Niagara by Julia Older

The Cave of the Winds.
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

What I remember most is not the barrage,
the beating, the thunderous surge
in my plugged ears. Or the faces
drenched in rivulets of tears. Not the rubber
ducky shoes, or hooked yellow slickers and hats
lined up in a row like Gloucester ghosts
in the fog of the women’s undressing room.
But how, being shy and thirteen, I crouched
in a private cubby and slipping off my panties,
revived the child who once threw off her clothes
and ran through summer storms
open-mouthed in sheets of rain—
a bare-back rider with streaming hair
and tall grass between my toes
—wild and ecstatic.

Drowned in the deafening roar,
my parents’ incessant arguing dissolved to silence
as they held on for dear life to the railing.
Single file we climbed to The Cave of Winds
through the relentless crash of water.
An old man ahead of me stopped. Laughing,
I leapt around and raced up the winding steps, free
to look beyond their fear and shouting.
My uplifted face glowed with the stinging tattoo
and poured down my legs. Beyond belief,
on the top platform I looked through a quicksilver veil
hurling rainbows and spray into my eyes.
Though the scaffold rotted long ago
I’m still there, naked with the angel
behind the falls.

Source: Deus Loci, 2010/2011  vol 12, p. 92-93

About Julia Older

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