Helen Keller at Niagara Falls by Meryl Stratford

helen keller

helen keller
Cover of Helen Keller’s The World I Live In. Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan, Edmund Lyon, and Polly Prate at Niagara Falls, ca. 1893

She could not see the avalanche cascade
from foam-flecked marble rapids, being blind,
but torrents of egrets and apple blossoms played
whirlpools of nebulous beauty in her mind.
She could not hear, tumultuous mystery,
the thunderous plunge, a sea’s storm-breaking crests,
crescendo of a choral symphony,
only the silence when the music rests.
But the earth beneath her trembled. She could feel
a power like perseverance, truth, or love,
the joyous lifting of a bridal veil,
a thirst fulfilled, the mist, the memory of
her teacher’s cool, wet fingers like a brand,
burning that first word water in her hand.

 

Meryl Stratford is a poet living in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

First Published August 7, 2014 on The Society of Classical Poets website

Summer Dresses by Jane Urquhart

urquhart summer

urquhart summer
Crown Trent bone china cup and saucer flowered Niagara Falls souvenir

Later

flowered cups she drinks
her tea from
echo in her summer
dresses

she is an old woman
contemplating
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡unlaced shoes

memory all around her
like the river of that vein
in one thin hand

against a powdered cheek

behind a cedar door
she feels compelled to organize
the souvenir of wardrobe

(her closet
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡dark
with flowered cloth)

she understands the fabrics
of identity
and reaches for her pen again

the document survives for years

 

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

Between Brothers by Jane Urquhart

urquhart brothers
A fight starts
in a moment

travels all around the
yard

and ruins roses

involves two or three
dogs who
scare the goldfish

deeper in the pond

a fight speaks of
heat or play
or boredom

a fight lasts an
instant or an afternoon

and always finishes
with the loser in the trough
shaking his head like an animal

(the water scatters
through the vision of
his startled sisters
suddenly blooming
at the kitchen window and

grandmother shouting
as she dries the edges of
her hands

all around her apron)

 

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 

Undertaker’s Bride by Jane Urquhart

urquhart undertaker

urquhart undertaker
The Morse home and funeral parlour. Photo Morse & Son Funeral Home

Grandmother
was an undertaker’s bride

it couldn’t be helped

the profession ran in
her husband’s family

she was twenty-one
at the turn of the present century
her name was
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡adeline
just like the song

grandmother kept an intricate
account of
death by water

that was her job

sometimes she described
more than sixty floaters a summer
all of them slipped

over the falls
one way or another

she wrote
their remaining physical
characteristics
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡and their
tiny possessions
in a small brown book

it looks as if it couldn’t be
helped

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡it looks as if
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ ‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡somebody
had to write it

 

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