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

Niagara Falls – Viagra Calls by Larry Pace

Certificate showing a couple honeymooned in Niagara Falls
Certificate showing a couple honeymooned in Niagara Falls

They honeymoon in Canada
to see Niagara Falls.
She’s young, and he is very old,
but oh, Viagra calls!

A single night of nuptial bliss
these newlyweds will face.
The pills work well—but truth to tell,
his old heart can’t keep pace.

Niagara Falls: Viagra calls
for just a little while;
a widow for a newlywed,
a dead groom with a smile.

She cashes the insurance check
and goes back to St. Paul;
she thanks the Lord for Viagra
and for Niagara Falls!

© 2001 Larry Pace

Source: The author, 2001

The Brittle Branch by Philip J. Curtis

brittle branch

brittle branch
Niagara Falls by Moonlight by William Armstrong, 1855. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

She walks alone this night,
No longer fearing nocturnal birds.
Superficial days and existential nights,
Too many Form 4s for her flights.

The sun rising,
The moon just right,
The tourist season
Not over quite,
The way she
Might have planned it.
Finally, a bath of mind,
Her turn in line,
PCBs and feces too,
This time.

Didn’t complain,
They said there wasn’t
Another way.
Desiring one
With the icy art,
Best she could do,
Was an unfelt lark,
Trapped in the immensity
Of the existential trinity:
Cold flowing steel,
Bold turbine wheel,
No-essence meal.

But she’ll be content
With the stability
Of her new-found therapy,
The last Valhalla,
Where strange attractors
Lose bifurcations
And computers crash,
Drowned by an unknown fist
Of greatest mist,
Returning to the place
Of phase space none,
Not surviving her space
Of haze, race, nun.

It was cold,
And the icy creatures
Mocked a fractal joy,
The roar and poise
Of the secular trinity
Seemed a little hungry.

Many more like her
Have visited
The brittle branch,
Cat-like in Winter
Star and sun,
Alive and dead
In Schrödinger fun.

Broken frozen figurines,
Fallen from their shelves,
Drowned in the mist
Of a melancholy twist,
Bouncing cry-eyed
Into the rocky tub,
Bouncing wide-eyed
To the bottom’s hub.
So cold a tumbling,
To the sea.

Like her, the bloody bobs
Counting tourists’ ticks,
‘round and ‘round
The rocky tub,
Click, click,
Are not on the screen;
For the Trinkers
And Shrinkers,
Pulp Pushers and Rhinos
Have made their deal for steel,
No one to know
Lost dot bobs for real;
Measuring success
By the number of
Polymorphs of nymphs and dwarfs
Still on the screen.

Those who knew her
Have lost her,
And have poured
Their own eternal mist.
The rest will be leaving soon,
For the latest seller,
Or the signs of the moon.
Please get ready,
We’ll all need a room soon.

Until the parameters are tweaked,
And the densities just right,
Multicoloured and bright,
We won’t hear the Humanist drummer tonight.
Until the old texts
Have seen the young forced players’
Superficial smile
For existential layers,
Thousands more birds
May fall a long mile.

Good-bye our friend,
Thank you for singing
So bittersweet;
You may have saved
Someone on the street.
But for now and for you,
The Trinkers and Shrinkers,
Pulp Pushers and Rhinos,
Have lost a friend too.

With humility and hope,
Perhaps ten score hence,
The Witch may catch the bypass,
And the cash may catch the pitch;
Flooding virgin tears
Into all our ears.
But waiting for the song
To sign cast-laden legs,
We weep weed-laden heads.

Philip J. Curtis, Ó August, 2001

Source: The author, August 2001.

brittle branch