“For Art” & “river sisters”

By Rita Wong and Garry Gottfriedson
Art Manuel
Art Manuel. Photo by Nicole Schabus.

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For Arthur

By Rita Wong & Garry Gottfriedson

Your matter-of-fact ways, practical and humble, yet no less determined for that
This was the vision of the old ones gone
Surprising alliances are the stuff of freedom
Gathered on long nights of dream talks
Your laugh ignites generations of resistance & love
For Marceline – the matriarch: for tellqelmuc – those yet to be born
“Energizer bunny” for the land, the water, the movement
woven into legacies of long gone prophets
A braid of many languages
Intertwined by words spoken of land and water
A train hopper who travelled the world for your people
Uniting strangers for purpose, for memory, for songs
Birds all along our journey to honour you - eagle, hawk, swans, magpies, crows, woodpecker – signs of flight, spirit winging across migrations
Heaven is one breath away and political wars are endless
Putting Standard & Poor’s on notice
The world awaits indigenous thought
Does “certainty” mean extinguishment or self-determination?
The English tongue sizzles double meaning, but
Our fires burn strong because of you, and because of global warming
New seers will arise from the ashes
The ones you mentored purposefully & the ones you mentored without even knowing it, through your actions
The voices of the dead will stitch achievement
How in beadwork, every bead has a role to play, a place that matters
Intellectual design, indigenous design, heart design
Which fire will we feed?
What Trickster awaits us?
You learned & taught us: Crown title is a burden on Aboriginal title, not the other way around.
The dust of your ancestors is title enough
How Secwepemcul’ecw is the largest Indigenous territory that the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion would cross, if it were to happen, which it won’t
Ancestral bones will rise like volcanic ash blowing these words
Love makes peace & justice possible. Without love, only violence, assimilation, extinguishment
Fulfill the goals not carried in your heart, but inherited by those you leave behind
Your brilliance in your children & grandchildren, on the land, living freedom – the Forth World
Is the legacy worth the burdened smoldering on the Fire’s fourth day
You leave us so much work to do & light a fire under us with your sudden passing
We will not forget you carried the tinder to your death
Our tears are as determined as the rivers that flow
And your words are a living spring

river sisters

By Rita Wong
river sisters
Stake in the Peace. Photo © Rita Wong.

from the pearl river to the peace river
i have walked among river killers
serial killers in suits, wielding bureaucracy
to disguise the ignorance and arrogance of
patriarchs* who thought they knew best
but refused to see or care
about the dying baiji, the disappearing moose

when they try to flood the river’s curves,
they would smother her forest-loving song
bloat her body with their greed and ego
silencing millennia-old bird song
forgetting that the river belongs to herself,
not to them

river sisters
Where Halfway Meets Peace. Photo © Rita Wong.

the ghosts pile up with the toxic mistakes
in the patriarchs’ drive to power
as they gamble away the haunted house
we call earth, watershed home,
the spirits of those who’ve had their homes stolen & destroyed
know how money talks loud but earth bats last

river sisters
Clearcut. Photo © Rita Wong.

we call on these spirits
to help people change their river murdering ways
before it is too late

river sisters
Valley. Photo © Rita Wong.

dedicated to:
Dai Qing, Bing Ai, Feng Yan, Arundhati Roy,
Helen Knott, Yvonne Tupper, Connie GreyEyes

river sisters
Rocky Mountain Fort. Photo © Rita Wong.

(*i am thankful for the real fathers in our lives, who are loving and listen, respecting the rivers’ power and the women’s voices, but they are not running the corporate-dominated governments that are allowing and scheming for the murder of the rivers)

Garry Gottfriedson
Garry Gottfriedson has 10 published books, and has read from his work across Canada, United States, Europe, and Asia. His work has been anthologized and published nationally and internationally.
Rita Wong
Rita Wong is a poet-scholar who has written several books of poetry. She lives, works and strives for water justice on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil Waututh First Nations.
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
Britannia Art Gallery
Britannia Art Gallery
Bookhug Press
Bookhug Press
Plantation Memories
Plantation Memories
Alternator Centre