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
‡‡‡‡‡‡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
broken-backed against the ice
like an injured dragon

must have wondered at
each of her magic crossings

but writes here
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

The River Niagara by Donald Lashelle


1930’s Aerial View of Niagara Falls. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library


In nature, all acts that have gone before
Leave traces, record marks, clues, tracks in store
That many persons pause to ponder o’er.
From inside outwards was the earth’s crust made,
The hollows caved in, the high mountains stayed,
Encircling flames produced the waters vast,
And time and seasons scaled things to the last.


Would thirty thousand years of effort score
On your astonishment a mark, or more?
Then hearken to a tale of work replete
With action in rain, sunshine, frost and sleet.
The speaker is NIAG’RA RIVER, old,
Clear, turbulent, odd, scenic giver, bold.


With strength unshorn by time, and white of brow,
But not from years, I am the center now
For myriads that travel from far and
Near to view my Falls as the cascade grand.
My life is in the cycle of the rain,
My strength from waters the Great Lakes retain.


The first to view the drainage plan, of three
Such large lakes flowing into Erie free,
Thence through me to a fifth and on to sea,
Said, “This is quite rare and not apt to be.”
Important link am I, from fourth to last,
The present scanned, the future viewed, or past.


The deep flow of my misting Horseshoe Falls,
Out does thin water leaping from side walls.
The view and sound effects are rapturous,
The roar, thump grind and spray continuous.
At what they sense, the millions gaze appalled,
Awondering, breath indrawn, stilled, enthralled.   Continue reading “The River Niagara by Donald Lashelle”

Niagara by George Houghton

  houghton niagara   

houghton niagara
A Distant View of the Falls of Niagara. 1835, by Thomas Cole.  Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library.

Formed when the oceans were fashioned, when all the world
‡‡was a workshop;
Loud roared the furnace fires, and tall leapt the smoke
‡‡from volcanoes,
Scooped were round bowls for lakes, and grooves for the
‡‡sliding of rivers,
Whilst, with a cunning hand, the mountains were linked

Then through the daw-dawn, lurid with cloud, and rent
‡‡by forked lightning,
Striken by earthquake beneath, above by the rattle of
Sudden the clamour was pierced by a voice, deep-lunged
‡‡and portentous —
Thine, O Niagara, crying: “Now is created completed!”


Millions of cup-like blossoms, brimming with dew and with
Mingle their tributes together to form one slow-trickling
Thousands of brooklets and rills, leaping down from their
‡‡home in the uplands,
Grow to a smooth, blue river, serene and flowing in

Hundreds of smooth, blue rivers, flashing afar o’er the
Darkening ‘neath forests of pine, deep drowning the reeds
‡‡in the marshes,
Cleaving with noiseless sledge the rocks red-crusted with
Circle at last to one common goal, the Mighty Sea-Water.

Lo! to the northward outlying, wide glimmers the stretch
‡‡of the Great Lake,
White-capped and sprinkled with foam, that tumbles its
‡‡bellowing breakers
Landward on beaches of sand, and in hiding-holes hollow
‡‡with thunder,
Landward where plovers frequent, with the wolf and the
‡‡westering bison.    Continue reading “Niagara by George Houghton”

Untitled by W. A. Stevens

lovers leaps

lovers leaps
Clarke Hill Islands – The Rapids and the Lovers Bridge. Photo by George Barker. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

If Lovers Leaps were now the fashion,
‡‡‡‡As they were in days of yore,
O what a place to drown the passion
‡‡‡‡In Niagaras foaming roar.

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

The Whirlpool of Niagara River Viewed on a Sabbath Morning by Susan Hill Todd

Early View of the Niagara River Whirlpool, from a Copper Negative. Photo Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
“It was a Sabbath of the Soul”;
I heard the distant cataract roll
     Its choral anthem high,
Whilst from the forest’s deep repose
A breath of mingled fragrance rose,
     Like incense to the sky.

Its azure dome was o’er my head,
The green leaves started at my tread,
     As if disturbed in prayer;
‘T was nature’s worship — we alone
Could jar its harp-strings — not a tone
     But breathed in concert there.

I saw, below my verdant seat,
The swift Niagara at my feet,
     As in a prison bound;
A rocky bed, with graceful bend
And narrow outlets at each end,
     Encircled it around.

While the proud rapids seem to pause
Indignantly to view the cause
     Of their unwont delay —
In solemn majesty, they turned,
Lingering, as if themselves they spurned,
     In durance thus to stay.

In circling eddies round and round,
I saw the careless driftwood bound,
     And watched it on its way,
Borne gayly on the rapids’ crest,
Till on the water-giant’s breast,
     The passive victim lay.

Within the whirlpool’s false embrace,
Condemned with never-ceasing pace
     Their aimless course to run,
Without a hope or goal in view,
An endless journey to pursue,
     Beginning, never done.

Yet viewlessly these links confine,
Brighter than diamond sparks they shine,
     And merrily they flow,
Whilst each fair shore stands smiling by,
And still the dancing waters fly,
     To music, as they go.

And then I felt like one who dreams,
And all his airy visions deems
     Realities of life;
The senseless logs like men were seen, —
A metamorphosis, I ween,
     Not much with truth at strife.

For is not human life a stream,
Whose rapids (cares and pleasures) seem
     To us but infant’s play,
Till, into passion’s current hurled,
Amid its restless vortex whirled,
     We chase the hours away?

What are the chains the hands have wrought?
The strongest chain is made of thought,
     The poet said of yore;
Spellbound by habit, thus we see,
The ocean of eternity,
     Yet seek its bliss no more.

O would we nature’s lessons read,
And draw our pure, exalted creed
     From her celestial lore,
All earth would then be hallowed ground,
In every stream some virtue found
     The spirit’s woes to cure.

Source: Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Co., 1901.

Originally published in Susan Hill Todd’s Occasional Poems: a New Year’s Offering. Boston: W. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1851