Beside, Before, Beneath


Beside, Before, Beneath

Placement is paramount in understanding
this gift, to be so near a natural wonder
appreciated only by proximity and granted
by the good grace of introduction by parents
who appreciated the beauty around them
and were aware of the intrinsic value of water,
that essential element that lives within all of us.

To be held beside, to stand before and beneath,
and to ride on the waves below the Falls of Niagara.
All of these have been my pleasure, practiced
for the first six decades of my life.

While being with the one I love this past decade
has been an additional blessing in my life,
my distance from that natural wonder is now
nine hundred miles, a curse that is lifted
only when traveling to see family.
The day when it is once more a short drive
from my door cannot come soon enough.

This is my response to Day 29 at, which is to “write a poem in which you muse on the gifts you received at birth — whether they are actual presents, like a teddy bear, or talents – like a good singing voice – or circumstances – like a kind older brother, as well as a “curse” you’ve lived with.”

American Falls with Horseshoe Falls in background
One year old, with my father & grandfather
Visiting Niagara Falls with my wife

(click each photo for larger view in new tab)


The Commons at Niagara

The Commons at Niagara

Passing from one great lake to another,
would this not seem a natural course?
But who could pass treacherous rapids,
or the mighty cataract they surround?
Of what use a river, if not for transit?
But let that not halt the progress of man.

Of what use a river falling great heights
if not to be harnessed for industry?
And so it came to be, mills and plants
along its rushing course, amid the islands
that divide those cataracts, atop the walls
that once were a stately gorge.

But oh, the steep price of progress
and the unbridled power of industry.
Far from sightly, the discharge
of chemicals to air and water
and the scars they leave the cost
of harnessing the power of nature.
If not for visionaries.

Free Niagara became the cry of those
who followed Olmsted’s lead.
And so they did. Land along that gorge,
beside those rapids, and on the islands
at the very brink of the falls,
once claimed by commerce,
became parkland for the people.

From one century to another,
and now another, the trails and paths
of Olmsted and Vaux continue to offer
views that show no sign of those past scars,
only the beauty of this natural wonder
at the Niagara Reservation, the Commons
that displaced an industrial wasteland.


This is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: The Commons, the prompt from Brendan which as us to “describe that half-wild, half-human habitat of sharing and sustenance in your locale?” The Niagara Reservation, later named Niagara Falls State Park, was New York’s first state park. I lived in the area for most of my life and often visited the Falls, sometimes several times a month.

Off prompt, but shared with Day 29 at

Aerial view of Niagara Falls from Niagara Falls Public Library
Black & white image: former industry along the Niagara Gorge, from Wikimedia commons
(click photos for larger view in new tab)


Within Nature’s Balance ~ concrete poetry

 Within Nature’s Balance

This is my response to Day 28 at,
where we are asked to write a concrete poem.

Using a screenshot, the lower half of the image shows how it appears on my screen.
Click on the image for a larger view in a new tab.

Formatted differently, the poem might appear as below.

Within Nature’s Balance

Imagine the peace and harmony this world
would know, the balance
that could be

if life were as easy to navigate
as the waters that greet and accept

this paddle with-
out reservation, one of
many essential elements
within the greater


this is apheresis ~ concrete poem ~ with audio


This is my response to Day 28 at, where we are asked to write a concrete poem. This may narrowly fit within the definition, as it was adapted from a poem written in verse to fit the shape of a drop of blood. (The original appears below.) I wrote it in 1998, when I was donating platelets at Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY. Framed, it was still hanging on the wall of the donation center when I stopped donating platelets in 2006. It was published in the hospital newsletter at the time.

Since it was written in 1998, I’ll be sure to write a poem later today, to stay current in National./Global Poetry Writing Month.

Shared with OpenLink Night #315 at dVerse ~ Poets Pub.


this is apheresis

          filled with cheer
          expressing gratitude
          optimism necessary
          for survival
          by some
down the halls
          by others
          beyond the walls

          devoted to
          saving lives
          to aid
          those in need
          vital components
          of a precious nature
          donations from
          a precious source

          a jab and
          a mild twinge
          the sense of a feather
          passing over my arm
either way
          any sense of intrusion
is soon gone
          by thoughts
          of those in need

          with no need
          to return
          with no
          of urgency
          of those
          who know urgency
          to offer aid
          expecting to see
          filled with cheer
          expressing gratitude

this is apheresis



Not So Silent Water ~ duplex

Not So Silent Water

Where else would I be
than here, on quiet water?

The water not so quiet,
carries songs of birds.

All around me is a chorus
led by cardinal’s cheerful call.

Calling out much louder,
tufted titmouse responds.

Trilling out its lonely answer,
a kingfisher passes by.

Turtles leave before I pass,
break the water with a splash.

With such sounds to break the silence,
Where else would I be?

This is my response to Day 27 at, where we are asked to write a “duplex,” which is a variation on the sonnet, developed by the poet Jericho Brown. Maureen Thorsen describes it this way:

“It’s organized into seven, two-line stanzas. The second line of the first stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the second stanza, the second line of the second stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the third stanza, and so on. The last line of the poem is the same as the first.

Bruised Ego

Bruised Ego

This precaution, a prevention
of future cognitive lapses –
I do understand the concept,
having once briefly lapsed
in cognitive function –
does not confuse me,
yet it confounds me.

