Spellbound by Elaine Sorrentino


Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art


Listen to Elaine Sorrentino reciting Spellbound


The last time I knew innocence
I was surrounded by breathtaking 
steadily booming over the falls
misting our awe-struck faces 
confirmation we are mere specks
in the realm of natural wonders.

I could have lingered there forever 
drinking in its mesmerizing thunder 
unknowingly balanced on the fraying
thread between well-being and illness  
before scalpels, needles, chemical
treatment made their grand entrance; 
momentarily living in the presence
of ferocious power, I could not get enough. 


This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.
Elaine Sorrentino
Elaine Sorrentino has been published in Ekphrastic ReviewMinerva RisingWillawaw JournalGlass: A Journal of PoetryWriting in a Women’s Voice, The Poetry Porch, ONE ART: a journal of poetryAgape ReviewHaiku Universe, Sparks of CalliopeMuddy River Poetry ReviewPanoply, Etched Onyx Magazine, and at wildamorris.blogspot.com.  

To Frederic Edwin Church Regarding Niagara Falls by Portly Bard


Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

So much like ours, your river’s course
becomes the path of nature’s force
embracing ever lower plane
and carving ever deeper main
except where soil is bared to rock
or rise becomes a stubborn block
that, barring flood, will be its bound
or island it will flow around
as ending tributaries merge
and hasten more the mounting surge
to roar of sudden, fated falls,
the splendor eye so well recalls
by glimmer of prismatic twist
in fountain of its risen mist.

©2023 by Portly Bard. Reproduced on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website with the permission of Portly Bard.

This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.


Portly Bard.
Old man.  Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent…
of verse becoming complement…
…and by such homage being lent…
ideally also compliment.
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.

The Ice Crack’d, 1912 by Debbie Walker-Lass

Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

Let’s go back to a time forgotten—
Time when all stood still at this reckoning
When the stars spewed light like a string of shiny pearls
Gleaming, coyly placed, half-hidden in a breast
To enkindle the earth with heavenly illumination
And begin Niagara’s immaculate creation
Falling, tumbling river dodging over rock formations
Over and over: an international maritime border
Canada’s pride
America’s daughter

Danger lies in beauty wild and unforgiving
Many years Niagara made a sparkling temptation 
When Honeymooners and brazen lads took the chance
To walk upon the icy bridge made of water
It seemed a game, not risking life in great parlance
The tall, strapping boys built a warm beverage station
Canadian citizens welcomed
Americans as close relations

The menacing sun appeared as a propitious omen,
Settling over that imagined, glassy isthmus
Until a fatal crack shuddered out a warning:
Jagged flaws in the ice were quickly forming
Honeymooners from New York were taking in the sights
The young Quebecians downing cups of hot chocolate 
All looked to one another, faces full of fright
Far too late to make preparations
Crossing an international border without immigration 
Was a delightful idea with just the right amount of mystery
Until the couple, sharing one last kiss
Before rushing waters pulled them apart, taking their breath
Were noted in the annals of Niagara’s history
By boys turned into men by cheating death.

Debbie Walker-Lass

This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.

Debbie Walker-Lass is a collage artist, poet, and writer living in Decatur, Georgia. Her work has appeared in journals and magazines including Punk Monk, Haiku Poetry, The Light Ekphrastic, The Ekphrastic Journal, Three-Line Poetry, and Natural Awakenings, Atlanta, among others. She was recently nominated to appear in “The Best Short Fiction, 2024” anthology by the editor of  The Ekphrastic Journal, Lorette Luzajic. 

Read about the ice bridge tragedy of 1912

Death of Brock by Charles Edwin Jakeway

Brock’s Monument on Queenston Heights and Cenotaph Erected on Spot Where He Fell in Battle. Photo from 1908
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The roll of the drum breaks the sleep of the morning,
….As it rocks back and forth in the dawning’s embrace,
And the bugle’s wild echoes sing widely the warning
….That the enemy’s hosts are approaching the place.

From their dreams spring the soldiers, alert for the greeting
….That foemen to foemen are eager to make,
And they grasp up their weapons in haste for the meeting
….Of bayonet with bayonet in thicket and brake.

Through field and through forest the columns advancing,
….Like foam-crested waves on a shore’s rocky head,
Come with flashing of bayonets and mettled steeds prancing,
….The ranks of the blue ‘gainst the ranks of the red.

Then suddenly rings out the musketry’s rattle,
….And thunders the tone of the cannon’s deep boom,
As fiercely they join in the tumult of battle,
….When many brave soldiers are sent to their doom.

Aloft on the breeze is the British flag flying,
….And round it the death-missives whistle and sing
A dirge for the soldiers, who proudly are dying—
….Are dying for freedom, for country and king.

There are veterans there who have fought the world over,
….Regardless of danger, disdainful of death,
And grimly they fall on the sere faded clover,
….And cheer for their king with their fast-failing breath.

There , too, in the carnage and tumult beside them
….Are those who came forth at young Canada’s call,
And though torment and danger and death may betide them,
….They will fight on to vict’ry, or fight till they fall.

