Although no poem or painting is included here, this book of poetry by Eric Gansworth is an important addition to the literature of Niagara. Gansworth, who was raised on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in Niagara County, New York, just outside Niagara Falls, still resides in the area and teaches in Buffalo, NY.
Publisher supplied book information:
“Echoing the muscular rhythms of the heart beat, the poems in this stunning collection alternate between contraction and expansion. Eric Gansworth explores the act of enduring, physically, historically, and culturally. A member of the Haudenosaunee tribe, Gansworth expresses the tensions experienced by members of a marginalized culture struggling to maintain tradition within a much larger dominant culture. With equal measures of humor, wisdom, poignancy, and beauty, Gansworth’s poems mine the infinite varieties of individual and collective loss and recovery. Fourteen paintings punctuate his poetry, creating an active dialogue between word and image steeped in the tradition of the mythic Haudenosaunee world. A Half-Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function is the most recent addition to Gansworth’s remarkable body of work chronicling the lives of upstate New York’s Indian communities. ”
Run to your nearest library or book store to read this remarkable collection by Eric Gansworth.
Legend says her clothes were burning bright
As she ran in the flames into the ebony night
Screaming for the heat to subside
Awakening the neighbors they couldn’t believe their eyes
For that scared little girl, years later they did cry
Many years later
The screams still heard
Some say the legend is absurd
Legend has it
When you strike a match
Blood drips from the walls
Her screams and cries from the darkness they hatch
The terror and shrill in the memories of her blazing voice
To go down there for the experience is your own critical choice
Source: Tulk, Amanda. Can You Hear It? : Poetry by Amanda Tulk. Niagara Falls, Ont. : Grey Borders Books, 2013
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
When the bridegroom
Reaches the room
With breath bated
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
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.