Moon Poetics 4 Courageous Earth Critters and Dangerous Day Dreamers, 2020, textiles and sculptures by Zadie Xa and Benito Mayor Vallejo. Installation view, Remai Modern, Saskatoon. Photo: Blaine Campbell.



This text is a script for Zadie Xa's multimedia installation Moon Poetics 4 Courageous Earth Critters and Dangerous Day Dreamers. Note that there may be discrepancies between the script and the work as performed and recorded.


If you go to where the sun sets, over there in the western sky, all the way to the ends of the earth, you’ve found the life giving water.*


This is a story about how we could save the planet, how we might liberate all creatures. It’s a bold statement and even as these words leave my body, I lack confidence, but now is not the time for fear.

This is a tale set not once upon a time ago, but right now in this very moment. And while her beginnings are rooted in the past, it is in our present time together that we may work towards healing the damage.

Some claim it was 100 years ago, while others know it was centuries before. The moment it violently came to be, an infectious malevolent rot. Pulsating a consistent and insidious hum. huuuuummmmmmmmm. A rumble, cry and whimper.

And with this birth came ripping, pulling and yanking. Chopping, burning, gouging and grinding. Digging and scraping, scratching, clawing, gnashing and gnawing. So much has been wrong for too long. Hungry and haggard ghosts pace anxiously.

Who could rest with such noise? We are all under colossal threat.

Every being understands this, even those who choose to look away. It is the responsibility of those with open eyes, lucid minds and readied spirits to reimagine the change needed to heal a broken system.

Transformation and renewal are imminent, should tangible change be genuinely desired. Because behind this arc of disaster it is possible for a new world to emerge.

If we truly hope to see fresh seedlings swell and sprout, our collective effort fighting this wickedness cannot fail or we will fumble and wretch until we will all lie dead.

Transformation, Remembrance, Renewal.

And here we find ourselves, lost within whispers of disillusionment and nihilism. Yet we are together, continuing to carry hope for this world as we rewrite its future story, fully holding ourselves to push forward, re-emerging as realized interdependent beings, collaboratively working to support this delicate yet resilient web of life. Creating the conditions to not only survive but thrive.

Listen deeply to these words from one of your wisest kin: “there are a million paths into the future, and many of them can be transformative for the whole.”**

It is our role as courageous earth critters to dream dangerously towards transformation, remembrance, renewal. How do you want to be remembered?

Remembrance, Revival, Renaissance, Renascence, Resurrection, Reawakening, Renewal, Resurgence, Regeneration, Restoration, Reparations. 

New Beginnings. New Stories. Follow me I’ll show you the way.

Close your eyes. Chapter One.


Climb up towards the sun, pushing through city smog, below pillow cotton clouds, we slip into the dark horizon. Wailing sirens, sleepless nights, agitated breaths, palpitating hearts. And yet we soar.

Softly now, pressing chest against the wind, our bodies braid sunbeams across raindrops. Feathers fly. Hundreds of woven plaits soaring, drifting. We remember.

Deep inhalation. Take in air but breathe with caution. Disease and rot move unseen like nets looking to enmesh themselves into whale flesh.

New hosts, one by one, silently moving, they enter quick and steal breath. The smell of burnt plastic and chemicals linger, sticky residue clings to mouth but still we breathe. Did you know pain and pleasure are interconnected and what maims or loves the land will also cripple or care for you?


Drop a pebble into Ocean and watch the water ripple outwards but be quick! These rings vibrate back to you.


Venture higher. Round and round and round, wings stretched out for the glide. Now push up once more, moving high, high, ever higher!

It is in flight that gulls gain clarity. Trust in forward flight and flow. You too can traverse this space and end up where clouds meet stars. Transcendence. A clearer unobstructed vision. Time to wake up.

Ever the observer. We gulls, like gargoyles, sit perched above the city. We watch. Breathless whispering whistles look towards galactic domes well-lit by moonlight. Chilly cities pockmarked with jagged monuments, shaped by aluminium clad roofs, iron and steel beams. We sit watching. Watching you.

Eating, laughing, loving, fucking, exploring, scheming, squeezing, hunting, hurting, crying, harming, beating, killing.

Guardians of skylines with fixed unbroken stares, we watch. The duty of all birds, all winged creatures is vigilance. Determined glances, chortling coos and shrill whimpers. Our mouths agape and hungry for all.

