Mní wičhóni

My last piece for Seven Voices has gone up on the website. It’s been great fun – and a challenge – to write a poem a week to a theme, and most of the contributions this term have been really cool. If you’ve enjoyed the pieces, like Seven Voices’ Facebook page to stay up-to-date (or, if you’re an Oxford student and fancy doing it next term, send a short bio and some examples of your work to

Here’s my final poem, comparing the etymology of whisky with the slogan ‘Mní wičhóni’, a Lakota phrase meaning ‘water is life’ which has become a symbol of the #NoDAPL protests being held on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota against the monstrosity called the Dakota Access Pipeline. If you haven’t heard about these protests, do yourself a favour and look them up.

As well as making noise about it on social media and with your mouth, another way to help the protestors is to buy them items they need to stay warm, combat the effects of tear gas, and document the protests, from their Amazon wishlist.


Mní wičhóni/uisge-beatha

The gold water poured into thin flutes;
soft lips poring over the tasting notes:

The drink speaks of rivers.

The burning drink that I have swirled,
the septic wounds that it has healed,
the lifelong visions that I have seen
as the fire ferried down my paradise-throat.

Don’t let them hurt my sister, it says,
she is my right arm, and though she is mighty
the great snake infects with stony-syrup
and if it bites her
she will choke
and her people’s land will go up in smoke.
Water is life
says the water of life.

Don’t let the snake seep its milk into their fighting river.
Let them drink it clean.



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