Fair Niagara (revised) ~ verse epistle

Fair Niagara

Think not that I have forsaken you, Niagara.
These thousand miles that separate us
cannot deny that you still flow
through my veins like a lifeblood.

There can be no denying our intimacy,
one that reaches back to childhood. Mine,
bundled in my parents’ arms when I first met you
at the edge of your mighty falls.

Your childhood, Niagara, lies hidden somewhere
in the mists of time. Onguiaahra, your first people
named you. As a passage between two great bodies of water,
they respected your nature, both simple and profound.

The sight of salmon jumping in your lower reaches
or the light returned by a school of shiners in your clear water
take my breath away, yet it returns easily when your warm water
meets the cool air of an early autumn morning.

You cradled me as I swam in your depths
beside muskellunge and sturgeon,
held me afloat as I paddled your waters
in the company of herons and eagles.

Niagara, you have been my quiet companion,
the many hours I sat by your shore
marveling at your wonder and beauty,
contemplating life and the nearness of you.

I have heard the majesty of your cataracts, you with a rainbow
as a crown while singing of the splendors of nature.
I have seen your power and fury on display below those falls,
rushing through a canyon that would contain you,

till you broke free to flow calmly, steadily,
to complete your course, connecting one inland sea
with another. I have watched the sun set over you,
enhancing your beauty and glory.

Yet while my heart still beats for you, it has answered
the call of one most dear who now shares my heart
with you. I seek what comfort I can from the rivers
and streams of my new home, but they do not run as clear.

They do not provide the solace I find in your blue waters,
nor do they lessen this great distance between us.
Before my time has run its course,
I shall return to yours, my fair Niagara.

This is a revision of Fair Niagara, a verse epistle written for Exploring the poetic genre: Verse Epistle, a March 2021 prompt at dVerse ~ Poets Pub, and is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: SAY THE NAMES, a prompt hosted by Sherry Marr at earthweal, where she says, “Tell us about the places you hold most dear in the corner of the planet where you live.”

I’m also sharing this at dVerse – Open Link Night 293 at dVerse ~ Poets Pub.

Read about the source of the word “Niagara” here.

~ The Niagara River, with the skyline of the city of Niagara Falls on the horizon
~ At Niagara Falls in 1953
~ Emerald Shiners (minnows) in the Niagara River
(click images for larger view in new tab




Gorgeous_1Consider the river that cares not
what man thinks of it, churning
over obstacles that will not impede it
in a gorgeous canyon, miles from
a roaring cataract yet filled with the sound
of a rapid staccato best heard at the water’s edge,
that edge approached with peril for it cares not
what safety one desires when near, its own safety
never at stake, raging as it does at the disservice
served upon it, the waters it carries never truly clean,
yet powerless, despite its power, to change that course.

Gorgeous_2Now walk the trails that lie beside it, trails
that care not whether they are trod by soled feet
or the pads of wildlife content to share
with those who understand the fragile nature
of their home, this pocket of green. Marvel
at the escarpment that once was the falls
as the river wore at its limestone foundation
in its inexorable march to the current home
of those falls. Move briefly through shadow
between boulders larger than a house,
cleaved from the side of the wall towering
above you, as you wind your way to the river.

Georgeous_3Watch a heron pull a fish from the water as you sit
on the rocks at the river’s edge, then gaze
at the roiling water beside you, sun glinting
from the foam of the rapids. Follow that light
to see the sun approach the crest of the gorge,
all the while taking in the green that surrounds you,
green that would not be had it not been preserved
by those who understand its fragile nature.

Niagara Glen Map


This poem is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: Sanctuary, a challenge now closed, so I’m sharing it with earthweal open link weekend #71.

The Niagara River, the strait of water between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, carries all of the water of the upper Great Lakes. Much of the thirty-six mile length of the river was lined with industry, including within the gorge below Niagara Falls. The majority of that industry is gone, with the few remaining on the US side in the stretch north of Buffalo. While stricter regulations and ambitious cleanup campaigns, from the late twentieth century onward, reversed much of the degradation of the lakes during the industrial era, toxic sediments still exist and agricultural runoff remains a serious problem. The Canadian side of the Niagara River is a true parkway, maintained by Niagara Parks of Ontario. Beyond the falls, from the whirlpool to the end of the gorge is Niagara Glen, where a stairway descends the gorge wall to join four miles of trails that lead to the river’s edge as they wind through a Carolinian forest. When I lived in New York, I often crossed into Canada at Niagara Falls, just to walk those trails. The rapids within the gorge range from Class III to Class V.

