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 

Untitled by W. A. Stevens

lovers leaps

lovers leaps
Clarke Hill Islands – The Rapids and the Lovers Bridge. Photo by George Barker. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

If Lovers Leaps were now the fashion,
‡‡‡‡As they were in days of yore,
O what a place to drown the passion
‡‡‡‡In Niagaras foaming roar.

Source: Table Rock Album and Sketches of the Falls and Scenery Adjacent. Buffalo: Steam Press of Thomas & Lathrops, 1856c.1848.

The Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney hermit
Hut on Goat Island Used By Francis Abbott. the Hermit of Niagara, from 1829-1831. Sketch by C. Breckinridge Porter

It was the leafy month of June,
And joyous Nature, all in tune,
‡‡With wreathing buds was drest,
As toward Niagaras fearful side
‡‡A youthful stranger prest;
His ruddy cheek was blanched with awe
And scarce he seemed his breath to draw,
‡‡While bending oer its brim,
He marked its strong, unfathomed tide,
‡‡And heard its thunder-hymn.

His measured week too quickly fled,
Another, and another sped,
And soon the summer rose decayed,
The moon of autumn sank in shade;
Years filled their circle, brief and fair,
Yet still the enthusiast lingered there,
‡‡Till winter hurled its dart:
For deeper round his soul was wove
A mystic chain of quenchless love,
That would not let him part. Continue reading “The Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney”

CANAL CAMP BALLADS No. 1: The Great Saint’s Medal By Jimmie Loftus

loftus canal 1
Welland Canal – Davis Culvert Construction, 1927. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
(With apologies to Kipling’s “Ballad of Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House”)

As I sat upon the doorstep
        Of Bunkhouse Number Two
Big Jim, the One lounged down ‘longside
        And cut him off a chew.
This is the story he told me,
        As I tell it to you.
 
“Twas tougher then than now, me boy,”
        Along this old canal;
But the Spirit of the Big Ditch
        Held young and old in thrall.
The men often whined, “We Cannot,”
        But the Spirit said, “Ye Shall.”
 
When they huddled in the shanties
        After a twelve hour day
On the reeking piles of gumbo
        (That cursed sticky clay).
They were nigh onto exhaustion,
        Dyin’ to hit the hay.
 
But they’d sit around like we are,
        And smoke a pipe or two,
And swap the most amazing yarns
        Or curse the heavens blue.
They was a mongrel, jumbled lot
        That Old Canal Crew.
 
There was Charlie Loo, the Chinee cook,
        “The Senor” from Tampico,
The Greek which we called Louie,
        Tall Hans from old Saro,
A guy from far-off Hebrides,
        “Slow Sam” from Idaho.
 
There was Jake Tike, the scar-faced Red,
        And his ugly leering sneer,
He was always stirring trouble
        When the big Boss wasn’t near.
And there was Mike, the Irish lad,
        With eyes still bright and clear.
 
Michael was fresh from County Clare,
        New to the life of the camps,
New to the hard-boiled ways of men,
        New to the wiles of scamps.
He gave credit to everyone—
        Even that gang o’ tramps. Continue reading “CANAL CAMP BALLADS No. 1: The Great Saint’s Medal By Jimmie Loftus”

Martyrs of Progress by Clarence Arthur Dowling Thompson

thompson martyrs
Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial With the Names 0f 137 Who Died Building the Canals

To the Workers Who Met Death On Canal Construction

It was inspiring, grand, impressive !
An event for the great to behold,
When thousands on thousands witnessed
The leviathan entrance unfold !

Long are the approach of the hour,
From areas distant and near,
Came eager, expectant people,
To gaze from the bank, tier on tier.

The foremost voice of our country,
Through receptive air channels hurled,
Cried forth the great shipway’s importance
To an audience girdling the world.

About what were some of us thinking―
We who stood on the grassy banks―
As scintillant invocations
Inspired the close-serried ranks?

We were loved ones, friends and companions
Of men crashed, or hurled, to their doom.
By the sudden snap of a tackle . . .
Collapse of a defective boom—

We stood on the sward and remembered . . .
Yes, we heard suave sentences flow.
But we knew—despite the orations—
To whom highest tribute should go.

There were those of the people present . . .
Remembering . . . stifled a sob
For the hundred and more of workers
Who went to their death “on the job.”

Originally published in The St. Catharines Standard, Monday August 8, 1932, p4.; published just after the new canal was opened.
Source: Dennis Gannon, 2017