Departure by Jane Urquhart

urquhart departure

urquhart departure
Niagara Horseshoe Falls and Table Rock, 1842. Engraved by J. Cousen after a picture by W.H. Bartlett. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

When grandmother
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡fell in love
for the third time
there were months
of perfectly planned
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡coincidences

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡once his cuff link
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡fell into the river

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡once he whistled
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡adeline

and because she could not
disconnect
time and meaning

events evolved to
cold pure words

written on a photograph
in black and white

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡of grandmother’s third love
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡standing near
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡what’s left of
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡table rock

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡looking past
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡the fog of the falls
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡to the american side

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡thinking of departure

 

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems 

The Limit of Suspension by Jane Urquhart

urquhart limit   

urquhart limit
Upper Steel Arch Suspension Bridge. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

On three small scraps of paper
grandmother writes

‡‡‡‡‡‡how the suspension bridge
‡‡‡‡‡‡fell down

‡‡‡‡‡‡how the cotton wool
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡crash
‡‡‡‡‡‡pulled her from
‡‡‡‡‡‡starched sheets to the
‡‡‡‡‡‡lung-stopping chill
‡‡‡‡‡‡of the january night

‡‡‡‡‡‡how her shoes squeaked
‡‡‡‡‡‡in the snow

and looking at the
suspension bridge
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡lying
broken-backed against the ice
like an injured dragon
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡grandmother

must have wondered at
each of her magic crossings

but writes here
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡only
the suspension bridge
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡fell down

and it did make a noise

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems 

The Suspension Bridge collapsed during a storm on the night of January 19, 1889

Grandmother Crosses by Jane Urquhart

urquhart grandmother
Cleaning the deck of the Upper Suspension Bridge. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

urquhart grandmother
Grandmother crosses
the suspension bridge

she is seven years old
in the process
of eliminating
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡errands

she watches amazed
as the loaf of bread
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡she has carried
from the american side
slips from her hands

somersaults gently
to the rapids below

light
‡‡‡‡‡as an angel’s gold brick

eighty years later
the streetcars passing
on mainstreet
will bring to her mind
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡this bump of

rubber wheels
on wooden planks

as she rides her tricycle

thinking of home

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems

“She’s Coming!” by Joan Murray

Murray

murray
Annie Edson Taylor Before Her Trip Over the Horseshoe Falls. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

A crowd flowed onto the Suspension Bridge.
Another onto Prospect Point.
A third onto the Three Sisters Islands
—all along the railings in the gorge.
Across the river, a thousand more poured down to Table Rock.
And up the shore, a hundred others—
men, women and children—
stood by the dock at Truesdale’s cottage, waiting to see me off.
There were no clouds that morning,
and so much light it seemed ten suns were whirling
as I stepped into the skiff—in a tossing sea of handkerchiefs—
and waved to them (while Russell blew a kiss)
amidst the general hurrah.

Then we set out—with Truesdale straining the tiller
against the single, headstrong sail—
and Billy Holleran, a strong, strapping boy, manning the furious oars.
The barrel rode upright behind us, bucking to run its course
—and was jerked back to correction by the stern instruction of our rope.
A quarter way out, we stopped on an island where I changed my clothes:
no hat or dress now, but a blouse left open at the throat,
and a skirt hemmed just below the knee.
I made them turn away while I backed in through the rim—
then they fastened down the lid,
rolled me to the shore,
turned me upright—
pushed me in.

Four boats now. And behind the first,
the towed barrel, weighed down with me—
yet still intractable.
And in the last, a cameraman recording every stroke
as they rowed a mile across to the Point of No Return—
where the river starts to churn,
and a sailor knows he’d better bend his back
—or else go over.
There they knocked. And cut the rope.
They must have pulled hard then to turn themselves south,
but I went north—(a half mile more before I’d reach the brink).
I careened and spun. Once it tossed me clear up out of the water.
I went unbidden—and unwelcome—where it rushed me.

I wished I could have watched from some place overhead
and heard the voices racing down the shore—
passing on the message—
dock to island, island to rock, rock to bridge:
“She’s coming!”
I would have liked to see them turn their heads—
wave after wave, as each new group heard the murmur
and craned their necks to catch a glimpse.
I’d have liked to see the trolley racing down the shore,
and the incline railway rushing down the gorge
—so the ones who’d waved from Truesdale’s dock
could be standing on the rocks below the Falls,
looking up—to see if anything would come.

from Queen of the Mist,
a novel in verse about the first person to go over Niagara in a barrel

Visit Joan Murray’s website

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The Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney hermit
Hut on Goat Island Used By Francis Abbott. the Hermit of Niagara, from 1829-1831. Sketch by C. Breckinridge Porter

It was the leafy month of June,
And joyous Nature, all in tune,
‡‡With wreathing buds was drest,
As toward Niagaras fearful side
‡‡A youthful stranger prest;
His ruddy cheek was blanched with awe
And scarce he seemed his breath to draw,
‡‡While bending oer its brim,
He marked its strong, unfathomed tide,
‡‡And heard its thunder-hymn.

His measured week too quickly fled,
Another, and another sped,
And soon the summer rose decayed,
The moon of autumn sank in shade;
Years filled their circle, brief and fair,
Yet still the enthusiast lingered there,
‡‡Till winter hurled its dart:
For deeper round his soul was wove
A mystic chain of quenchless love,
That would not let him part. Continue reading “The Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney”