Declaration of Intent

let the colonial borders be seen for the pretensions that they are

i hereby honour what the flow of water teaches us

the beauty of enough, the path of peace to be savoured

before the extremes of drought and flood overwhelm the careless

water is a sacred bond, embedded in our plump, moist cells

in our breaths that transpire to return to the clouds that gave us life

      through rain

in the rivers & aquifers that we & our neighbours drink

in the oceans that our foremothers came from

a watershed teaches not only humbleness but climate fluency

the languages we need to interpret the sea’s rising voice

water connects us to salmon & cedar, whales & workers

its currents bearing the plastic from our fridges & closets

a gyre of karma recirculates, burgeoning body burden

i hereby invoke fluid wisdom to guide us through the toxic muck

i will apprentice myself to creeks & tributaries, groundwater & glaciers

listen for the salty pulse within, the blood that recognizes marine ancestry

in its chemical composition & intuitive pull

i will learn through immersion, flotation & transformation

as water expands & contracts, i will fit myself to its ever-changing


molecular & spectacular, water will return what we give it, be that

arrogance & poison, reverence & light, ambivalence & respect

let our societies be revived as watersheds




because i am part of the problem i can also become part of the solution

although i am part of the problem i can also become part of the solution

where i am part of the problem i need to be part of the solution

while i am part of the problem i can also be part of the solution

one part silt one part clear running water one part blood love sweat

not tar but tears, e inserts a listening, witnessing, quickening eye

broken but rebinding, token but reminding, vocal buck unwinding

the machine’s gears rust in rain, moss & lichen slowly creep life back

the rate of reclamation is humble while the rate of destruction blasts fast

because we are part of the problem we can also become part of the



Dive in

1. What is the significance of the word "colonial" right there in the first line / in a poem about water and the ecology?

2. Do you see anything water-like about the way the poem is presented on the page? What techniques does the poet use to suggest fluidity?

3. What does the poet mean when she writes, "I will apprentice myself to creeks & tributaries, streams & glaciers"? What lessons do these water forms provide?

4. The poem plays with borders vs. fluidity, and portrays water as a great connector (of species, eras, social classes, etc.) - can you point to some sections / some ways you see her depicting the connections water makes?

5. The repetition in the final stanza has the feel of a crescendo - how would you deliver these lines if you were reciting them? And what effect does it have on you, to read the repetition? Is this poem a call to action?


Writing activity:

The poet uses legal / bureaucratic language - "I hereby honour," "I hereby evoke," "I will apprentice myself to..." in a poem that is nevertheless very meandering and fluid (like water). Try your hand at creating a poem that blends language from another realm (i.e. legal language) with concrete and embodied imagery such as the poet has here.


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Bibliographical info

Rita Wong “Declaration of Intent” Copyright © 2015 by Rita Wong

Source: "Declaration of Intent" From undercurrent (Nightwood Editions, 2015)

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