They had answered the bugle’s sharp summons of warning,
….Those stout-hearted heroes, the York Pioneers,
And forth in the dusky gray dawn of the morning,
….Had marched to the conflict untrammelled by fears.

And now they are fighting for all they hold dearest,
….Their sweethearts and wives ,and the country they love :
As they think of the ones that their hearts hold the nearest,
….“Protect them !” they gasp to the Father above.

Oh , wilder and fiercer the conflict is growing,
….And sorely the ranks of the red are oppressed,
And fast is the flood of the crimson tide flowing,
….That is draining the lives of the bravest and best !

Can nothing be done to save from disaster
….The resolute men of that brave little band ?
Ah ! who is this coming up , faster and faster,
….Erect in the saddle, his sword in his hand ?

List, list to the cheer that rings high through the forest,
….And list to the tidings that run down the line :
“It is Brock who has come when our need is the sorest !
….At the flash of his sword vict’ry ever will shine.”

With a shout on his lip he leaps into the battle,
….Unheedful of dangers, unconscious of fears,
And his voice rings aloud o’er the musketry’s rattle :
….“Push on to the front the brave York Volunteers !”

He pauses, he staggers, his life blood is flowing !
….Pale, pale grow his features—he’s gasping for breath !
And seething with fury his soldiers are throwing
….Themselves on the foemen, avenging his death.

They chase the invaders, they hurl them before them,
….They sweep o’er the field with victorious tread,
Then they lower the flag that sadly droops o’er them,
….And wrap it with reverence over the dead.

Sad, sad are the souls of the men gathered round him—
….Not triumph but sorrow possesses each breast—
For bravest and noblest of men had they found him.
….He led them to glory, but now he’s at rest.

He’s at rest, but forever the fame of his story
….Will shine on our annals untainted by time,
And ever will glitter the star of his glory,
….Who fell at his post in his bright golden prime.

Source: Charles Edwin Jakeway. The Lion and the Lilies: A Tale of the Conquest and Other Poems. Toronto: William Briggs, 1897

The death notice of Charles Edwin Jakeway published in the Barrie Examiner March 8, 1906 from Find a Grave



Read about the Battle of Queenston Heights

Niagara Falls by Mary J. Wines

Niagara Falls, NY, c1875.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

 God ! within Thy glorious temple, mute with awe
We stand and listen to the pealing hymn 
Of thine Omnipotence. In all this wide, wide world 
Where can earth’s children go to learn a grander lesson 
Of Thy Majesty ? What human tongues with burning 
Words of power can tell Thy glories and Thine awful might, 
Or stir the doubting heart of man, as this sublime 
Creation of Thy mind Divine ?   Here, fashioned by 
Thy mighty hand, Nature’s gigantic organ stands, 
And ceaselessly rolls forth terrific notes of praise. 
Here Thine established choir forever thunder forth. 
In grandly thrilling tones, a mystic song of 
Thine unfathomable, infinite power. Here Thou hast 
Placed Thy solid altar on the shores of Time, and from 
Thy very lips the overpowering strains of holy eloquence 
Burst forth.

Who can withstand the heavenly music of Thy voice ; 
Who can, with heart unstirred, behold the amazing 
Splendor of Thine earthly court ; who can gaze on this 
Matchless structure by Thy fingers wrought, and calmly say, 
There is no living God ?

…………………………….Here let the boasting and the 
Lofty come and feel their nothingness ; here let the 
Sophist bring his treacherous creed, and obtain from 
Jehovah’s book logic invincible.  Here let the stolid 
And unthinking come and start their sleeping 
Senses from the sluggish trance. Here let the yearning 
Spirit and aspiring come, and, climbing Nature’s ladder, 
Grasp the reaching hand of God.

………………………………………Here the weary-hearted 
May sweet comfort find when resting on the shining 
Banks ; life-giving draughts from beauty’s fountain 
They may quaff, and from the appalling depths and 
Awful rush of waters wild look up, where, ever arching 
O’er the temple’s misty veil, the radiant bow of promise 
Sheds its cheering rays. So shall the glorious emblem 
Of Thy mercy teach the sorrowing heart, that o’er each

Dread abyss of human woe, each fearful path, where 
Life’s fierce tempests beat, the golden promise of 
Thy love and pity hangs. Here let the heart be 
Humbled to the dust, and no vain thought of 
Mortal consequence intrude.

…………………………………Oh, if these forest sentinels 
That ages long have watched the glories of this sacred 
Shrine, still with emotion shake, and join their trembling 
Voices in the tremendous hymn, shall not weak 
Mortals lowly bend, and in the footsteps of their 
Father, God, a loving tribute cast  not with a craven 
Thought of human fear  at the overwhelming power of 
His arm, but holiest love and adoration give, 
Ever rejoicing with ecstatic joy that they are off-springs 
Of so glorious a sire.

Source: Mary J. Wines. Infant Harper and Other Poems. Cambridge, Mass.: Hurd & Houghton, 1874, p. 193-195