Twilight on the Tow-Path by Ernest Green

green
Delaware and Lehigh rivers at Easton Pa.
by Augustus Kollner, 1844
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Barge being towed by horses in foreground

I’m a-sitting by the tow-path
‡‡Of the days of long ago,
Where the long, green grass is growing
‡‡And the ox-eye daisies blow,
And I see a fading vision,
‡‡‘Gainst the sun’s last westward glow,
Of the schooners and the horses
‡‡In the days I used to know.

Big-boned horses, drooping, weary,
‡‡As they drew the tow-line taut;
Idle sailors, singing, cheery,
‡‡Lounging where the decks are hot;
Trudging tow-boys, cracking whips,
‡‡Cursing when a tow-horse slips;
And the rattling rustling, creaking
‡‡Of the gear upon the ships.

Little schooners with their lumber,
‡‡Going down the narrow ditch,
Out of Michigan and Huron
‡‡Bringing ashes, staves and pitch;
All the forests of the inland
‡‡Floating seaward, hour by hour,
Making way for farms and millers
‡‡To send down their wheat and flour.

And the immigrants go upward,
‡‡Irish, Scot, and Norse and Swede,
Looking to the land of promise
‡‡Where hard work is all they need
For the carving of a future
‡‡And the foundation of a race,
Facing westward, keen and eager,
‡‡To their new, free dwelling-place.

But the sailing ships have vanished,
‡‡And the tow-path sod is green,
Gone are horses, whips and shoutings,
‡‡Giving place to steel and steam,
Rusty plates and smoke and smother,
‡‡Sixteen hatchways in a row,
And a welkin-splitting clamor
‡‡That pursues me as I go.

I have seen as rare a vision
‡‡As the ancient prophets saw,
I have seen mankind in action
‡‡Working out the ancient law,—
“You shall all this earth replenish
‡‡“And subdue its every sod,”—
‘Tis mankind that builds our nation
‡‡But the architect, is God.


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

Originally published in the St. Catharines Standard, November 29, 1924

Read about Ernest Green

Niagara by Kathy Gilbert

gilbert
Deer in the Winter
Image courtesy of PxHere

The river carries me here
As a babe on its island’s shores I play
Palms and fingers squish soft sand, feet kick,
On my back, sun warmed laps of waves.

Currents change with the seasons
Moody green, then blue; milky, then grey
Factory polluted in a haphazard way.
In autumn steam rises after first frost

Buckhorn’s creek freezes over in white
Our skates’ steel cuts crust to granules of light
We hear the creak of the sheet unable
to bear our weight; it cracks, we lie on the ice

crawl to shore; imagine the classmate trapped
head under the lip of ice, face turned blue
frozen in his boots, red cap and jacket;
first of our generation to pay the price

like deer seeking to drink fresh water
stranded on ice floe; eyes wide in fear
headed for the Rapids, then the Falls.
Sooner or later the current carries us all.


Source: Kathy Gilbert, 2021

Award winning poet Kathy Gilbert grew up in Niagara Falls, NY, attending St John de La Salle, Prince of Peace, and 66th Street schools before moving to Grand Island.  She currently resides  in Northern California where she received an MFA in poetry from San Francisco State University. In 2020, she published a poetry collection, Aprils Three. Other poems have appeared in Transfer, Anomalous, Swampwriting, The Steel Toe Review, The Community of Writers, and,Vistas & Byways. She is currently working on a book about Niagara Falls.

A Legend of Niagara by Florio

florio
Upper Niagara River and Goat Island. Photograph by Andrew Porteus, 2004

An Indian, in the days of yore —
Of “fish and fur’s” abounding store —
Would cross Niagara’s stream —
Just where the river, smooth and wide,
Pours toward the gulf its treacherous tide,
Like some deceitful dream.

Near by, a bear was crossing, too :
Whose head no sooner rose to view,
Than straight the “Brave” urged his canoe
To grasp an easy prey ;
But Bruin fled not — glad to greet
A resting-place for weary feet,
He turned and swam his foe to meet,
Upon the watery way.

They met — the paddle’s blow was dealt ;
With paw received, or scarcely felt
By fur-protected bear.
Who, reaching up as for a bough,
Climbed gracefully into the prow
And sat serenely there.
The astonished “Brave” sought in his turn
The “ultima thule” of the stern,
And then sat down to stare.

