Cataract of Niagara and Suspension Bridge by Roswell Rice

roswell rice
Roswell Rice
from the frontispiece of his Orations and Poems

….ALL day, as days are counted here below, 
I’ve ranged the banks of this myster’ous Chasm ; 
Whose raging voice has boomed, like thunder in 
Distant tones, ever since the morning stars 
Their song began. And as I gazed on the 
Huge transparent mass, plunging the foaming 
Gulf below, my heart was struck with fear, like 
Viewing specters in the magic glass, or 
Raging winds that swell the deep. And as I 
Sat me down for nature to revive, sad 
And fearful thoughts rushed on my soul, as I 
Gazed on this phenomenon of nature’s 
Birth .

……………The king of day was now descending 
The western horizon ; and ever since
The morning light had dispersed night’s dreary 
Mantle, my vision gazed on this direful
Cataract ; producing scenes terrific
And sublime. The crystal fountains of the 
Northern lakes, condensed in old Niag’ra,
With incessant sweep, near, and forever
Near the verge of this drear, and dreadful gulf ! 
And as they descend the vast abyss, the
Shock is heard in the distance as the voice
And proof of nature’s God. Were it not for 
Habit, proving no alarm, man would be 
More fearful of this terrific sound, than 
Of the lightning’s burst in a stormy sky. 
Such are the wonders of nature in this 
Mighty Cascade, that the spell yet remains 
Upon me; and their mementos enchant 
My spirit, and blend with my existence.

….God’s hand made these mighty waters, to plunge 
The deep ! to shake the earth afar ; and roll
On amid the gulf, plowed by nature’s stream 
In solid rock, through the flight of ages.
Six thousand years this trump of God perchance 
Has sounded in the savage ear ; and thus 
Made known the Spirit Land. Above the Falls 
The current is so strong, and suction so 
Severe, the fowl can hardly rise. The red 
Man, in his barque, applies the oar too late !
His hope is lost ! he to the Spirit cries !
And with a mortal groan descends the grave 
Of graves. The swiftwinged birds of heaven, in 
Sundry plumage decked, parched by sunbeams of 
The Summer’s rays, bathe in vapors rising 
From this foaming deep, and chant their songs to 
Greet its cooling spray. Pilgrims, far and near, 
Rush on to view this king of Cataracts ; 
And by nature’s incessant anthem, some 
Have learned the Author of the song.

…………………………………………………………The dread
Mastodon of the elder world, whose tread 
Made the forests shake, perchance in days of 
Yore has by these waters slaked his thirst. Fierce 
Armies in their pride have near this Chasm met, 
With martial din, where the dying groans and 
The sad echoes of the cannon’s roar were 
Heard in fearful blast. The storms and tempests 
Have swept around it ; and the lightning’s flash, 
And bolts of thunder, have shook the heavens 
Above ; yet these waters rush on with their 
Eternal song, from nature’s golden harp. 
This music still salutes the ravished ear, 
With strains that blend amid the raging storm.

….Near two miles below this Chasm is seen the 
Iron Bridge, the wonder of art, sustained 
By bolts and bars, posts and rails, gigantic 
Cables, and sundry fixtures ; fastened to 
The ironbound shores of two nations  pride, 
O’er which the lion and the eagle soar. 
On this suspended structure is seen the
Iron horse of rav’nous maw inspired with 
Wood and fire, passing and repassing with 
His gorgeous trains, journeying East and West 
On their rushing pinions ; bearing mankind 
And nature’s golden products, far and near. 
Four iron cables, made of wiry braid, 
ast in their size, and strong with curly strands, 
Extend from shore to shore, and terminate 
With fast’nings, secured in solid rock more 
Than twelve score feet above the river’s base. 
Eight hundred tons comprise the weight of this 
Gigantic Bridge ; twentyfour feet its width ;
Eight hundred feet its length ; and the strength of 
Its vast cables twelve thousand tons will bear. 
Hard by this structure , on each tow’ring bank 
Man’s frightful vision views the turbid stream 
Of raging waters, rolling and tumbling 
O’er their rocky base, to plunge the distant
Lake below. Immortal be the artist’s
Name that framed, and bound this gorgeous Bridge o’er
The dread Niag’ra, with light and knowledge 
Drawn from the funds of the great Supreme.

