A Pic-Nic at the Falls by Melvin Byron Misener

The Crowland Safe Guard Union and Port Robinson Presbyterian Sabbath Schools held a union picnic at the Falls on Aug. 15, and the occasion has been immortalized by the Crowland poet, as followeth : —

Wheelbarrow Race During Picnic in Queen Victoria Park, July 1927.
Photo by Edwin Hodge
Courtesy of the Niagara Parks Commission / Niagara Falls Public Library

Did you ever Pic-nic at the Falls
‡‡Upon a summer’s day ?
If not, I tell you, ’tis the place
‡‡To pass the time away.

Now first of all you name the day,
‡‡But then, if it should rain,
You fix upon another date,
‡‡And then perhaps again.

And next you must a chicken catch,
‡‡Be sure to take off its head,
Then fill it well with dressing
‡‡And roast it when it’s dead.

You fix a lot of other things
‡‡To fill the basket up ;
‘Tis well to take some dishes too,
‡‡A plate and spoon and cup.

The time comes round — you’re on the road,
‡‡Your best friend at your side,
And if you chose a pleasant day
‡‡You will enjoy the ride.

You can go by the Clifton hill,
‡‡Or down the old ravine,
No difference how you get there
‡‡Upon the park and green.

You meet your many neighbours there
‡‡Their friendship to renew,
Along perhaps with relatives
‡‡And strangers quite a few.

You’ll meet there Col. Gzowski
‡‡And he’ll not speak to you,
But gaze in blissful ignorance
‡‡Upon the sights to view.

And noon comes round, the tables spread
‡‡With pies and cakes and such
And some one at your elbow says,
‡‡“Take care, don’t eat too much.”

Now some drink water pure and bright,
‡‡But grannies have their tea,
For you can get hot water
‡‡Right at the park Q. V.

We sit along the bank awhile
‡‡And watch the Misty Maid ;
Some people will not ride on her
‡‡Because they are afraid.

The day is spent, we start for home ;
‡‡On two things we agree.
That we have had a pleasant time,
‡‡We’re tired as we can be.

Many thanks to Arden Phair for referring this poem to the Niagara Falls Poetry Project curator.

Source: Undated newspaper clipping (probably the Welland Tribune) found in The Diaries of Melvin Byron Misener, held at the Mayholme Foundation in St. Catharines.  The clipping has the date “1900” handwritten in the margin of the previous page. Misener (1847-1936) was known as “The Crowland Poet.”  Read more about Misener


Fairview Cemetery by Shie Sirianni

Fairview Cemetery, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Image courtesy of the City of Niagara Falls

I walk alone, eyes downcast
seeking paths of fallen leaves,
to disguise the sound
of breaking armour.
Cemeteries in the fall
are good places for disguise.
I can lie there,
surrounded by stone confessors,
and speak aloud
all that is in me.
Joy, sorrow,
goodness and sin.
There is no forgiveness,
or absolution offered.

They are not my pardoners.

They are just marks left for others,
who perhaps, like me,
spent troubled times there,
before making it their home.

Source:  Shie Sirianni published this poem in Captured Essence: Niagara Poetry Anthology, vol. 11St. Catharines: Canadian Authors Association, Niagara Branch, 1995

With thanks to Arden Phair who pointed out this poem by Shie Sirianni to the Niagara Falls Poetry Project curator.

The Poetical Review: a Brief Notice of Canadian Poets and Poetry by A.C. Stewart

[excerpt, p. 16-17]

William Kirby, 1817-1906
From his Le Chien d’or

Where wild Niagara hurls his torrents down
A poet dwells who wears a sanguine crown ;
There Kirby with his strong and graphic pen
Shall rouse the warring legions up again : —
English and French, and Redmen, marshalled are,
And shake the plains, beneath the shock of war,
Yet not the reeking charge and bloody fray,
The lingering siege, or the victorious day,
Alone are his, he can at list digress
To plant the thorn that symbol of distress
An spin his little yarn of love betrayed
The faithful wife and the seducing maid : —
Ah ! fated concubine thy wicked hand
Is doomed to slay the lover “Bois-le-Grand”
Vain thy caresses, in his mortal pain,
He knows thee not but calls his chatelaine,
Yet faithful still like Conrad’s Kaled thou
Watched to the last and sharest his glory now.
Such is the story told in time and rhyme
That makes ridiculous this antique crime ;
Kirby no more thy leisure hours abuse
Collect thy customs but tempt not the muse.

Note by A.C. Stewart: Mr. Kirby is a bright star in William Douw’s Heaven, he will live longer probably, than Lighthall himself, Government official, author of “Canadian Idylls,” writer of some very good verse, and much rubbish.  [William Douw Lighthall was  a Canadian poet and philosopher]

Source: A.C. Stewart.  The Poetical Review: a Brief Notice of Canadian Poets and Poetry.  Toronto: J. Anderson, Printer, 1896. See the complete poem here

The “little yarn of love betrayed” is the poem Spina Christi, which can be viewed here

Stewart (1867-1944) came to Canada from Ireland, and became a tunnel and bridge contractor in Fort William, Ontario.

