Martin Wong
Sewer Goddess


Sewer Goddess

A Martin Wong Fairytale


It was bright early in the morning when

Smoke still hung in the sky + grass green

Green in the streets. No school Today. But

Just the same, not enough kids for a game

of stick ball. It was Sonny Riff’s Ball. The

Dog belonged to Funky Walker. Sonny

Never went anywhere without his ball. It

was pretty scroungy by now, even bald in

spots. Funky never went anywhere without

his dog Mike who was pretty scroungy

himself, even bald in spots. So here they were

playing in the bright yellow sun, playing

against an old brick wall when all of a sudden

Sonny missed + Mike went to fetch, but the

Dog, being blind in one eye + not very swift

at that, kicked the ball when he thought he

had it + into the sewer the old ball bounced.


So Sonny runs up to the edge + reaching down

After it, black greasy waters swallowing

Him down down down…10,000 years away

From the frantic echoes calling him back.

Down he submarines. First still tight around

the ball: Down thru the tangled silence of

tepid pools. Down thru weird glimmerings of

underwater dream worlds swimming past

dawn thru the choked sewage of forgotten

memories. Down past the ringing of other

voices dripping pearly irredescent. Down in

to a night without stars he drifts weightless

+ alone…rolled in a deepsea embrace few

ever imagine + fewer yet remember.


Then smiling cool in every way who be it but

She: Come gliding out of the void like a tiny

wonder working time capsule it was she

come gliding in + out of dreams from sleep

to sunlight + back again: out of sight

out of mind + into the void again.

After following her thru an eternity, finally

Focused in on her + stood there face to face

it was then that he noticed the tangle closing

in on him in a clot. In the sudden fear of a

trapped animal thrashed out to escape: the

mess only getting thicker from the struggle

the marshmellow only absorbing the frenzy

tried to yell out thru the strangulating glut

but couldn’t find the words. she only smiles

+ with the first few notes her song begins:

spreading like the cold lace of decay thru the

autumn ground, eazing his mind as he

forgot the net that no longer held in his

mind following the luminous smoke of her

melody as it grew: upward + outward,

downward + inward: growth building out

of a simple pattern, accident + the winds of

experience weaving endless variations: decay

exposing unseen facets of its structure her

song the simple look of growth + decay

forming + reforming an endless universe of

change + from this primal beat: the complex

rhythms of their dance swaying in the pulse

of the tides + the wind thru the trees +

the beat of the sun + the song of our love

her love one love.


So it was here that he met her wrapped in

shimmerings of silver seaweed + fell enchanted  

by her music. they never spoke

for days at a time she strummed her love

guitar as she sat watching him play handball

against the dark sewer wall. Sonny was only

ten + she: hardly grown herself. Too young

for love, but the love grew anyway as their

heartbeats entwined in the thread of her song

meeting together into a single throbbing

organism in which universes collide + galaxies

erupt + worlds come into being. Then pulling

away, he dives in again full force, spinning down

corridors of her mind, ripping down veils of

mystery in his wake, + in the depths of her

smile: unearthly visions of lost kingdoms

drowned in the arms of a flaming sea reveal

themselves to him in all their ancient terror,

+ so it happened one night as he was passing

thru her he came upon a medicine man with a

tale to tell + the tale he told was of a girl who

sang alone by the sea: a girl pure as rain +

just as mindless whose loneliness turned in upon

itself with all the twisted hunchbacked ravings

of a virgin’s dreams, finally driving her over

the edge + into the relentless sea below,

+ the girl whose tale he told was none other

than the very same sewer goddess in whom

Sunny had discovered the rhythms of love.

“Gosh…well sure she aint exactly what you’d

call normal. But I can dig it.”

But I warn you: Stay now + you stay forever.

There’ll be no escape

“So who wants to escape? I’m happy as it is”

Then if you must decide, at least see her

as she really is.

“Like what do you mean?”

Twilight shadows weren’t what they seemed

Midnight delusions fade like a dream

in the light of the morning sun.

But then it didn’t really seem to matter all

that much + so he just let it go at that

till it happened one day as they were swimming

out together towards the ocean caves: out of

the sewer + into the open sea past swarms of

crabs + schools of fish gliding free.

“No Sonny! Not up there!!!”

“It’s ok. You’ll like it up there for a change. It’s

bright + warm. You’ll like it. You really will.

Just wait + see.”

But she only struggles to turn back.

Still he holds, swimming straight for the

surface where sunlight plays the foamy

sea…already he could see the light

dancing above him. It’s been such a long

time + he’d forgotten how good it felt.

Then as the first rays struck, she lets out

one last cry, turning into what she’d been

all the time: a tangled clot of garbage:

just some hanks of hair + seaweed.

Too late.

Up he floats ever upward surfacing purple

green + bloated sand crabs crawling in

his hair. Eels writhing in his rotting flesh,

drifting aimlessly fermenting in the sun

as waves pass thru him + as he drifts,

who could ever guess the dreams he

might’ve dreamed in those last few moments

as he drowned beneath the city streets so

very long ago…


June 22 1967