“She’s Coming!” by Joan 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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A Collegelands Catechism by Paul Muldoon


Blondin Cooking an Omelette on the Tightrope. Photo by S.S. Campbell. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Which is known as the ‘Orchard County’?
Which as the ‘Garden State’?
Which captain of the Bounty
was set adrift by his mate?

Who cooked and ate an omelette
midway across Niagara Falls?
Where did Setanta get
those magical hurley balls

he ram-stammed down the throat
of the blacksmith’s hound?
Why would a Greek philosopher of note
refuse to be bound

by convention but live in a tub
from which he might overhear,
as he went to rub
an apple on his sleeve, the mutineers

plotting to seize the Maid of the Mist
while it was still half able to forge
ahead and make half a fist
of crossing the Niagara gorge,

the tub in which he might light a stove
and fold in the beaten
eggs into themselves? Who unearthed the egg-trove?
And who, having eaten

the omelette, would marvel at how the Mounties
had so quickly closed in on him, late
of the ‘Orchard County’
by way of the ‘Garden State’?

Source: http://www.princeton.edu/almagest/courseware/public/catechism/poemstart.html

About Paul Muldoon


Mrs. Anna Edson Taylor, Goddess of Water by P.M. Reynolds

reynolds taylor
Annie Edson Taylor and her Barrel. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Since earth’s creation down the stormy way,
All human feats have been surpassed today.
Mrs. Edson Taylor, in her barrel sound,
Through the wild rapids did in safety bound.

Peerless Niagara to maddened fury grew,
Raging more strongly not to let her through.
But on she went and all the rapids crossed;
By their turbulence she was roughly tossed.

Her venturous voyage still she did pursue,
With undaunted courage nearing the horseshoe.
Once at its brink, a second seemed to stop,
Then came the awful and the wondrous drop.

In her barrel, victorious and alone,
As when great Vulcan was from Heaven thrown,
A minute later on placid waters green
In rising foam the barrel then was seen.

Fast heading inland for the rocky shore,
As from fifty thousand came a cheerful roar.
Time’s wide dial, her brilliant name will show
Till time’s no more, as on the ages go.

Cataract Journal, October 28, 1901.

Source: Whalen, Dwight. The Lady Who Conquered Niagara: The Annie Edson Taylor Story. Brewer, Maine: EGA Books, 1990.

Woman in a Barrel, About To Go Over Niagara Falls by Kathleen M. Heideman

Annie Edson Taylor
Annie Edson Taylor about to go over Niagara Falls. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Some math problems, they come with assumptions and pencils
e.g.: here’s a black and white photograph, with blank spots to fill: _______.
First, you’re standing in it, the river equation. “It” in this case is a boat above Niagara Falls,
X, hundreds of feet above the point of falling. You’re holding something – a floating barrel.
A woman’s head is still visible. Solve for her heart, friend

– it doesn’t matter if that’s a pencil in your hand, or a nail. The barrel wants to move,
it’s rushing by – your life, her life! You start to say something, but the woman is
humming. No words – just open throat and breathing. Your heart is
hammering against the barrel of your chest, “uhm uhm uhm”……
Well, maybe no drumming but the thunder of water. Hard to tell,
but there’s a shoreline. You’re on the edge of something large here,

like it or not, and let’s not forget to mention it’s autumn. She’s hungry.
Did I mention harvest? Not all women are equal – elsewhere, at dawn, your mother
was kneeling midway down in a long row of frost-bitten tomatoes,
perfumed by crushed vines, each fruit twisting until it released itself to hunger.
Some women – their house holds a kitchen table full of mason jars, an ordered emptiness
longing for content. And the woman in the barrel?
Call her anything you want: Madame Need. Ms. Curiosity.

She’s humming, yes – can you hear her? That old cellar song.
“Uhm” suggests hunger is a factor in this math equation. No apples,
so she fills the barrel with herself. The hand holding onto the barrel has an impressive vita,
a man who knows how to hold a hammer, pick tomatoes, paddle, use a pencil.
His hand, I mean, should know this gesture – how to solve for X.
You ask “why the Falls?”, you repeat yourself, but there’s no reply…
Sound of thundering water. She fell for him. The problem is like a blank postcard,
Continue reading “Woman in a Barrel, About To Go Over Niagara Falls by Kathleen M. Heideman”

Queen of the Mist by John Joseph O’Regan

Annie Edson Taylor, Queen of the Mist, with her barrel and her cat. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
Annie Edson Taylor, Queen of the Mist, with her barrel and her cat. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
All hail to the Queen of the Mist,
     Brave Anna Edson Taylor;
She has beaten all former records,
     By her courage, grit and valor.

This great heroine of our nation,
     Has won both fortune and fame;
Now people all over creation,
     Will praise this illustrious dame.

On the twenty-fourth day of October,
     In the year ninteen hundred and one;
The Queen of the Mist in a barrel,
     The risk of her life did run.

Over the wonderful Horseshoe Falls,
     Where the waters roar like thunder;
The barrel leaped within sight of all,
     With our intrepid lady wonder.

Annie Taylor being assisted out of the barrel after going over Niagara Falls. Left is stunter Carlisle Graham, right is riverman Red Hill.  Photo courtesy <a href=
Niagara Falls Public Library” width=”285″ height=”300″ class=”size-medium wp-image-822″ /> Annie Taylor being assisted out of the barrel after going over Niagara Falls. Left is stunter Carlisle Graham , right is riverman Red Hill. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

Down through the surging, foaming deep,
     She came in her barrel of oak;
The crowd with rapturous cheers did leap,
     When she was taken out and spoke.

This brave woman, who knows no deception,
     Did what no one did before;
And was given a hearty reception,
     When she landed safe on shore.

Here’s to the Lady of the Cataract,
     Who has Spartan grit and valor;
Thrice, all hail, Queen of the Mist,
     Brave Anna Edson Taylor.

She has beaten the world’s record,
     Her praises we will sing;
Although a little disfigured,
     She is certainly still in the ring.

Niagara Gazette. October 26, 1901.

Source: Whalen, Dwight. The Lady Who Conquered Niagara: The Annie Edson Taylor Story. Brewer, Maine: EGA Books, 1990.

Learn more about Annie Edson Taylor