The Screaming Tunnels by Amanda Tulk

screaming

screaming
The Screaming Tunnel. Photo by Cathy Simpson. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

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

Click here to see a newspaper article about the Screaming Tunnel

Virginia A. D**** by William B. Tappan

virginia

virginia
Young Girl in a Coffin. Courtesy Shirley Stoner / Niagara Falls Public Library

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Have thou never seen,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When the orb of day
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Lightens with his sheen
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Dark Niagara,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡How his glories act
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On the foam, and show,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡O’er the cataract,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Heaven’s beauteous bow?
She, who lately plumed for flight, seeking rest above,
Saw thus over Jordan’s tide, arched, the bow of love.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Hath, at eve, thine eye
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Watched the little billow
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rise and gleam and die,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On Atlantic’s pillow —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When it seemed to thee
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Sighing into rest,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Melting peacefully
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Into ocean’s breast?
She, as kindly in repose, sighed away her breath,
Peacefully and gently thus, blended into death.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Saw’st thou, when, in light,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Sabbath glories rose?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡She, a Sabbath bright,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Saw, yet not like those.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Longed she then to go,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rest above, to spend?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Yes! begun below,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rest that ne’er shall end.
Voices heard she, loved ones saw, sweetly from the sky
Beckoning to their holy home, wooing her to die.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡In the troublous hour,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡In life’s weary doom,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When disease hath power,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When appears the tomb —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Where’s the sovereign arm,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Strong and swift to save?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡What can chase alarm,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡What adorn the grave?
She could answer, HE was there, swift, the sufferer knew,
HE that through the grave had passed, strong to bear her through.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When Niagara
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Lifts his bow no more,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When have fled away
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Ocean and the shore, —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡She shall live again,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Where the mortal sigh
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Heaves not, and where pain,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Yea, and Death shall die.
She, a child, a seraph now, leans on Jesus’ breast,
Oh, for wings!  that we might be, sweet one!  thus at rest.

Source:  William B. Tappan. Poet’s Tribute; Poems of William B. Tappan. Boston: King, Crocker & Brewster, 1840

virginia

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

War Song by Jane Urquhart

urquhart war  

urquhart war
Knitting Instructions for Dunkirk Service Socks. Photo courtesy The Art of Knitting

Grandmother has the devil
in her
big as a woodchuck

rationing has been
imposed
so she

rushes to
the dominion store
to buy up all the sugar

before the hoarders
get it

and there will be sweet tea
on afternoons
set aside for the knitting
of regulation dunkirk socks

knit one pearl
two
sweet tea and gasoline
for each of three hearses

business continues as usual

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡good teeth
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡blue suspenders
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡regulation dunkirk socks
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ fingers on left hand
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡missing

 

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