Poems by Lissa Kiernan

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by Lissa Kiernan

From Canary Winter 2011-12

Lissa lives in Brooklyn near the Narrows, a tidal strait which separated the once-connected Staten Island and Brooklyn some 15,000 years ago.

People in the community were generally unaware that the river was radioactive, although it had been noted that since the reactor opened, the river never froze.
– Citizens Awareness Network, Shelburne Falls, MA


We were told it was clean. It looked clean, smelled clean.
It even tasted clean. We bought the watercolor
renderings of idealized blues, fearlessly rafted the rapids.
Poked the contamination into holes, pulled beers,
listened to heavy-metal. If our boats floated uncertainly,
at least our lives wrung out tidy and sterile. 
But as it cut a gash through downtrodden towns,
even the sunniest had to admit our poor river
did not so much flow as skulk. Even brilliant days
reflected inert gray. All but the hardiest life forms—
Walleye, Lake Chub, Longnose Sucker—
refused to sign the liability waiver.

Yet in the daily struggle of unbecoming, our clannish lives
barely stir. And for trout anglers, a slug’s released
each morning. A sinking sensation follows slipstream: 
We drank the river today. We’ll drink it again tomorrow.

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