Niagara Falls, NY by C.D. Onofrio

NFNY

NFNY
Aerial view showing Niagara Falls, NY on the left, with refineries lining the Niagara River. Photo by Andrew Porteus, 2004

All the restaurants are named Betty’s
The water is turquoise blue, deep and cool

Niagara Falls, NY

Driving towards the falls on the scenic Parkway
The scene on the left is deep turquoise blue
Unlike water anywhere else in the world
A river as wide as a lake, forests of trees
The scene to the right is chemical factories
And rusted warehouses, and inlets or outlets of water
That sit sick in the stomach of history
Billboards saying mesothelioma
Clinging from Buffalo
To the boarded up windows
That line Niagara St.
And welcome you into
What used to be
A wonder of the world

Source: The author, June 2018

Niagara Falls by James Reaney

reaney

reaney
James Reaney

When the bridegroom
Reaches the room
With breath bated
He approaches
The moment long awaited.
He takes off his loud cravat
And his shirt and his hat,
His trousers and his shoes,
And his undershirt and drawers.
Naked, as from his mother,
He attempts with another
To return to that sweet night of the womb.

Source:  James Reaney.  The Red Heart.  Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1949

Forced Entry by RN Wagner

wagner

wagner
RN Wagner reciting his poetry

(Trigger warnings: a whole bunch)

My nayburz and I lived  a block from Clifton Hill
you know that street that employs us in the summer
but throws us to the curb in the winter
unless you fall to your knees in the fall
In front of your boss when no one else is looking

You don’t get a break if you want to earn a living…
In the city of repurposed broken guitar strings,
that held up our forgotten dreams

Across the street from Mom and I
Was a house
That made labatt blue a little more well off
When the Street lights came on
You couldn’t tell the difference between
Them yelling at the hockey game or
Their mouthy sugar stained children…
that coated the streets with unwanted frequencies
Two older brothers main concerns were to get laid
They modeled themselves after the noise in the living room
Kraft dinner was for royalty and so was kool-aid

Apparently, pillow fights were for pussies…
So it was five minutes of roughing every drunken period
but no roll-call model parents to call a real penalty.
No name food products dominated the space,
there was no room for anything natural or healthy

Headphones were too expensive
So I learned how to enjoy the fireworks without seeing them
Stuck between two broken homes across from each other
Both Mothers are Newfoundlanders, don’t talk to each other much
And our doors are locked at night if that shatters any stereotypes!

It’s hard out here for us Honeymoon Capital survivors
Trying to live in the Unemployment Wonder of the World
Vacancy for welfare checks in the off season
Doctors are not accepting any new patients
We carry our laundry to the mat, say hello to the owners parrot and
we welcome the tourists who try to run over our cats
(Meows gather at the 7-11’s)

There is a fine line that separates yelling from screaming when you’re close to that Clifton Hill
Because you’re either just a haunted house employee  practicing their creepshow
Or just another tourist
looking for their attraction coupons in a overpriced parking lot

The house across the street
Had a friend of the family
Who delivered my favorite thing in the world… PIZZA!
Plain and simple, hands down, unlike the life I live

If I ordered and asked for him to deliver it
I would get a decent discount every time
It was great for a while
Then i thought about delivering pizza myself…
Since I got my beginners licence recently
He was more than happy to offer me an opportunity to make some money
And said my tips were twice as good as his.
So since he never lost anything sharing his deliveries,
I was welcome anytime to his orders, and help him out

I was in high school
Grade 11, 16 years old
Taking university level courses to be eligible for potential golf scholarships
I hadn’t won any tournaments yet but my handicap was just a handful
It would get better if I didn’t have to work next summer and had my own set of wheels
(Ford Topaz foreshadow)

Getting back home from school a little late was normal
Golf and Graphic Design was my usual excuse
Mom was often passed out on the couch, Budweiser in hand

It was the billboard I memorized
To keep a promise..
That I wouldn’t take the same courses as my mother
“I may be a bad example, but you must not ever give up”, she said.

