Niagara by Kathy Gilbert

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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.

Dedication of “The Miracle and Other Poems” by Virna Sheard

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Frozen Niagara River with the American Falls in the background just before the fatal disaster of February 4, 1912. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

TO MY DEAR BROTHER

ELDRIDGE STANTON (JUNIOR)

WHO DIED BRAVELY AT NIAGARA, ON THE AFTERNOON OF

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 4TH, 1912

No tears for thee, no tears, or sighs,
Or breaking heart —
But smiles, that thou so well that bitter hour
Didst play thy part !


Source: Virna Sheard. The Miracle and Other Poems. Toronto: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1913

A dedication to Eldridge Stanton, Junior, who died alongside his wife, Clara, and Burrell Hecock when the ice bridge across the Niagara River just below Niagara Falls broke up suddenly, leaving them adrift. Read Brian Busby’s account of the tragedy and the dedication in Virna Sheard’s book in his posting “A Dedication Born of Tragedy” in The Dusty Bookcase blog, November 7, 2019.

Niagara Dry by James McIntyre

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The ice boom on Lake Erie at the mouth of the Niagara River, designed to stop ice from stopping the flow of water in the Niagara River. Photo by Dr. Frank Seglenieks

It happened once in early spring,
‡‡While there did float great thick ice cakes,
That then a gale did quickly bring
‡‡Them all down from the upper lakes.

And from Buffalo to Lake Erie,
‡‡Across the entrance to river,
It was a scene of icebergs dreary,
‡‡Those who saw will remember ever.

Then gale blew up lake and river,
‡‡And left Niagara almost dry,
This a lady did discover
‡‡As above the Falls she cast her eye.

Such scene it had been witnessed never,
‡‡Since Israelites crossed the Red Sea,
When they had resolved forever
‡‡From Pharaoh’s bondage to flee.

Lady she resolved to venture,
‡‡Proudly carrying British flag,
Erecting it in river’s centre
‡‡In crevice of a rocky crag.

It seems like a romance by Bulwer,
‡‡How she captured Niagara,
But it was seen by Bishop Fuller,
‡‡Who did at sight of flag hurrah.

Ten thousand years may die away
‡‡Before another dry can tread,
In bottom of Niagara,
‡‡For she doth jealous guard her bed.

But ice her entrance did blockade,
‡‡And wind it kept the waters back,
So that a child could almost wade
‡‡Across the brink of cataract.


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

Biography of James McIntyre in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

Read When Niagara Falls Ran Dry on the Niagara Falls Museums’ website

Niagara in Winter by Susan Frances Harrison (“Seranus”)

Nor similes nor metaphors avail!
All imagery vanishes, device
Dies in thy presence, wondrous dream of ice!
Ice-bound I stand, my face is pinched and pale,
Before such awful majesty I fail,
Sink low on this snow-lichened slab of gneiss,
Shut out the gleaming mass that can entice,
Enchain, enchant, but in whose light I quail.

While I from under frozen lashes peer,
My thoughts fly back to take a homeward course.
How dear to dwell in sweet placidity,
Instead of these colossal crystals, see
The slender icicles of some fairy “force,”
And break the film upon an English mere!

Source: Professor Gregory Betts, Brock University, Department of English. First published 1891.