Niagara by Naomi Shihab Nye

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Maid of the Mist Near the American Side of Niagara Falls.
Photo by Chris McIntosh on Unsplash

Arriving early, before the lovers
have climbed up from their seastruck beds,
she stands where mist can penetrate
the way 7 a. m. changes the world—
softening, quickening little
hopes. She thought the Falls

were out in the country, not in a town.
To be wrong so many times, like finding the pyramids
adjacent to the Cairo bus stop,
or even herself alone in upstate New York
in the middle of a summer when she can imagine
pitching so many things overboard,
not a body in a barrel, not that,
but stacks of manuscripts, yellow stick-um notes,
even what she said yesterday,

into the surging megatons,
the burst of fabulous power that could light our lights
from here to Cincinnati or whatever the loudspeaker shouts
when she rides the boat that dips a herd of slickers
into the blinding white roar, the baptismal boat
where Japanese and Puerto Rican come up equally
wet. Despite the blurred narrtive,
she won’t forget how she lifted her face into the spray.

Before leaving, she drives around
the Canadian side, entering the thrift mart,
dimestore, buying a jug of bilingual bubble bath—
then spins toward the bridge again, refreshed,
sparked by the electricity that accompanies
days marked by nothing but what we see,
as if after all our sober intentions and hard work,
the days that carry us could be these.


Source: Naomi Shihab Nye. Red Suitcase: Poems. Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, 1994


About Naomi Shihab Nye (from Red Suitcase):

Poet, teacher, essayist, anthologist, songwriter and singer, Naomi Shihab Nye is one of the country’s most acclaimed writers. Her voice is generous; her vision true; her subjects ordinary people, and ordinary situations which, when rendered through her language, become remarkable. In this, her fourth full collection of poetry, we see with new eyes-a grandmother’s scarf, an alarm clock, a man carrying his son on his shoulders.

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