The forest is so quiet and I don’t know why.
Yes it’s all up to the man in the sky.
I’ve heard the water but I never saw it fall.
Now I know why humans come for the thrill of it all.
The animal kingdom keeps saying the world’s lost its cool.
The whole human race has turned into a gigantic fool.
Not one single human ventures out from their tiny abode.
My guess is humans think the world’s ready to explode.
It’s hotter in the summer and colder when it snows.
They always blame global warming however Mother Nature really knows.
Well I saw for myself, stepped out taking a chance.
Never knew falling water knew how to shimmy and dance.
The sound is so deafening, it is hurting my ears.
Water is splashing my face like I’m filled with tears.
Feels so cold to the touch, I’d love a taste.
It’s pure energy and it is all going to waste.
A sad state of affairs when no humans are around.
I really can’t get over how quiet the peaceful sound.
No roaring cars on the road with their bright lights.
It’s so much safer when I’m walking alone at nights.
I have always wondered where does this water all flow?
One day I shall follow it, I’m quisitive you know.
Does this flow into a river, to a very large lake?
It’s a life changing moment, I know I should take.
As for now I’ll just stand here and admire the view.
I’ll pretend the wind is a human, like I’m talking to you.
Wait! Is that a human fishing down on the shore?
I must visit him, maybe he will tell me more.
I bet you he’s kind hearted and will toss me a fish.
I’ve yet to meet a mean human, I can only wish.
Now how do I get there? Well look there’s a trail.
I’m a kind thoughtful animal from my antlers to tail.
So this is what the humans call the mighty Niagara Falls.
A true sign of mother nature when she bids her calls.
A majestic beautiful true life drama to feel and see.
Now let’s head to that fisherman, hope he’ll be nice to me.
Source: Wayne Ritchie, 2023
At the time of submitting this poem, Wayne Ritchie was 73 years old and had been writing poetry and short stories for 60 years.
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
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.
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.”