Wirewalker by John B. Lee

wallenda
Nik Wallenda Crossing Niagara Falls on a Tightrope Wire, June 15, 2012. Photo by Peter Conradi. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

he set out on the cable—walking
over Niagara Falls
as though balanced on a thread
in his electric-orange raiment
like a brilliant spider
on a silk
a lovely incandescent
Marbled Orbweaver
this Wallenda
a third-generation daredevil
slowing over the plumb weights
then quick as an arachnid in a rush
from suddenly seeing itself being seen
in a busy garden
confident and striding
until he entered
the complex crosswinds
where vapours plumed and swirled
in a wet smoulder
it was then he felt
the breath and push
of unanticipated weather
it was then
he began
to pray to the God of sparrows
the God of gulls
and wind-hovering hawks
as he felt
the nudge and mischief
that does not love
defiance
and the ineluctable perils
that blur the burning thorax
of the wirewalker

his heart
and the drum-echo
of its pulse
blooming at the wrist with the flesh stung blue
the image of ancestors
the long drop of their dying
into the damp tear-gather of ghosts
the grey sorrow of rain pooling
in the long veins of an upcurled leaf
the thirsting lifeline
of a widow’s palm
what morbid wishfulness
hushes in us all
though we’re carried
by his brave motion
we also long in the deep plunge
of a common faith to go
roaring over the emerald edge
as we fall beyond knowing

Source: The author. “The Wirewalker” was previously published in my book The Full Measure (Black Moss Press, 2017) and then in my book Beautiful Stupid: poems selected and new (Black Moss Press, 2018)

John B. Lee  is the Poet Laureate of the city of Brantford in perpetuity and Poet Laureate of Norfolk County for life.

The Niagara River by Elsie Stevens

stevens

stevens
The Niagara River and Falls, showing the Schoellkopf Power Plant (left) and the Ontario Power Plant (at base of Horseshoe Falls). Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

How many ages did it thunder
This gathering of four inland seas,
Rushing onward to the ocean,
Through a maze of forest trees?

Three hundred years have come and gone
Since Hennepin recorded the scene,
“It was like an Alpine torrent” he wrote
How glorious it must have been.

In and along this winding river
History has been made,
Indians fighting for their country
White men for fame and trade.

The once great barrier now is harnessed,
To give home owners heat and light,
But in its primeval solitude
It was a wondrous sight.

Now there is no dense forest,
No bear, wolf or bounding deer,
But the meandering Niagara river,
Brings joy all through the year!

Source:  RG 18, Women’s Literary Club of St. Catharines Fonds, 1892-1996, Brock University Archives, Brock University. [1978?]

Elsie Stevens was an active member of the Women’s Literary Club of St. Catharines for many years.

A note on the date: Stevens refers to 300 years “since Hennepin recorded the scene.” Hennepin was in Niagara in December, 1678.

Lines On Reading That the Only Words Spoken…. by Anonymous

lines

On reading that the only words spoken by the young lady recently killed at the Falls, after the accident, were — “Let me” —

lines
The Bride of Death; by Thomas Jones Barker Victoria Art Gallery

“Let me,” and here the fast receding breath
‡‡Denied the power of utterance — the throb
Of that young heart grew faint.    Ah, reckless Death,
‡‡How didst thou then of hope surviving bosoms rob!

What was the wish thus less than half expressed,
‡‡That latest image of the aching brain,
Imprisoned in the fair young sufferer’s breast,
‡‡Without the strength to burst the feeble chain.

Was it a prayer that she might longer live,
‡‡Addressed to Him who holds the scroll of fate?
Or did she wish a parting thought to give
‡‡In trust to those that watching, round her wait?

Some fond remembrance of her distant home,
‡‡Where late perhaps maternal love had shed
Its hallowed flame, — and when resolved to roam
‡‡Had breathed a farewell blessing on her head.

Ah, who so fitting now to claim her thoughts,
‡‡As she whose hand sustained her helpless years?
Oh, that the action of that hand, were brought,
‡‡To wipe, with tender care, those dying tears.

See, in this theatre of nature’s might,
‡‡In boundless strength the dashing waters rush,
With headlong fury o’er the dizzy height,
‡‡And threaten e’en the solid rock to crush.

But mark the contrast!   On that bed of pain
‡‡The form reclines of nature’s noblest art,
Whose strongest energy is spent in vain,
‡‡To breathe the last conception of her heart.

Great Ruler of the destinies of Man!
‡‡Teach us to reverence thy dark decree;
Forgive the daring murmur at thy plan,
‡‡And make us yield and humbly trust to thee.

The last words of the dying girl may be
‡‡The first to form the Christian’s hopeful prayer;
Trusting her happy spirit is with thee;
‡‡He cries, “O Father ‘Let me’ join her there.”

Source: Table Rock Album and Sketches of the Falls and Scenery Adjacent.Buffalo: Steam Press of Thomas and Lathrops, copyright by Jewett, Thomas & Co.,1856c.1848

The Cormorant by Keith Inman

inman

inman
Keith Inman.

She sailed
over the thundering
water to hover

in the rising plume
of a million mirrors glinting
with sunlight

as the ever-wall
of water fell
like a trick of curtains
and hidden doors

she was gone.

From our table rock view
we scanned the vast
crescent down
to where rapids eased
into churned foam

and there
bare-rolling to the surface
she bobbed
shaking her feathers out

bowing the fish in her beak
to the light.

 

Source: The Author, 2019

Inman‘s favourite lit class was in Ireland (on Joyce); best reading, a cafe in Spain; coolest invite, LA; most interesting editor, from Malta (NY based). Keith started writing over 30 years ago, attending writing courses and programs through Niagara libraries and institutions. His work has won multiple awards and grants. Two of his books, ‘The War Poems’, and ‘SEAsia’, both from Black Moss Press, can be found in major libraries across North America and in Europe. Home is Thorold, where ships climb the continent.

Untitled by John G. Saxe

saxe

saxe
Niagara River Whirlpool. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

See Niagara’s torrent pour over the height,
‡‡How rapid the stream! how majestic the flood
Rolls on, and descends in the strength of his might,
‡‡As a monstrous great frog leaps into the mud!

Then, see, o’er the waters, in beauty divine,
‡‡The rainbow arising, to gild the profound 
The Iris, in which all the colours combine,
‡‡Like the yellow and red in a calico “gownd!”

How splendid that rainbow!  how grand is the glare
‡‡Of the sun through the mist, as it fervently glows,
When the spray with its moisture besprinkles the air
‡‡As an old washerwoman besprinkles her clothes!

Then, see, at the depth of the awful abyss,
‡‡The whirlpool careering with limitless power,
Where the waters revolve perpetually round.
‡‡As a cooper revolves round a barrel of flour!

The roar of the waters! sublime is the sound
‡‡Which forever is heard from the cataract’s steep!
How grand! how majestic! how vast! how profound!
‡‡Like the snore of a pig when he’s buried in sleep!

The strong mountain oak and the tall towering pine,
‡‡When plunged o’er the steep with a crack and a roar,
Are dashed into atoms ― to fragments as fine
‡‡As a pipe when ‘t is thrown on a hard marble floor!

And O! should some mortal ― how dreadful the doom!―
‡‡Descend to the spot where the whirlpool carouses,
Alas! he would find there a rocky tomb,
‡‡Or, at least, he’d be likely to fracture his “trowsers!”

Source: Table Rock Album and Sketches of the Falls and Scenery Adjacent. Buffalo: Steam Press of Thomas and Lathrops, copyright by Jewett, Thomas & Co.,1856c.1848