The Brittle Branch by Philip J. Curtis

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.

Niagara, Seen on a Night in November by Adelaide Crapsey

Adelaide Crapsey – early 1900s

How frail
Above the bulk
Of crashing water hangs,
Autumnal, evanescent, wan,
The moon.

 

 

Source: Adelaide Crapsey. Verse. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1922.

About Adelaide Crapsey

Niagara in Winter by Susan Frances Harrison (“Seranus”)

Nor similes nor metaphors avail!
All imagery vanishes, device
Dies in thy presence, wondrous dream of ice!
Ice-bound I stand, my face is pinched and pale,
Before such awful majesty I fail,
Sink low on this snow-lichened slab of gneiss,
Shut out the gleaming mass that can entice,
Enchain, enchant, but in whose light I quail.

While I from under frozen lashes peer,
My thoughts fly back to take a homeward course.
How dear to dwell in sweet placidity,
Instead of these colossal crystals, see
The slender icicles of some fairy “force,”
And break the film upon an English mere!

Source: Professor Gregory Betts, Brock University, Department of English. First published 1891.

Too near the falls by Virginia Conn

We used to joke about honeymooning here, be home
in time for dinner at my mother’s every night.
But only if we could play movie stars, arriving
by train under a canopy of thick gray celluloid smoke.
I’d even marcel my hair.

We’re here now on a whim.  A drive without anticipation,
almost detouring into the mall at the last minute.
We forget to open the windows after customs, until
the sound thuds against the glass, that low, deep thunder
under the asphalt, the precise moment when the road joins
the adventure.  We follow the tourists; we need them
to help us fully appreciate this.  Besides, it is too loud
to discuss which way to go.  Whoever takes the lead must lead.

We’re handed slickers before the ride begins; I carry mine.
I didn’t come to be wrapped in plastic and float safely
through the mist.  I want to kick something into the rush
and track its furious ride down the cascade of water
drawn from deep in the earth and slammed back in its face.

I step back into you; you lift a damp lock of my hair
and it coils on your finger.  It is so loud.
Your heart, or mine, or both, responds with the same pulse,
or is it always there, the only beat the earth knows.

Source: The author, 2001.

Originally published in The Buffalo News.

At Niagara Falls by Anson G. Chester

In the Maytime, at Niagara,
As a Sabbath morning broke,
Full of glory, peace and beauty,
From his dreams the sleeper woke.

All was quiet, save the thunder
That forever there prevails —
That, throughout the gathering ages,
Never pauses, never fails.

But the thunder of the torrent
Of a sudden died away,
Just as if a spell of silence
On the rampant waters lay.

For a robin, at the casement,
Trilled its carols sweet and strong,
And he heard the roar no longer —
It was vanquished by the song!

On thine ear the roar and tumult
Of the noisy world must fall,
But a little song of love and trust
Will overcome it all.

Source: Kevin McCabe, ed. The Poetry of Old Niagara. St. Catharines, Ont. : Blarney Stone Books, 1999.

 Originally published in Poets and Poetry of Buffalo. 1904.