Niagara Sulks by Norman R. Jaffray

jaffray
Durfboger-LaCasse Wedding at Niagara Falls
James Photography Studio, September 19, 1959
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

I’VE seen them come, I’ve seen them go,
‡‡Too numerous to mention,
And I put on a mighty show
‡‡To capture their attention.

I hurl me boldly down the cliff
‡‡And thrash myself to spray,
Yet none of them would notice if
‡‡I ran the other way.

I think it’s very rude to me
‡‡That any groom and bride
Should come this distance just to be
‡‡So darned preoccupied !


Source:  Saturday Evening Post, May 22, 1948


Biographical sketch of Norman R. Jaffray. Saturday Evening Post, March 28, 1942:

Jaffray, Just Jaffray

NORMAN JAFFRAY first appeared in Post Scripts sixteen years ago and he’s been appearing there with regularity ever since. You’ll even find him there this week, with WHODUNIT? Acceding to a deluge of requests from four readers (Hansel, Ole, Sergi and Tong Lee Jaffray), we are this week shaking down the fruit of Mr. Jaffray’s persistence.

Here he is:

“Yes, here I am—but guess which? Not the one in uniform—no-o. Not the one in the middle — no-o, but you’re getting warmer. . . . The scene is Santa Barbara, where I live, the friends. Flying Officer Robert French, RAF, and Mrs. Shreve Ballard, and the background is the blue Pacific (advt.).

“Where to start? Born? Yes. In Brooklyn, N. Y., and came to this country as a small boy.That was in 1904. Roosevelt was President—he still is; horse and buggy were the popular mode of transportation—nothing has changed.

” I went to Yale and then to Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1926 I came out West. The country was filling up, and men sought new lands where they could start life afresh. I picked on Los Angeles, and it was there that Ted Cook, of the Examiner, printed my first piece in Cook-Coos. I’ve been freelancing ever since. I’m not even married.

” The other day I went to Los Angeles again, this time for a rendezvous with some fellow contributors to Post Scripts. Local No. 138 of the Curtis chain gang, comprising Ethel Jacobson, Kay Hosking and your correspondent, met and passed several resolutions, which were quickly tabled. Just to give you an idea of what shop talk among writers is like:

ETHEL: I liked that Christmas poem of yours—the one with the bad scansion.
KAY: Done anything lately, yourself?
ETHEL: Yes, something for Easter.
NORMAN (apprehensively): Nothing long, I hope?
ETHEL: Whole column.
KAY: Don’t you ever get sick or anything?
ETHEL; Do you like Y?
KAY AND NORMAN; Like that. (Gesture of cutting throat)
KAY: How about Z?
ETHEL AND NORMAN: Well, Z’s stuff is pretty good. Of course, it doesn’t rhyme and . . .
NORMAN; Well, I’ve got to drive back to Santa Barbara. (Goes to door, feeling for knife in shoulder blades.) And please . . . please don’t talk about me when I’m gone! (He goes. They do.)”

Ferrotype by Karen Drayne

drayne
An Unknown Lady.
A typical studio portrait using a backdrop of a view of Niagara Falls.
Image Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

My great-grandparents are both twenty-one.
This is their honeymoon.  They sit in front
of a pasteboard screen of Niagara Falls
painted in aniline blues and greens.

Unnecessary props—plaster columns, draperies
and wax flowers—have been pushed aside.
He leans his elbow on the false balustrade,
restless in his dark suit, one leg extended,

One hand hidden behind her back.
Both of them frown at the camera.
He has not even taken off his hat
to balance it on his knee. Perhaps

he is already thinking of leaving.
Inverted in the viewing glass her white dress
wavers in and out of focus. The photographer
bends above his box and pleated bellows,

a black cloth over his head.
He tends the image carefully, as if
it is a lantern he is trying to keep
alight. This far north the sun sets early.

Beyond the glass wall of the studio
it is already night. The photographer lifts
his hand to bid them to be still. He lights
the touch paper. The shutter clicks.

Magnesium flashes with the power of
twelve hundred candles. As the column
of white smoke settles, the room fills
with a fine metallic powder. Their faces are

both silvered over. This is the only photograph
of them together. They do not move or speak.
Outside each second nine thousand tons of water
fall through the full dark of the last century.


Source:  The New Republic, vol 218, issue 13, March 30, 1998

At Niagara Falls by Jerome Mazzaro

 

mazzaro
Sun Shining Through the Mist at the Brink of Niagara Falls, 2007. Photo by Andrew Porteus. View on the Niagara Falls Public Library website

Watching so much water fall off the edge,
one senses nature’s power.
Standing there, you liquefy and briefly leave
like Ovid’s fleeing nymph.
Saved from a comparable change
by my focus on you, I watch as,
turning away from the flow, you return
and grab tightly at my hand.

Here on a second honeymoon, where
newlyweds normally spend their first,
I recall the lonely docks
of the train station in Detroit
where long ago you also took departure
in the caverned darkness of that hollow ruin.
A mist hung high over the waiting trains
much like the sunshot mist of these falls.