And thus in armed neutrality
They sat in thoughtful “vis-à-vis,”
While the bark drifted silently
To meet the breakers white ;

But when the Indian seized an oar,
To stay his course, or seek the shore,
Admonished by an ominous roar,
He dropped it in affright :

For in those cavernous jaws he sees
Molars, incisors, cuspidés —
Enough a hero’s heart to freeze
Or dentist to delight.

More dreadful still, the angry Fall,
Like some huge monster seemed to call,
Impatient for its prey ;
And shows its breakers’ flashing teeth,
To welcome him to depths beneath ; —
And breathes its breath of spray.

Visions of fire and frying pan
Encompassed that bewildered man
(Tho’ watery fears oppressed)
And Shakspeare’s thought his bosom fills
“Better to bear our present ills
Than fly” — you know the rest.

Whether the Brave proved dainty fare,
And then the Fall devoured the bear,
Though unto them the “loss was sair”
To us is less ado :
But still, arrayed in fancy’s gleam,
Have floated down Tradition’s stream
The twain in that canoe —
And furnished to the faces pale,
The matter to “adorn a tale,”
And “point a moral,” too.

We float upon life’s lapsing tide
While toward some gulf the waters glide
With unremitting might ;
And some black bear holds us in awe,
Like the “black Care” which Horace saw
Behind the Roman knight.

We fain would seize an oar to reach
Some sylvan shore, some silvery beach ;
But still the moment miss —
For Pride, or Ease, or Care, or Fear,
Sits with o’erwhelming presence near ;
The saving hand we dare not lift,
And gently thus we drift, drift, drift,
Into the dread abyss.

Our land, which boasts that it prepares
Its morel and material wares,
Should make its legends, too :
And mixing one of native clay,
Let’s drop “a lion’s in the way,”
And in its stead hereafter say —
A bear’s in the canoe.”


Source: The Crayon, vol. 8, no. 7, July 1861.

Florio is possibly a pseudonym used by Clement Clarke Moore.  Two poems published in the New York Evening Post under the name of Florio later appeared in Moore’s 1844 book Poems, as outlined in the blog post Two Poems by Clement C. Moore, as First Published in the New York Evening Post

 

Bear and Falls by James McIntyre

bear

Strange incidents do happen ever
On the famed Niagara river,
This thought to mind it now recalls
Event three miles above the falls.

Thrilling ventures there abound,
A bear which weighed eight hundred pounds,
Hunters they do him discover
As he was swimming down the river.

They felt he would be glorious prize
This grand fat bear of mighty size,
Three men they jump’d into canoe,
A skilful and determined crew.

Soon alongside of him they row,
But kindly feelings he doth show,
Quick he scrambled o’er the boat side
For to enjoy a good boat ride.

And as o’er the side he straddles
They hit him on head with paddles,
But all in vain, so two of crew
A short time bade the bear adieu.

And soon they swiftly swam to shore,
But current down the river bore
Man, bear and boat, the sound appals
Of roaring mighty water falls.

But vigorous now he plys the oar,
In hopes to safely reach the shore,
But this made bear to grin and growl
And wear on brow a horrid scowl.

So poor man sore against his will
Finds that in boat he must keep still,
Or else be hugged to death by bear,
While sound of falls becomes more near.

But his two friends so brave and true
Row quick ’longside in a canoe,
And fire in bruin leaden balls,
Thus saving friend from bear and falls.


Source: McIntyre, James. Poems of James McIntyre.  Ingersoll: The Chronicle, 1889.

Biography of James McIntyre in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

Worldly Wounds by Ryan Racine

ryan racine
Niagara Parks Commission Butterfly Conservatory – Interior View – Statue Of Boy & Dog, 1997. Photo by Reg Deacon. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

My dog is a narrative archivist,
unearthing the forgotten and
polluted histories that are
scattered across Niagara Falls’ ecosystem.

Like the bacterial intrusions that make
their way into his body and
cause biological mutations, the
city’s traumas enter and impregnate my mind.

Realizing that i do not have the ability to
recreate a preinfectious state,
i instead reflect on what it means to be
in a postinfection state where i see myself

as part of the problem.
All i have is my dog’s nose,
the bringer of light
that grants recognition to the unsaid.


Ryan Racine earned his master’s of English language and literature from Brock University. He is currently working as a high school teacher and college instructor in Ontario. His poetry can be found in The Steel Chisel, Pauses/Words/Noises, The Brock University Anthology, Pictures & Portraits, Ekphrastic, Joypuke, Weekly Poems, and PACE Magazine.

See other poems by Ryan Racine on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website:
•    Flow State
•    Sorting Skins