Nickel Eclipse: Iroquois Moon: Poems and Paintings by Eric Gansworth

eric gansworth
Cover of Nickel Eclipse: Iroquois Moon

Although no poem or painting is included here, this book of poetry by Eric Gansworth is an important addition to the literature of Niagara. Gansworth,  who was raised on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in Niagara County, New York, just outside Niagara Falls, still resides in the area and teaches in Buffalo, NY.

Publisher supplied:

“Nickel Eclipse is a merging of personal and cultural history. Structured in part like the alternating colored beads on a wampum belt, patterns emerge from this exploration of contemporary life on an eastern Indian reservation and the sometimes tenuous persistence of a culture after centuries of survival within another, more dominant, culture. The poems, while highly personalized, reflect the tension of speakers surviving within-though never fully of-that larger culture, where lives are formed and meaning defined by their inherent separateness.
Gansworth’s paintings complement the poems, using the metaphor of the cycle of moons identified in the traditional Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) culture’s calendar. These paintings of the different lunar phases serve to organize the poems around a common image, breaking them into sections through the use of an eclipse. Additionally, the relationships indigenous communities have had with the United States-from thriving to near extinction to eventual re- emergence-are symbolized in the progression of that eclipse across the moon.
Symbols common to the culture appear throughout the cycles: the Three Sisters (Corn, Beans, and Squash), Strawberries, and Green Corn, from the ceremonies named for them, and more consistently, wampum beads-within which Haudenosaunee culture is iconographically documented-appear in various incarnations, from the earliest shell groupings, through isolated shaped beads, small strings, and full- belt formations.”

Run to your nearest library or book store to read this remarkable collection by Eric Gansworth.

Visit Eric Gansworth’s website

A Half-Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function: Poems and Paintings by Eric Gansworth

Cover of A Half Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function

Although no poem or painting is included here, this book of poetry by Eric Gansworth is an important addition to the literature of Niagara. Gansworth,  who was raised on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in Niagara County, New York, just outside Niagara Falls, still resides in the area and teaches in Buffalo, NY.

Publisher supplied book information:

“Echoing the muscular rhythms of the heart beat, the poems in this stunning collection alternate between contraction and expansion. Eric Gansworth explores the act of enduring, physically, historically, and culturally. A member of the Haudenosaunee tribe, Gansworth expresses the tensions experienced by members of a marginalized culture struggling to maintain tradition within a much larger dominant culture. With equal measures of humor, wisdom, poignancy, and beauty, Gansworth’s poems mine the infinite varieties of individual and collective loss and recovery. Fourteen paintings punctuate his poetry, creating an active dialogue between word and image steeped in the tradition of the mythic Haudenosaunee world. A Half-Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function is the most recent addition to Gansworth’s remarkable body of work chronicling the lives of upstate New York’s Indian communities. ”

Run to your nearest library or book store to read this remarkable collection by Eric Gansworth.

Visit Eric Gansworth’s website

Dave Munday Went Over Niagara Falls Twice in a Barrel—and Lived by Aimee Nezhukumatathil


John “David” Munday being interviewed after going over the Horseshoe Falls in a barrel for the second time, Sept. 27, 1993. Photo by George Bailey. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

The first he knew of danger, he recorded it
all on video. You could see the rush of river
as the barrel bobbed the lip of the gorge.
But during the fall—all you saw
was white, as if the camera was flying
for a moment—then, a black screen. And maybe
that’s what brought him back. The lack of color
did not capture what he heard: a string of viola
at its highest pitch, the tender impossible cry
of a newborn crow. The first I knew of danger,
I ice skated on a pond and found fat goldfish
curling in long, slow patterns Just under
my boot. I knew the ice was thin, but

I continued anyway, the way I did
with several men that year. Each one
was a poor replacement for the one I lost
but each gave me a small gift: a bruised lip,
a cup of Dutch coffee, a tap of ash
on my windowsill. If there was a video
of me that year it would have opened
in a bank of snow, widened to reveal
the pond, the woman skating by herself
in circles. Perhaps there’d be a cardinal, just
a small slash of red on the screen. Everything
else would be white, white, and what
is the color of ice—blue, or is it more white?

Source: Bellingham Review,  Spring 2008, p. 115

About E.L.T. Harris-Bickford

From West Country Poets: Their Lives and Their Works; Being an Account of About Four Hundred Verse Writers of Devon and Cornwall, With Poems and Extracts. ed. by W.H.Kearley Wright.  London: Elliot Stock, 1896  bick

View Harris-Bickford’s poem The Falls of Niagaraford bio

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Forced Entry by RN Wagner


RN Wagner reciting his poetry

(Trigger warnings: a whole bunch)

My nayburz and I lived  a block from Clifton Hill
you know that street that employs us in the summer
but throws us to the curb in the winter
unless you fall to your knees in the fall
In front of your boss when no one else is looking

You don’t get a break if you want to earn a living…
In the city of repurposed broken guitar strings,
that held up our forgotten dreams

Across the street from Mom and I
Was a house
That made labatt blue a little more well off
When the Street lights came on
You couldn’t tell the difference between
Them yelling at the hockey game or
Their mouthy sugar stained children…
that coated the streets with unwanted frequencies
Two older brothers main concerns were to get laid
They modeled themselves after the noise in the living room
Kraft dinner was for royalty and so was kool-aid

Apparently, pillow fights were for pussies…
So it was five minutes of roughing every drunken period
but no roll-call model parents to call a real penalty.
No name food products dominated the space,
there was no room for anything natural or healthy

Headphones were too expensive
So I learned how to enjoy the fireworks without seeing them
Stuck between two broken homes across from each other
Both Mothers are Newfoundlanders, don’t talk to each other much
And our doors are locked at night if that shatters any stereotypes!