The worlds you traveled then held no
long interest. The one
around us now, beyond the well-kept
ridge of walks and grass and flowers,
is tacky with museums and run-down horror shops.
The lives we shared could hardly be less different.
Still our achievements kept us busy.
Escaping Alpheus, Ovid’s Arethusa turned
a river, babbling to Ceres Proserpina’s fate.
What is it we can learn or tell, melting
as we have in the midday’s noisy crowds?


Source:  Mazzaro published this in The Sewanee Review, Vol. 111, No. 3 (Summer, 2003), p. 407

Again to the Falls by Lynne Bronstein

bronstein
Mr. & Mrs. Harry Lewis At Table Rock Observation Platform, Horseshoe Falls In Background. Photographer unknown. Francis A. Petrie Collection. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

I visited Niagara Falls only once. I was sixteen
And with my family. The Customs Man
Came to know us after a few days.
But every time we crossed the bridge,
He asked us “Where were you born?”
Because he had to.
I spent much time on the Canadian side
Because it was exciting to be in another country.
I watched the trains that ran through the center of town.
Longest trains I’d ever seen, Canadian railroad.
I saw the bell tower where an unfaithful blonde
Was strangled by her husband in the movie Niagara.
But the Falls? The three waterfalls,
Demonstrating the full force of water at top speed—
All I did was look at them.
My parents had been under them.
It had once been the fashion
For honeymooners to travel
To the Falls. For the maximum
In daring romance, they’d don clumsy raincoats
And clunky boots
And ride the boat Maid of the Mist
As it passed beneath the muscular shower,
Getting each marriage off
To a drenching start.
As if to say: “We are not wed
Until we’ve been soaked
And cleansed
In the spray of the Falls.”

I wonder if this magic might work in reverse.
If I were to go to Niagara now
And stand beneath the Falls
And let the water change me,
Make me ready
To receive
Love that streams
Like non-stop water.
It is not a question of where I was born
But rather a question of where I will revive.
Under the rainbow arc of water
Where love and courage have been tested
And children are conceived.
No age is too late for a honeymoon.
To stand beneath the Falls
Is an item on my list.


Lynne Bronstein is a poet, a journalist, a fiction writer, a songwriter, and a playwright. She has been published in magazines ranging from Chiron Review, Spectrum, and Lummox, to Playgirl and the newsletter of the U.S. Census Bureau. Bronstein has published five books of poetry, including her latest, Nasty Girls from Four Feathers Publishing. Her first crime story was published in 2017 in the anthology LAst Resort. Her adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It was performed at two LA libraries. Her story “The Magic Candles” was performed on National Public Radio. She’s been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and four times for the Best of the Net awards.

Disappointed Again. by Fun Magazine

“It is announced that Oscar Wilde was also disappointed with Niagara”

oscar wilde
Oscar Wilde photographed by Napoleon Sarony, 1882. Courtesy of Library of Congress

Universe, you are a failure,
‡‡You’re one masterly mistake;
Firmamental glories, pale your
‡‡Fires, and played-out old earth, quake.
You may teem with hidden treasure,
‡‡But we won’t be reconciled,
Since you seem to take a pleasure
‡‡In disappointing Wilde.

In the lake, as in the ocean,
‡‡Torrents’ rush, and waves that roll,
Failing to impart emotion
‡‡To his fine fastidious soul;
You may just as well, Dame Nater,
‡‡Shut up shop, to draw it mild,
As let cataract and crater
‡‡Go disappointing Wilde.

Or, perhaps you’d best endeavour
‡‡To improve your old design,
Make catastrophes more clever,
‡‡And phenomena more fine.
Dye Niagara rose-madder,
‡‡Have the wide Atlantic biled:
Then he may feel somewhat gladder,
‡‡The disappointed Wilde.

When they meet his pensive gaze, oh,
‡‡Take a ‘cute scene-painter’s hints,
Add ten leagues to Chimborazo,
‡‡To the rainbow ten new tints;
Let Mount Etna vomit lava
‡‡With a monster saucepan tiled,
So he will but murmur, Brava!”
‡‡The disappointed Wilde.

Then you might transpose each season,
‡‡Make the roses oust the snows,
Give the Tory party reason,
‡‡And the Irish one repose;
But, perhaps, the multiplying
‡‡Of the dollar-heap he’s piled,
Would be best for satisfying,
‡‡Not disappointing, Wilde.

Source: “Still Disappointed” in Cooper, John. Oscar Wilde in America Blog: Niagara Falls, 2016. Retrieved from  https://oscarwildeinamerica.blog/2016/03/07/niagara-falls/comment-page-1/

Originally published in Fun magazine, March 8, 1882, in response to Wilde’s widely quoted comment that “Every American bride is taken there, and the sight of the stupendous waterfall must be one of the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointments in American married life” – quoted in Carr, Jamie M. Niagaras of Ink: Famous Writers at the Falls. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2020. p. 50.