The River None Believe by John B. Lee

 

John B Lee
John B. Lee / theOntariopoetrysociety.ca

I think of the Niagara
and if I say
“the river it seems remembers nothing”
and you might say
“What?” you might say “are you crazy?”
and if I say
“well, the War of 1812 was fought here
from mouth to source
and it was
the worst conflict, the most violent
ever fought by Europeans
right here on Canadian soil…
not as ‘remember the Alamo’
but as ‘remember Lundy’s Lane'”
the heat of battle
to the death–the worst in North America
until the Civil War
yet if you travel now
to the sight
it’s like hardening of the arteries
of history
it’s carnival traffic, tarmac
and the roar of a frothy falls
full of whisky barrel values
like empty thread spools
dangling from a mad tailor
and all you see
is Blondin on his tight rope
over the rapids
not the red wind
of a single crimson night
how many summers ago
and gone
and if I say
“go to the heights above Burlington Bay
and listen for those headless ghosts
of eight men hanged
go to Queenston
and watch the far banks
for the bad boats
go to Newark/Niagara
and look for the conflagration
listen for the hiss of torches
and the crash of blackened rafters
go to little St. David’s
ride there on a dead horse
trample the vineyards
watch for the wine stain
in the blight of fire and ink
and if by
the echo of a wet rock
if by the strangled cry
of some turning eddy
foaming round in eternal rubble
wearing the shape of the flow
perilous enough
to the jarred heel
to spin a man’s craft
and crack his memory loose
as quick as a war club will
and if I look
to this land
and see
how a man is missed
as if he were never there
how his shape might drop away
like a walker in the fog
some phantom colour fading in the mist
with a ragged twin
of someone watching from the other way
what of this
this earth that holds us
this deeper gravity
this float of stones
these stories
dead tongues tell?

 

Source: The Author, 2001.

John B. Lee. From In the Terrible Weather of Guns  [manuscript]

Brock’s Monument by Betty J. Beam

(a children’s poem)

Brock’s Monument at Queenston Heights by Reg Deacon. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
I climbed up Brock's Monument
    With a leap, a skip, a hop.
I climbed up Brock's Monument
    From the bottom to the top.
I climbed up Brock's Monument
    And I did it without one stop.
BUT --
Two hundred and thirty-five steps
    And I'm ready to drop!

General Brock rode Alfred
    On the daring fateful ride.
Sword drawn, he scaled Queenston Heights,
    British Red Coats at his side
The Americans could not
    Gain the summit, though they tried.
BUT --
Musket and cannon came alive
    And the man and horse died!

I climbed up Brock's Monument
    When tulips were in flower.
I climbed up Brock's Monument
    In less than half an hour.
I climbed up Brock's Monument
    Using my muscle power.
BUT --
I'm glad there's an elevator
    In the CN Tower!

Source: The Author, 2001

The Battle of Queenstown (October 13, 1812) by William Banker, Jr.

When brave Van Rensselaer cross'd the stream,
    Just at the break of day
Distressing thoughts, a restless dream,
    Disturb'd me where I lay.

But all the terrors of the night
    Did quickly flee away:
My opening eyes beheld the light,
    And hail'd the new-born day.

Soon did the murdering cannon's roar
    Put blood in all my veins;
Columbia's sons have trod the shore
    Where the proud Britain reigns.

To expose their breast to cannon's ball,
    Their country's rights to save,
O what a grief to see them fall!
    True heroes, bold and brave!

The musket's flash, the cannon's glow,
    Thunder'd and lighten'd round,
Struck dread on all the tawny foe,
    And swept them to the ground.

I thought what numbers must be slain,
    What weeping widows left!
And aged parents full of pain,
    Of every joy bereft.

The naked savage yelling round
    Our heroes where they stood,
And every weapon to be found
    Was bathed in human blood.

But bold Van Rensselaer, full of wounds,
    Was quickly carried back;
Brave Colonel Bloom did next command
    The bloody fierce attack.

Where Brock, the proud insulter, rides
    In pomp and splendor great;
Our valiant heroes he derides,
    And dared the power of fate.

 Continue reading "The Battle of Queenstown (October 13, 1812)  by William Banker, Jr."