All eyez on you.

How do you want to be seen? How do you want to be remembered? In search of balance, we see why you’ve come. You seek the thing that might make it right. A saving suture mends broken flesh.

All pain is interconnected. What maims and hurts the land will also damage you. Tell me, have you ever been hurt, is it your body being bruised? Or are you the fist that throws the blows.

Follow me. I’ll show you the way. Follow me and remember the sound of these songs. With each new sun rotation, something strange burrows deeper inside the planet, prodding the Earth’s core, a wicked mutant seed.

Songs of the siren hear me croon alongside the echoes of Orca and above the ember plumes of Fox. All our cries amplified through the microphones of shimmering Conch Shells. Watch as sonic waves filter across the land networks of Cabbage. Millions of root tendrils reaching out like telephone wires, pulsating tiny bits of information, vibrational codes swim up vascular channels.

Visionist. Knowledge sharer. Heed this warning so we too may have the privilege of transcendence. Let us shift from bodies to air, watching over future descendants. Siren song from the watchful perch.





All eyez on you.


One hundred riches, lush, leafy lucky charm. Muse. Lovingly shaped into precious stone and gifted to ancient princesses. I am here because of you. For thousands of years you nurtured and willed me into existence. My body is the rewarding result of your tenacity, creativity, cultivation and care.

Because of you I am alive. And because I exist, I think you love me. And because of this I hope you care. Listen.

Beneath the land lies an ecosystem of pulsating antennae. This complex latticework of gnarled and knotted roots intimately shares space with the most delicate of root ringlets and tiniest white threads. Each offshoot tightly coiling around one another, creating the anchors that bind our bodies firmly into the ground, allowing us to stand tall and process light into life. Life.

2 full months of blissful sunshine, rain, worm wiggles, growth and harvest. Poetry. Have you ever seen a Cabbage smile under moonlight? Noticed us bend, turn and quiver? Have you ever been seduced by the unfurling of a leaf? This is not the wind but vibrational dance, how else do you think we grow? All growth is a series of movement.

Did you know plants vibrate frequencies high enough to hear all sound, see all colours? Wavelengths which are inaudible and invisible to you. This observational power allows us to listen and record phenomena in ways you have yet to understand. So, the next time you look to the Moon, know it is not the same Moon we know.

Listen. Place outstretched hands onto the floor and gently push down into soil. Feel the sound of my voice. Observe miniature lightning bolts jumping from fingertips as if you were tracing your palms atop a plasma ball. Like static electricity, transformative translation from non-verbal speech into pulsating thought. Ideation whizzing across the underworld.

A secret dimension of telekinesis. Flora Phonetics. Because we too know language, feel, and understand. We too have songs and need to sing. All beings respond to the movement of Earth and her Moon, to the undulations of all planets, stars and cosmic bodies of the universe.

This is Moon Poetics. How well do you know the land you grow on? Whose home preceded yours? My ancestral roots come from the Delta region of the Yangtze River and from there we travelled up and down the Grand Canal.

How well do you know the land? How well do you know those who lived on the land before you? Whose home lies beneath yours? Did you know the land you live on is alive? Alive with a capital A. Alive like you and me. Alive like head, leaf, mouth, vein and core. Alive.

This land is also a perfect sphere. A majestic feat of engineered excellence, where successful interspecies cohabitation and cooperation, across billions of Earth rotations have willed our world into the present. Presence.

Right now, petroleum and sticky sludge are being wrenched from the deep layers of the land. Shrill screams, hot metal spins, splinters of light and grinding gears double down, while steel claws rip into flesh. Shook ghosts wake as sacred space and histories are destroyed. While those who feverishly fiend for Earth blood continue to pierce, slash and burn.

Crusted scabs over thin skin split, letting loose greasy droplets of bitter bile. Coagulated plasma callously milked from these wounds. But isn’t it pretty?

Luminous refractions of light gingerly glide the surface of her fluids. Now watch with indifference as toxins absorb into fur, feathers, flesh. Water, soil and air. Violation of the land is violence against all beings. We are of and from the land.

How will you make amends with the land? With homes that preceded yours? Or are you the hand who wields the drill?

One hundred riches, lush, leafy lucky charm. Muse. Lovingly shaped into precious stone and gifted to ancient princesses. I am here because of you. I am here because you cared. Because of this I hope you love me and because of this you should listen.