My blood is now thinner
and rises more swiftly
to the surface, and so the scars
I wear migrate, week by week.

This week, it’s a purple badge
on each arm, from elbow to wrist,
arms not meant to be squeezed
into a tight space to retrieve something
nearly irretrievable. I bump the table,
or a door frame, and my hip or shoulder
wears the bright blush of embarrassment.

A scratch on my finger,
so minor as to go unnoticed,
leaves a red trail
of directional dots
on the kitchen floor.
If I were donating blood,
a pinprick would suffice.

Spatial orientation, once a given,
seems to have been deleted
from my résumé. A victim
of that previous cognitive lapse?
If only I could remember
to be more careful.

I had a TIA in late 2019 with no further developments, but since I’m a borderline candidate for surgery to correct my patent foramen ovale (PFO) , which was diagnosed in 2020 and had allowed a small clot to go to my brain, my cardiologist recently prescribed a blood thinner to reduce the risk of any more TIAs. (It was my decision to forego surgery because of risk due to age.)

Off prompt, but shared with Day 27 of


A Maid in the Mist ~ aisling

A Maid in the Mist

I stand on the shore of the Niagara,
beside a stand of reeds,
dawn shedding its light dimly
through morning fog.
On a rock amid those cattails,
a black-crested night heron
turns its red eye towards me,
and the bird’s shape shifts
until I’m faced by a maiden
in a simple gown of gray and white
that shifts like the wings
of the bird that first greeted me.
Lelawala, Maid of the Mist, speaks.

Long was I troubled by the return
of the snake of my time, that serpent
that sought to poison these waters,
and so my people. Only by the will
of the Thunder God was it defeated,
its great body forming the rim
of the mighty falls. But your snake
is not mine. It is industry.

While your neighbors to the north
have long sought to maintain their shore
as a parkway, it took long decades
for your people to recognize the toll
imposed by industry. The renewed state
of that shore must be a reminder
to never again let that snake raise its head.

I realize that the fog has thinned
in the morning light, and that,
once again, I am eyed by that heron,
which turns from me to take flight.

I wake, and I’m left with a fading memory,
an early morning mist that dissipates
in a warm October sunrise as the air loses
its grasp on the river, lets it slip back
into its already cooling depths,
that air now filled with sunlight.

This is my response to Day 25 at, where we are challenged to write in the poetic form known as aisling, which was developed in Ireland. Maureen tells us that “an aisling recounts a dream or vision featuring a woman who represents the land or country on/in which the poet lives, and who speaks to the poet about it.”

The Niagara River forms a portion of the border between the United States and Canada. While Ontario has long maintained a parkway along the entire length of the river, New York’s shore from Lake Erie to Niagara Falls has been home to all kinds of industry, from chemical factories to steel and paper mills to landfills. Many of those plants are gone, and conservation efforts have cleaned the shoreline and restored habitats. In both countries, the Maid of the Mist is recognized as a symbol of Niagara Falls. Details of the legend can be found here.

 Image: black-crested night Heron on the Niagara River, at dusk
~ click for larger view in new tab ~

Teatime for Gladys

Teatime for Gladys

I’m telling you,
there’s something strange going on in that house.

Needing to vent after working long after
the office should have closed
to complete a project that was later than
yesterday’s paper delivered tomorrow,
receiving a good chewing out by his boss,
and feeling more bedraggled than a slipper
gnawed by his friend when she turned him into a dog,
he walked in the door to find his dinner on the table,
fried chicken soggier than the teabag
that’s been sitting in my cup since I saw this all happen.

Hotter than a steam whistle on a Natchez riverboat in August,
his anger boiled out of him in a scream that rippled
across his lips like the waves rolling off that boat’s bow.
Done venting, and feeling as foolish as a carny
hitting the dunk tank water for the fifth time
at the arm of a high school baseball pitcher,
he apologized to his loving wife with words
softer than a whisper in a monastery.
With one twitch of her nose, the table was set
for an eight-course dinner
with a steaming roast sitting in the center.

Abner Kravitz closed the blinds and turned to Gladys.
The Stephens are no different than any new married couple.
I swear, you’re so cuckoo you’ll end up getting a part
if they ever make that Ken Kesey novel into a movie.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” written by Ken Kesey in 1962 was adapted as a Broadway play in 1963 and as a movie in 1975.

“softer than a whisper in a monastery” was the first line that came to me as I wrote this.

This is my response to Day 24 at, where Maureen Thorsen cites the style in Raymond Chandler’s detective novels and asks us to “channel your inner gumshoe, and write a poem in which you describe something with a hard-boiled simile. Feel free to use just one, or try to go for broke and stuff your poem with similes till it’s . . . as dense as bread baked by a plumber, as round as the eyes of a girl who wants you to think she’s never heard such language, and as easy to miss as a brass band in a cathedral.”

Image source: YouTube

Expectations Unbound

Expectations Unbound

Unbound dedication
To a world of poetry

Their life

Poets gathered
To hear poets
Speak of joy
In their language
With unbound enthusiasm

Unbound Book Festival

This morning, at the Unbound Book Festival in Columbia, Missouri, I attended a reading by Francine J. Harris and Angela Hume.

This is my response to Twiglet #275: a world of words and Day 23 at, where we are asked to “write a poem in the style of Kay Ryan, whose poems tend to be short and snappy.”