Ferrotype by Karen 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

On Viewing the Falls of Niagara, as Photographed by George Barker by Jones Very

Photograph of Ice Bridge, Ice Mound, and American Fall, Niagara by George Barker.
Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Amidst those scenes of wonder do I stand,
Though not in bodily presence, but in thought ;
Stupendous works of the Almighty’s hand,
By artist’s skill before my vision brought.
The deep, strong floods, that downward ever pour,
The mists, that from their bosom ever rise,
I see, and almost seem to hear the roar
Of many waters sounding to the skies.
The littleness of man, the power of God,
Doth to the sight as visible appear !
So felt the Indian, as these scenes he trod ;
‘Twas the Great Spirit’s voice he seemed to hear,
That the deep silence of the forests broke,
And to his children in its thunders spoke.

Source: Jones Very. Poems and Essays. Complete and revised ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1886

Very wrote this poem in September, 1875

Read about Very here

Read about George Barker here


At Niagara Falls by Jerome 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

At a Niagara Falls Bazaar by Evelyn M. Watson

Captain Webb’s Indian Bazaar, located between where the Rainbow Bridge & the Oakes Garden Theatre now stand. Photo courtesy of Mrs. J.W. Zeiger / Niagara Falls Public Library

Today conditions seemed reversed :
I paced such old Emporium
As grace Niagara’s streets — immersed
In thoughts that forced themselves to come :
The aisles of souvenirs, and such
As litter up old parlors and
Crimped antique furniture, brought much
Of childhood interest at hand.

I saw small tables cluttered tight
With “after dinner” cups, scarce room
For salts and peppers, very bright
To grace some full Victorian gloom.
Then reminiscences that slept
Grew quick when, lifting high a ball
Of watery glass, a snowstorm swept
Across the too chromatic Fall.

The snow spun wildly till I felt
A childhood agony, a-shiver
For souls emperilled — storm but spelt
Gray death upon the painted river !
I found afresh the tense delight
In pain, so paradoxical
And lived anew the sleeted night —
And then replaced the watery ball.

Oh, sugar bowls, oh, strings of shells,
Oh, silver fit for banquet halls,
What grief and laughter when one dwells
On certain memories of the Falls :
A relative, in hurrying me,
Brought back a sense of time, but far
I’d traveled lanes of memory
Within that dazzling Bazaar.

Source:  Evelyn M. Watson. Poems of the Niagara Frontier.  New York: Dean & Company, 1929.

See other poems by Watson

Have You Ever Been to Niagara? by Stephanie Vigh Nielsen

Welcome to Niagara Falls Sign. Photo by G.R. Nielsen

Have you ever been to Niagara?
It’s such a marvelous place.
There’s something here for everyone
You can visit at your pace.

So many things to choose from
It’s difficult to decide.
Is it walking tours you prefer?
Or perhaps you’d rather ride?

If it’s horticulture you like
Then take a leisurely walk.
Enjoy the Botanical Gardens
And visit our Floral Clock.

We’ve got hotels and motels
As well as B & B’s
There are fabulous golf courses
And casino shows to see.

Enjoy our many wine tours
Check out the restaurant scene.
Italian, Greek, Indian, Chinese
We serve the finest cuisine.

If you’re looking for exciting thrills
We have a variety of rides.
We’ve got helicopters, go-karts
And even water slides.

Take a walk down Clifton Hill
Try the pizza or ice cream
Have fun in the arcade there
And take in a museum.

The ‘Horseshoe Falls’ is beautiful
What an incredible sight!
So mesmerizing during the day
And nicely lit at night.

Exotic birds at Bird Kingdom
Butterflies at the Conservatory.
Take a drive on the Parkway
There’s so much beauty to see.

We have hiking trails and picnic spots
What a way to spend the day!
Take a photo of the ‘Falls’
Just be careful of the spray.

A thrilling ride on the Hornblower
And check out the MistRider Zipline.
Spend a few hours at the Outlet Mall
You’re sure to have a good time!

Dufferin Islands is a nature park
With fish and water fowl.
And stranded on the upper river
Is an ancient damaged scow.

So many things to do here
I think you will agree.
But if you still have any doubt
Just come for yourself and see.

© 2021 Stephanie Vigh Nielsen

Visit Stephanie Vigh Nielsen’s Niagara Proud website