Close your eyes and follow me.


Let me tell you why you’re here… Close your eyes, and follow me…

Close your eyes, and follow me… Let me tell you why you’re here…

Your secret’s with me… The life-giving water…

Transformation. Remembrance. Renewal.

Close your eyes, and follow me…

Transformation. Remembrance. Renewal.


And in this I am favoured. You see, I excel in transmutation. Seen through shadows, a wispy red shimmer of smoke and dancing fire. Amber embers, burning across moss-covered rocks, street signs and sidewalks. Edging alongside the boundaries, existing on the margins; tip, tip, tiptoeing into your habitat, lurking in shadows, golden eyes, frightful cries.

Becoming small, smaller, thin, thinnest. A waif. Find me scurrying across roads, slinking into gardens, cemeteries and trash. Trespasser. Intruder.

Widely looked upon as slippery and unruly, mistrustful and deceptive. A trickster, mongrel, beast. Truth be told, all bodies that vibrate change are seen as a threat. But I revel in evolution and thrive within the various ways of knowing. Blissful in myriad bodies, even I’m uncertain of what my true form is. A Fox? Gull? Dolphin? Perhaps Vegetable? Or Mollusk?

9-tailed tall tales. Connector to the underworld and conduit of parallel frequencies. Soothsayer. Great Grandmother. But for centuries, you’ve had me shrinking. Scuttling about with an arched back, warily sneaking my way ‘round, I’ve avoided your gaze, avoided your wrath.

To fan the flames of your irritation leads only to the extinguishing of my own. There are those who insist the provocation of my fury provokes disaster and disruption. Great fires, quakes, storms and even wars have been attributed to my rage. And yet if this is true, perhaps the rousing of this destruction lies squarely on you; to injure me is to wish death on both sides.

Revenge. A simple solution to our unfortunate interactions. Tooth for a tooth, lung for a heart. Pelt for your leather. But as clock time continues and street lights flicker, I remain honour bound to the biosphere. Duty bound to you. Therefore, deeper into the realm of spirits we go. Just follow me. We’ll swim across the lake of fire and glide across a river of blood. Eventually we’ll surf a sea of sand until finally we reach the iron gates that touch the western sky.

Close your eyes and follow me.

Deep, deep down, deep within the centre of this planet. Filling crevices wedged below the ocean floor. Did you know we Fox could swim, breathe water into our lungs to become one with the sea? Did you know Orca see all? Hear all, know all? Soothsayer. Guardian to the underworld.

Transformation, Remembrance, Renewal.


Click, Click, Click

Whistle, Whhiiistle


Inhale… Exhale…

Open the holes in your head and expel the air from your lungs. Expand your chest, allow your lungs to stretch wide, take in breath. Gather the air into your body… Inhale… Now hold.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…

Close your mouth, hold tightly and follow me.

7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12… 

Here we are again little one, drifting through time and space. Our bodies gracefully gliding. Weightless under a blanket of waves, we float. Do you remember how to dance through water? Do you remember how to dance with self? Swiftly push across currents, deftly navigate your way through tide pools and as you gain speed, move upwards until you break blue waters.

See yourself high above Earth. A bird in flight. You’re weightless. Now allow gravity to pull you back to water. Joyful slaps as we crash through the break and deeper into the Earth’s belly we dive. Today we journey.

Swim with me friend. Keep moving. I know why you are here. You search for balance, for the thing that might make things right. A soothing salve for the rotten wound that festers within the organs of this world.

Little One, did you hear? The once free-thinking body of the Great Serpent is choking. Liquid cement spread across her hips and poured down her throat. This is methodical strangulation. An intentional disruption of flow. Concrete dividers are used to constrain, contain and control.

They govern her speed, movement and spirit. Ice Harbour. Lower Monumental. Little Goose. Lower Granite.

Like all rivers, the Great Serpent is a circulatory system for our planet. A spectacular filtering apparatus whose life purpose is to provide nourishment to the Earth. To drain waste off land. To provide structural building blocks that support the creation of habitat. To supply roadways for fish and other marine creatures. A river is the essence of flow.

To sever and divide a river is to prohibit flow. Flow: a conscious state whereby a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, fulfilment, pleasure and enjoyment in the process of said activity. Streams, rivers, valleys, lakes, oceans, creeks, all bodies of water meet, all are connected. This is flow.

