The speaker vehemently denies any culpability on God’s part. As the poetry progresses, audiences see that a unified front can help even the most feeble of Davids to stand tall against any Goliath, regardless of how deadly he might be. What begins as a group of twelve hundred walkers quickly dwindles by each day. Yet as their mettle and resolve are tested to their breaking points and beyond, their will to survive is beautifully portrayed through Bostic’s poetry. Above all else, the poetry exhibits shades of iconic texts like Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, delivering a simultaneously mind-numbing and deeply insightful commentary on what being human means when we are solely at the mercy of other humans.

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