….Amazing magnificence is seen in
The dire waters of this mighty Cascade. 
But this is a mere point in the wonders 
Of nature. The forest green, waving in
The gale ; the birds with plumage decked, beaming 
In the sun ; earth’s millions of flow’rs kissed by 
The dews of heaven ; the swift winged clouds on which 
The beauties of earth and sky commingle ;
The Summer’s Sun glowing like the gate of 
Paradise ; the tow’ring mountain, on whose 
Summit remains eternal snow ; the vast 
Prairies lit up by sunbeams waving in 
The gale ; the flowing rivers, mountain born, 
That wend their way to kiss the briny deep ;
The islands of fire that rise in the main,
And straightway are seen no more ; the rushing 
Tornado, with giant pinions, sweeping
Before it the groves and hamlet ; and the
Oceans deep, which like clean hearts return heaven’s
Image ; or in their wild commotion swell
Like the heaving breasts of lions chained in 
Agony ; all combine in nature’s book,
To tell the matchless glory of a God.

….If in this nether world our Father speaks 
Terrible and sublime, how do the stars 
Above, floating the heavens like islands of 
Fire, proclaim his greatness ? How tells the vast 
Blazonry of the great Original,
Which adorns the supernal fields of space
With beauty, far surpassing the diamond 
Points of the mosaic texture ? If when
We look upon this Cataract, we are 
Called to admiration, how much more, when 
We gaze on the blue arch of heaven’s 
Magnificence, besieged by God’s flaming 
Seraphim, who keep their watch eternal.

….Ye sons of nature’s God, I pray draw near ; 
Behold the wonders of this direful scene ! 
Hark ! the earth trembles ! the thunder tones of 
This Chasm are heard afar ! showing to us 
That nature proves a God. Still, we have more 
Light ! it rises from the Gospel truth ; and 
Reveals our endless weal or woe. Then, let 
Adam’s fallen race from slumber rise !—make
Sure the living boon ! so when the works of 
Time shall die, God’s holy Son will bear them 
To his throne ! where they shall chant redeeming 
Love, and share ambrosial strains of Heaven. 
There scourging woes shall ever pass away ! 
And praise eternal shall to God be given. 
These scenes of time should warn us of that hour, 
When rocks shall rend, and oceans be no more.

….Ye bloodbought and Hellbound Infidels ! by
This Cataract God is speaking to you. 
These thunder tones, and all the sad dirges
Of nature, call for your belief in God !
But something more warns your souls to action !
It is the stable  the manger, and the
Crucifixion !    More, it is the Son of
God in Joseph’s tomb ! his ascension to 
Heaven, after giving up the Ghost on 
The cross, and his cries for your Salvation 
At the right hand of God. Why then reject 
The Savior, and make sure the wails of the 
Lost ? where no mercy shall ever greet the 
Ear ! and no Jesus set free the pris’ner. 
Awake from your slumber ! run for life ! and 
The bonus of the Crucifixion share.

Source: Roswell Rice. Rice’s Orations and Poems: Containing Orations of Temperance, War, Christ’s Second Advent, etc.; Descant on Time and Immortality, Time’s Destroying Flight, etc., in Blank Verse; Many Lyrics and Acrostics; and numberous Poetic Gems. Springfield, Mass: Press of Springfield Printing Company, 1883

Again to the Falls by Lynne 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.

Flow State by Ryan Racine

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water.”

 -Bruce Lee

CN train yard with Falls view towers & the mist from the Falls in the background, 2004. Photograph by Tammy Frakking. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Graffitied train carts mock the lineup of
halted vehicles, forcing us to direct our attention
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡to the tower in
the distance whispering
the swelling breath of

Thick mist plays hopscotch on
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡the front windows, shielding us as spectators
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡from the Falls’

Upon parking on the Hill,
our newspaper umbrellas
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡become wishing wells,
where cacophonous cellulous break down
to form
unfamiliar intimacies of newly amalgamated

As we get close to the
seventh wonder,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡secreted ink
swim into
a symbiosis that roll further down our face, where Bush is
‡‡‡‡‡seducing Bin Laden and police
brutality has
become a national sport.

Ryan Racine earned his master’s of English language and literature from Brock University. Racine is currently working as a high school teacher and college instructor in Ontario. His poetry can be found in The Steel Chisel, Pauses/Words/Noises, The Brock University Anthology, Pictures & Portraits, Ekphrastic, Joypuke, Weekly Poems, and PACE Magazine.

See other poems by Ryan Racine on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website:
•    Sorting Skins

The Train to South Dakota by Jane Urquhart

urquhart train

urquhart train
Ad for the Great Western & Michigan Central Railroad Line. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

The train
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡to south dakota
and grandmother sits
on red plush seats
her eldest son

at home he spends his hours
with his face against
the slippery necks of horses

at home
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡and here
he cannot speak

he cannot speak the landscape
passing by the windows
or nights when view
becomes reflection

and other faces in the glass
with his own

he cannot say
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡the moon is in the water of
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡the ditch beside the tracks

so all through the journey
grandmother listens
to the abandon of the whistle

and listens day and night
to the wheels
beneath the train

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡which say

someone there will fix him
someone there will fix him


Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems