Flourishing Waters: Poetry Workshop for Red Hill

Wai connects me to liquid pathways leading to aloha.⁠
Wai connects me to tomorrow—to hope for the future.⁠
Wai connects me to the bodies of the universe and the smallest cells.⁠
Wai connects me to honua, source, self and return to earth⁠
—to my own soul when I submerge myself in its cool splendor .⁠

⁠Call my words refrained in the base of creation’s vase and it’s emptiness fulfilled.⁠

⁠Wai connects me to my childhood.⁠
Wai connects me to my home.⁠
Wai connects me to my mother’s womb, which was home and my own womb that provided home to my son.⁠
Wai connects me to deserts and dates, olive trees ripe and ready ⁠
—blood shed on cracking floors.⁠

My motherline all the way back.⁠

Wai connects me to you, to us.⁠
Wai connects me to home an ocean away.⁠
Wai connects me to ola.⁠
Wai connects me to myself—blissful swim.⁠
Wai connects me to those I can no longer see, can no longer hear.⁠

Hālawa Stream⁠

⁠Wai connects me to the future I dream of for my future children.⁠
Wai connects me to the sea of humanity.⁠
Wai connects me to home: where I feel guided, protected, and creative.⁠
Wai connects me to good tea with grandma.⁠
Wai connects me to tears, blood, saliva, sweat, to all things.⁠
Wai connects me to my ancestors’ voyages here.⁠

My breath floating up and joining the clouds.⁠⁠

Wai connects me to my family.⁠
Wai connects me to tears of joy and sadness.⁠
Wai connects me to my kuleana.⁠
Wai connects me to all my homes all my life.⁠
Wai connects me to the three rivers of my hometown.⁠
Wai connects me to feeling alive and refreshed.⁠
Wai makes me think of the voyage of my ancestors⁠
—to my soul.⁠



Introductions (1 min)

Opening game (4 min)

Video on if…

  • You are having a good day so far.
  • You are feeling a little tired.
  • You like to create things.
  • You have written a poem before.
  • You value fresh water, wai.

Background (20 min) 

  • Why conversations about wai are especially important now in light of the contamination at Red Hill
  • Concept of wai and importance in Hawaiian culture
  • Oli—Aia i hea ka wai a Kāne?

Poetry Waterfall (10 min)
The poem about wai above is an example of a “poetry waterfall” from a workshop chat.

  • We’ll write a group poem using the chat. It will be a “poetry waterfall,” because we will all write out lines separately and then press enter at once to let our lines waterfall into a poem.
  • This form is especially resonant because it mirrors the movement of water that trickles drop by drop down into the aquifer. 
  • Wai connects us to our ancestors (the rain that fell 80 years ago over the mountains in what we are now drinking) and our great-great-great (etc) grandchildren. It also connects all living beings. Let’s think about one of these connections…
  • Begin line with “Wai connects me…”
  • End it however you wish
  • Example: “Wai connects me to my grandma, Yoshiko and her wry laugh.”

“Wai connects me, twining my blood with all beings.”

“Wai connects me to the rainclouds.”

  • Write it in the chat, but don’t press “enter”
  • Poetry waterfall, read aloud

Prompt and Writing (25 min)

  • Wai is the center of all life

*Write WAI in center of paper, circle.

—Let’s have our first interaction be personal. Spend some time with your body. 

*In a bubble, write down one manifestation of wai in your body. 

—Think about your favorite watery place.

* In a bubble, write it down. Call it by name. Jot down some descriptions or adjectives of this place.

—Think about someone you love. How do you see wai in them or their life?

*In one bubble, write down their name and how you see this wai connection.

—Think about some recent interactions youʻve had with wai recently. How did this interaction affect you?

*In one bubble, write down this interaction

—Assuming that folks have been following the news about the water contamination by the US Navy, choose one headline or news item that was particularly striking to you. (For example, 5,000 people reported illnesses because of water contamination)

  *In one bubbles, write down one piece of information and your immediate reaction to it.

—Think about how the Navy leadership perhaps views wai

*In one bubble, write down how they might view wai. Why do you think they have this perspective?

—Think about how the Board of Water Supply perhaps views wai

*In one bubble, write down how they might view wai. Why do you think they have this perspective?

—Think about someone who has a very different perspective about wai from your own. What do you wish you could tell them?

*In one bubble, write this down

  • Now, take this brainstorm and use it to write a poem. Have each bubble become its own numbered section (show example). Let every section be different. Some might be individual words while others are longer descriptions. 
  • Read example

Write for 10 min.

Share (25 min)

  • Break out rooms
  • Can share poem or talk about process
  • Try Think style discussion

Close (5 min)

In Gratitude and Delight (A second poetry waterfall poem)

delight in poems spit and spat today.
Delight in surfing.
Delight in rainbow mists coloring the world in hues of highlight.
Delight in expansion into memory.

We live
in gratitude to wai as a life-building force
—quenching thirsty body, soul
In gratitude to dogs chasing balls into the ocean.
In gratitude to everyone and to all the wai you carry and care for.

We delight in bubbling, splashing, floating, falling.

In gratitude for mist
—for floating.


We love
in gratitude to being in the ocean.

We delight in nourishment; mahalo to all of you!
We delight and give gratitude for warm days when the rain comes down and it feels perfect to stand in it.

We are
in gratitude to wai for cleansing things
—a hot shower washing away the dust of the day.

Thank you Wai.

In gratitude for how water is making me healthy.
In gratitude for seeing `Ama`ama swim up Honouliuli Stream with haumana from Kapolei HS today.
In gratitude for the wai that feeds my garden.
In gratitude to the layers of life built on wai.

We delight in rejuvenation.