‘Tis the boom of the fall with a heavy pour,
Solemn and slow as a thunder cloud,
Majestic as the vast ocean‘s roar,
Through the green trees round its singing crowd;
And the light is as green as the emerald grass,
Or the wide-leaved plants in the wet morass.
It sounds over all, and the rushing storms
Cannot wrinkle its temples, or wave its hair.
It dwells alone in the pride of its form,
A lonely thing in the populous air.
From the hanging cliffs it whirls away,
All seasons through, all the livelong day.
Source: Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrup Publishing Co., 1901.
Originally published in his Poems, 1843
High overhead at the peak of the barn,
A ragged tin rooster is raising the dawn;
Along with the creature of curious grace,
Who takes his position and rests in his place,
And then with the slightest of smiles on his face,
He raises a foot and steps off into space.
Oh for an ounce of the courage I lack,
Oh for the feel of the wind at my back,
Oh for a tongue to cry passion and fire,
Signor Farini is walking the wire ―
Farini ― so high on the wire
Walking on air with the greatest of ease,
A tangle of barn swallows sharing the breeze.
Down from the lightning rod out to the tree,
Quick pirouttes and a bow from the knee.
Don’t breathe a word of the things that you see,
Nobody knows him like you and like me
Better to follow the long straight path,
Better to walk than to fly,
This field is too narrow to cut a wide swath,
Better to look to your feet than the sky,
Better look to your feet not the sky ―
Not the sky.
Up on the wire can you still smell the ground?
High, up so high can you still hear the sound
That comes from the people who all look so small,
Searching the sky with their backs to the wall
Hands in their pockets and necks craned so tall,
Patiently waiting to see if you fall?
Bill Cattey has been employed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 17 years as a software engineer after getting his degree in Computer Engineering from there. Bill is quite sure of himself as an engineer, but is a little uncomfortable calling himself a poet. He knows he started early with a haiku he wrote in elementary school, but after that he can find only one additional poem written before entering MIT.
He attributes that second poem’s being published in his high school literary magazine to be an artifact of them being hungry for copy rather than any literary value to the work.
Bill, with the aid of a collaborator, has set two of his poems to music. He hopes to publish his work through more conventional literary channels in the future. Bill currently publishes all his poetry, including many works in progress, on a personal web site: http://web.mit.edu/wdc/www/poetry