To sever and divide all water is to prohibit flow.



Little One, did you know that fish are dying? Woven nets are cast long and wide, trawling the ocean floor while greedy hands indiscriminately ensnare bodies and snatch lives. They come for fish but destroy much more, desecrating sea-beds and pillaging habitat.

The ocean is being clear cut, mined for resources and paid back in poison. Ghost nets haunt and hunt in silence. Wrapping spindly transparent fingers around throats and muscle, slowly embedding themselves into flesh.

Listen close, Little One. For millennia our fish have been guided by the force of purpose and flow. Faithfully fulfilling their life cycle they’ve always returned home. But with every new rotation around the sun, fewer and smaller fish return.

Do you know what they do with the herring they steal? Their bodies are shredded and turned into strange pebbles. Herring, a forage fish that fuels an entire marine food web, including the precious endangered lives of Chinook salmon are being taken to feed farmed fish.

17 Earth rotations, 1,000 miles. We’ve pushed, we’ve cried, we’ve died. Great, Great, Granny Orca. Knowledge vessel, wisdom giver, carer, Matriarch. Spirit and soul forever strong, but our bodies are hollow and weary. No Salmon no Blackfish.

Move faster little one, follow the sound of my echo.

Echo... Echo... Echoes

Follow me. Deeper and deeper we must go, down to the realm of giants. Echo, echo, click pop whistle, round and round, gently now. Gear shift knowingly into dream.

The next world is a liminal zone for those awaiting rebirth. And though I can’t stay here. I’ll find you in your dreams. Move with me friend. Move for me. Move for my family. Move because life depends on it.

Transformation, Remembrance, Renewal.


Come down softly through sleep, like the trunk of a tree, keep your body tall, allowing it to slip lower and descend without restraint. Be like water making its way through cracks. Float and freely fall. Yellow Sea of seas, darkest saffron of sunflower blooms, you are reminded of your mother. Dive ever deeper until your chest might burst. Watch bubbles swell and rise.

Like an aurora rhythmically racing across black velvet, you’ve joined in movement and followed light. Journeying by air, earth, river, ocean and finally sleep. And here we lie still, deep within the belly of the Earth.

Lie Still.

Empty your mind, be formless.

Shapeless, like water.

Be water.***


Now cast your eyes towards the Western horizon and squint your lids so you just make out the stars. See it perched high in the celestial night sky. The circular secret to survival.

Our Moon. Who on Earth has not laid eyes or heart upon the Moon? How many of her faces have you seen? Harvest, Half, Super, Blood?

Every being here and every being before has known the same face. Greeted every evening by her melancholic brilliance. Forever circling our planet, quietly smiling, even as we slumber and pay her no mind.

Tidal force, swirling seas. Magnetic motions rhythmically sashay in and out. Unspoken communication as hips sway and spin, while salt laced water stretches onto shore. Two lovers caught up in timeless flow. What is the Moon if not a mirror? What is the Moon if not once water? Look now into her pale bright glow. Who looks back at you? What do you see? A gleaming silver stone? Dependable kindred spirit? Skill-holder, wisdom vessel. Who looks back at you?

Who do you see?


Every cell in your body is a reflection and refraction of everything around you. Each cell in your body is water. Your body holds transformative power. Like water adjusting to obstacles, you too can search for ways around and through them.

Be water. Water can flow and water can crash.*** By being water, know the land and acknowledge self. What maims and hurts the land will also cripple you.

Circle dance. Seasonal ritual. Stay open and creative.

I’ll close my eyes and follow you.

Follow you, like a mirror.

Respond, like an echo.

Echo... Echo... Echo...

Transformation, Remembrance, Renewal.

Another beginning. Another Story.

Chapter Two.


Moon Poetics 4 Courageous Earth Critters and Dangerous Day Dreamers features excerpts from:

*Hwang Sok-yong’s novel Princess Bari (2007)

**Adrienne Marie Brown’s book Emergent Strategy (2017)

***Bruce Lee’s 1971 interview with Pierre Berton (quote originally written by Stirling Dale Silliphant)

Zadie Xa: Moon Poetics 4 Courageous Earth Critters and Dangerous Day Dreamers was created with support from Remai Modern and Leeds Art Gallery. The sound component of the installation was commissioned by Somerset House Studios for ASSEMBLY 2020, and can be experienced online at


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