But there was this one time I broke our promise…

Out of the similar fear my mom had when she lost her house keys, and sat on some church steps to regain her strength, to sober up
It evolved into a vulnerable coffee date with a stranger offering friendship
Which turned into a late sunday drive behind a warehouse for some rape
All she wanted was a real ear in a city of lights, but there was none,
just lights that shined so bright you couldn’t see danger coming or hear it…from the fake house of fun.
The idea to be crying for help behind a candle factory, was just a wax mold and a trigger for thoughts of a single grandson kept the fear instilled to not fight back, pretending it was a good time like the floors she swept.
It was the people she worked for, just not this one.

The difference between Broom Hilda’s House of Horrors and mine,
Was that I hadn’t lost anything but my father and a chance to know him better than old union meeting minutes at this point.

I just wanted to earn a living delivering pizza
So I could buy myself groceries and Mother a decent christmas present.

My Moms rapist was just like mine in some ways…

When they pulled out
Onto the road
After they got what they wanted…
They did it nice and slow
Because they didn’t want to be suspicious

They asked us if we wanted anything from the store
Because they were so thoughtful of our hunger and thirst

They both decided to drive the speed limit
Because they didn’t want to break the law

They asked us to hang out again sometime
Maybe eat some pizza or go for a drink at their place
Because they wanted us to feel normal

They gave us stories about who they were
Who they knew
Because they didn’t want anyone else to know
Just how special we are to have met them

They tried to get away!!!

But my mom was killer at memorizing licence plates and fake names
And I am killer at remembering that my reflective  words
are better than my experience
I choose not to live in fear
Of you hearing this comeback someday
Because I will come back someday
Maybe even just go in myself for  a walk-in special
Slam this poem to your bosses face
The customers can judge your sorry ass
Right before the video gets submitted
Into film festivals worldwide
You may or may not have recorded my friends like you said you did, and offered for me to listen about how they bragged about fucking you without a condom.
I don’t really care to know anymore, especially those scary people you said you knew in case I got any ideas…
Because I just fucked you without a condom
And I didn’t even have to touch you.

Have fun, you’re so fucked now
Your dick is a just a lonely pepperoni flick after a game is lost in this Italian click-fest of a town.
Sitting against the boards of corporate sponsors and beer my mother and most Uncles drink.
Ready to be eaten by the zamboni that hates your limited edition discarded kind. In between periods of rage, I hit white balls over 300 yards into the wind of my justice system, and sometimes I just leave them there for juniors that haven’t met you yet.

Fucked up how things work out, you see there is this old testament bible that my stepfather used to carry around with him. Once he passed away, I found the court docket that spells my mother’s rapists name on it. I got this information after my step-dad had passed while going through his things, in preparation for his funeral. It was hidden from me, this information, because it’s the name of the person that stripped my mom of all her self worth. She gave up, broke her promise, then died from it. Her brain aneurysm was the reason I won 7 golf tournaments the following year, but also the reason every christmas will never be the same, and neither will you when you see your name, printed inside the chapbooks that scream my name.

Fuck you both!

I’m doing great, thanks for asking

 

RN Wagner

September 28th, 2016

Source: The author.

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

Keeping Score by Jane Urquhart

urquhart keeping

urquhart keeping
The whirlpool downstream of Niagara Falls, where many bodies of people who have gone over the falls are recovered. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

The sunroom
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡in the afternoon
escalates beyond light
becoming a perfect timepiece

as she sits there
keeping score
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡cultivating
a careful record of that
which the river offered
in the summer of ’28

the pen in the inkwell
on the walnut desk
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡lifts
in grandmother’s fingers
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡emptying

indelible tatoos
permanent labels

hair and teeth and weight

the contents of a pocket
the value of a tie-pin

now
‡‡‡‡‡‡as dust motes sail
across her vision she pens
the essence
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡of a definition
the answer to a question

as beside number 116
she writes

body that
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡of a small man

 

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