It’s hard out here for us Honeymoon Capital survivors
Trying to live in the Unemployment Wonder of the World
Vacancy for welfare checks in the off season
Doctors are not accepting any new patients
We carry our laundry to the mat, say hello to the owners parrot and
we welcome the tourists who try to run over our cats
(Meows gather at the 7-11’s)

There is a fine line that separates yelling from screaming when you’re close to that Clifton Hill
Because you’re either just a haunted house employee  practicing their creepshow
Or just another tourist
looking for their attraction coupons in a overpriced parking lot

The house across the street
Had a friend of the family
Who delivered my favorite thing in the world… PIZZA!
Plain and simple, hands down, unlike the life I live

If I ordered and asked for him to deliver it
I would get a decent discount every time
It was great for a while
Then i thought about delivering pizza myself…
Since I got my beginners licence recently
He was more than happy to offer me an opportunity to make some money
And said my tips were twice as good as his.
So since he never lost anything sharing his deliveries,
I was welcome anytime to his orders, and help him out

I was in high school
Grade 11, 16 years old
Taking university level courses to be eligible for potential golf scholarships
I hadn’t won any tournaments yet but my handicap was just a handful
It would get better if I didn’t have to work next summer and had my own set of wheels
(Ford Topaz foreshadow)

Getting back home from school a little late was normal
Golf and Graphic Design was my usual excuse
Mom was often passed out on the couch, Budweiser in hand

It was the billboard I memorized
To keep a promise..
That I wouldn’t take the same courses as my mother
“I may be a bad example, but you must not ever give up”, she said.

But there was this one time I broke our promise…

Out of the similar fear my mom had when she lost her house keys, and sat on some church steps to regain her strength, to sober up
It evolved into a vulnerable coffee date with a stranger offering friendship
Which turned into a late sunday drive behind a warehouse for some rape
All she wanted was a real ear in a city of lights, but there was none,
just lights that shined so bright you couldn’t see danger coming or hear it…from the fake house of fun.
The idea to be crying for help behind a candle factory, was just a wax mold and a trigger for thoughts of a single grandson kept the fear instilled to not fight back, pretending it was a good time like the floors she swept.
It was the people she worked for, just not this one.

The difference between Broom Hilda’s House of Horrors and mine,
Was that I hadn’t lost anything but my father and a chance to know him better than old union meeting minutes at this point.

I just wanted to earn a living delivering pizza
So I could buy myself groceries and Mother a decent christmas present.

My Moms rapist was just like mine in some ways…

When they pulled out
Onto the road
After they got what they wanted…
They did it nice and slow
Because they didn’t want to be suspicious

They asked us if we wanted anything from the store
Because they were so thoughtful of our hunger and thirst

They both decided to drive the speed limit
Because they didn’t want to break the law

They asked us to hang out again sometime
Maybe eat some pizza or go for a drink at their place
Because they wanted us to feel normal

They gave us stories about who they were
Who they knew
Because they didn’t want anyone else to know
Just how special we are to have met them

They tried to get away!!!

But my mom was killer at memorizing licence plates and fake names
And I am killer at remembering that my reflective  words
are better than my experience
I choose not to live in fear
Of you hearing this comeback someday
Because I will come back someday
Maybe even just go in myself for  a walk-in special
Slam this poem to your bosses face
The customers can judge your sorry ass
Right before the video gets submitted
Into film festivals worldwide
You may or may not have recorded my friends like you said you did, and offered for me to listen about how they bragged about fucking you without a condom.
I don’t really care to know anymore, especially those scary people you said you knew in case I got any ideas…
Because I just fucked you without a condom
And I didn’t even have to touch you.

Have fun, you’re so fucked now
Your dick is a just a lonely pepperoni flick after a game is lost in this Italian click-fest of a town.
Sitting against the boards of corporate sponsors and beer my mother and most Uncles drink.
Ready to be eaten by the zamboni that hates your limited edition discarded kind. In between periods of rage, I hit white balls over 300 yards into the wind of my justice system, and sometimes I just leave them there for juniors that haven’t met you yet.

Fucked up how things work out, you see there is this old testament bible that my stepfather used to carry around with him. Once he passed away, I found the court docket that spells my mother’s rapists name on it. I got this information after my step-dad had passed while going through his things, in preparation for his funeral. It was hidden from me, this information, because it’s the name of the person that stripped my mom of all her self worth. She gave up, broke her promise, then died from it. Her brain aneurysm was the reason I won 7 golf tournaments the following year, but also the reason every christmas will never be the same, and neither will you when you see your name, printed inside the chapbooks that scream my name.

Fuck you both!

I’m doing great, thanks for asking


RN Wagner

September 28th, 2016

Source: The author.