Lucian Mattison

A Plea to Congress Concerning the Gowanus Canal

A robot plumbs Gowanus, as none of us
are foul enough to immerse ourselves;
I don’t believe any person is. It takes generations
to muddy the body, a whole congress, aging,
turning blind eyes. About Red Hook I walk
the bank of this manmade kill
with a friend who tells me gonorrhea
filters through its oysters, the water is 90%
guns. Hurricane winds and rain stir
up sandy kettles of venereal taint, lap it
onto brownstone steps, rap front doors.
Tenement blocks hope not to be flooded out.
Our country would rather brew, keep our rot
below the surface, after all, it’s mostly layered
tonnage of oil, coal tar, industrial deposits. It’s tough
to point out a single fish. Legislation
is impotent. I urge you congressmen, if there is hope
for our gonorrheal canal, it must be a laborious dredge,
every inch exposed, buffed of generations
of oversight, hazardous waste, aimless talk.
The flood is too close to weather more of this.

Lucian Mattison is currently in the second year of his MFA at Old Dominion University. If you are ever in Norfolk and wish to play him in backgammon, email him at

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