Kirby (1817-1906) came to Canada from Yorkshire, settled in present day Niagara-on-the-Lake, was a customs collector and author, and publisher of the Niagara Mail newspaper.  Read more about him here

Meditation at Niagara Falls, New York by Joey Nicoletti

Meditation at Niagara Falls
by Joey Nicoletti

The day breaks like a glacier.
My mind is an aria of fever, in red air ablaze,
a clammy crescendo, as I talk on the phone

with friends and colleagues
during a meeting where I am supposed to be
attending in person. But I am too sick

to be around people. I cough. My thoughts sink
like rocks in a lake
as everyone speaks. I look

on my laptop screen: my friend Alan, eyebrows
and tuxedo on fleek, posing with Tony Lo Bianco, star
of stage and screen, for a picture taken

by his spouse, freshly posted
on Facebook and The Gram.
My soul is a waterfall, cascading

as I take another pill; as I sip another cup
of Chamomile tea, my joints aching,
I say goodbye and hang up. I thank

the man upstairs for my spouse’s chicken soup; I think
of how Washington DC would be
a closed amusement park to me

if I was there like I planned; asking Tony what it was like
to have worked with Gene Hackman, who is
sometimes Popeye Doyle to me, other times Lex Luthor,

as well as Roy Scheider, both of whom were
in The French Connection with him. But I think
of Roy as Chief Brody in Jaws, ever since

since I was 10 years old, when I saw
French Connection and Jaws on TV, Cable
for the first time. Roy died

in 2008. The way I feel today
makes me think of my own death: would any
of the people I spoke with earlier

go to my wake or funeral
if I die before them? How long
will I suffer? Will I be alone?

Will I be in my own bed? Or in a hospital room,
like all of the women, natives and immigrants alike
in my family thus far? A hospice? A different country?

I am home. I have not left it
in a week, but it feels as if I have returned
from my nation’s capital.

I am not afraid exactly, but I have more
questions and concerns,
all of which will be answered in time;

all of which will be addressed in time;
like snow later on tonight; the weatherman
with the dashing moustache on TV, remarking

about a couple bundled up in Cobalt
blue jackets, their laughter sprays in water
onto a rusted hand rail, my head on fire.

Source: Leveler, issue 15, Summer 2016

Joey Nicoletti’s first book, Cannoli Gangster, was a finalist for the 2009 Steel Toe Books Poetry Prize. His other books include Boombox Serenade, Thundersnow, Reverse Graffiti, and Fan Mail, which was published by Broadstone Books in 2021. Nicoletti currently teaches at SUNY Buffalo State.

Order Fan Mail from https://www.broadstonebooks.com/shop/p/fan-mail-poetry-by-joey-nicoletti.

Epiphanies on the First Cold Day by Robert Billings

The cover of Before the Heart Went Down by Robert Billings

I thought there was nothing in the fields of light
that was not there in darkness

After breakfast in a quiet house
surrounded by pastures of new frost
my heart crouches believing
the next sound will be
something it can sing

This is my persistent nightmare

I jump into a shallow river
Hy feet sink in mud
to mid-calf, the top
of my head
just breaks the surface

It’s November:
too soon for ice
to preserve me

At noon I warm my hands at the apples
ripening on a window sill

The smell of cold through an open window

On the corner of my desk
is a print of a mother-goddess
in a black plastic frame:

Third century B.C.

The guide-book defines
means living together

Sometimes a glancing blow
is the back of my wife’s hand
slowly down my thigh

And so it comes back to this

In Munich 1974
a man in a bar
said a cormorant
dropping from a cliff
is the soul of
whatever flung this
earth on the sea

Midnight on the highway through Perth County
wearing sunglasses against the headlights
I bite through the cold skin of an apple

Source: Waves vol 11, no 2 & 3, Winter 1983

Robert Billings, born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and raised Fort Erie, became well known in Canadian literary circles as a poet, critic, teacher,  and editor of Poetry Canada Review and Poetry Toronto.  In 1983 he penned the poem “Epiphanies of the First Cold Day.” Epiphany 2 foreshadowed his eventual fate. In 1986 after his marriage broke down and bouts of depression hit him, he threw himself into the Niagara River. His body was not recovered until six months later.

Fellow poet and editor Herb Barrett paid tribute to Billings in his poem For Robert Billings

Watch the video At the Brink: A Personal Look at Suicides Over Niagara Falls by Michael Clarkson. Clarkson was a long-time friend of Robert Billings, who is one of the people discussed in the video.