~ click any image for a larger view in a new tab ~

Re-Crossing Rivers

The original ~ the second poem I posted here at WordPress, 02 April 2014:

Crossing Rivers

late March
under a cloudy sky
bundled in my mother’s arms
feeling the roar
of the mighty falls

early morning light
on the bank of the river
waters calm
my father’s float
drifting in the current,
bobbing with each tiny bite

weightless, beneath the surface
sunlight diffused at depth
freedom imagined
with each breath drawn
at the mercy of the current

beside those awe-­inspiring falls
camera in hand
capturing images
of the towering, deafening roar

hiking in the gorge
below those mighty falls
recording water so blue
pounding, rushing past,
until, at last,
flowing into the lake,
past it’s glass-­pebbled shore

a bridge of light
impressive in the night
fading, receding
in my rearview mirror
the river vivid, still,
in memory

another river crossed
highway of the heartland
massive in its breadth,
nearing a new life

on new waters
kayaking along the Big Muddy
and the murky rivers feeding it
eagles overhead
small consolation
for the blue grandeur of Niagara

My revision:

Crossing Rivers

beneath a March sky
bundled in my mother’s arms
feeling the thunder
of the mighty cataract

dawn’s light on the river’s shore
my float beside my father’s
drifts in the current, bobbing
with each nibble

sunlight diffused at depth
weightless, suspended
freedom in each breath
bubbles cradled by the current

beside those towering falls
camera in my hand
captures the light
held by the deafening roar

hikes within the gorge
below that cataract
recording water so blue
pounding, rushing
flowing to the lake,
and it’s glass-pebbled shore

a bridge of light fading
in the night as it recedes
in my rearview mirror
the river still vivid
in memory

another river crossed
highway of the heartland
massive in its breadth,
a new life approaches

a kayak floats on the Big Muddy
and the murky rivers feeding it
eagles overhead little consolation
for Niagara’s blue grandeur

This is my response to MTB, Write like a dog, edit like a cat…,
the prompt from Peter Frankis at dVerse ~ Poets Pub.
“Uncanny” is not my style, but perhaps this is more memorable.

The “bridge of light” referenced in the poem, left behind when I moved from New York
to Missouri, is the Peace Bridge, an international bridge connecting Buffalo, New York,
and Fort Erie, Ontario, the same bridge that appears at the top of my page.


So Blue ~ quadrille

So Blue

On her first visit,
I took her to the lake
and the river, of course,
and she marveled.

How could they be so blue?

That river, those lakes,
both great and small,
were my home, and so simply
how they were meant to be.

This is my response to Quadrille #107 – Blue Monday
the prompt from Kim at dVersePoets Pub, which is to use the word blue
in a 44-word poem, with no required meter or rhyme.

Lake Erie at Buffalo, New York
The Whirlpool in the Niagara River Gorge
(click each to see larger image in new tab)

Blue on Blue

Blue on Blue_1

My approach hidden by
willow saplings

Unsuspecting heron
stares into the blue

Neck straight
stretching to strike

Silver flash
smelt from water to beak

Head back
fish swallowed with a shake

Salmon leaps, mid-river
heron turns to watch

Turns back to rocky shore
easier game

Blue on Blue_2

Images: Great Blue Heron in the Niagara Gorge, Niagara Glen (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada)

Day Three of the Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge

I’ve been nominated by Elusive Trope for the Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge. I want to thank Doug for nominating me for this challenge. He offers interesting insights, and I respect the chops he shows in his poems.

The Rules of the Challenge are fairly simple: (1) Thank the person who nominated you; (2) Select one quote per day for the next three days and write a little something on it; and (3) nominate three other bloggers for each day of the challenge.

However… rather than nominating other bloggers, I will point you to the blogs of other poets (surprise!) that I follow. Their names will be at the end of this blog. I haven’t been posting poetry here at WordPress for very long, but I think that if you’re reading my poetry, you probably know about these other poets. In any case, check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

And now, I’m going to take a quote completely out of context, just so I can talk about myself. Hey… isn’t that what blogs are all about?! (Well, sometimes.)

But first, some true context for the quote. During the Inauguration of President William Clinton, in 1993, Maya Angelou delivered a poem written for the occasion, titled, On the Pulse of Morning. In her poem she cites three elements of Nature – A Rock, A River and A Tree – to address the issues of peace, inclusion and the cost of prosperity. Her message is just as relevant today as it was in 1993.

Now, for my own bit of context. The following lines are from On the Pulse of Morning:

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song. It says,
Come, rest here by my side.”

I was born and raised in Western New York, half-way between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, and for the first fifty-nine years of my life I lived within a couple of miles of the Niagara River – just a half-mile away for the last thirty-seven years.

When I was young, my father would take me fishing on the shores of the river and nearby streams. Sometimes we would be sitting with our lines in the water long before the sun came up. At times he would talk to me about the hardships of growing up during the Depression and war years. They were broad brushstrokes that he used to describe those times, especially the teen years after his mother’s death. My father died too young, at sixty, and one of my deepest regrets is not having talked with him about his youth when I might have had a better understanding. Even so, sitting by the water while my father talked in the early morning light is one of my strongest memories from that time.

There are stretches of park land along the Niagara River, and during my high school and college years, in the late Sixties and early Seventies, they were a popular place for a couple to park a car and “watch the submarine races.” I’m sure you can imagine what that entailed. Yes, there were a lot of steamed up windows! That’s far less likely to be the case these days, since it’s not unusual to see a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle parked or driving along the park roads at the river’s edge, checking vehicles and watching the shore for illegal entry into the country. (Canada is just across the river.)

When I started scuba diving, it was only natural that some of that would be done in the Niagara River. More than 100 dives, in fact. The current’s speed ranges from four to thirteen miles per hour, so the dives are called river drifts. Divers park a car at their planned exit point, then drive upriver for their entry. The parks were a favorite place to picnic, so having friends and family waiting at the exit point was natural, and the after-dive could be as much fun as the dive, itself. We would dive in teams of two or three, connected by buddy lines – usually a line five to ten feet long. A dive float and flag on the surface tethered to the arm of one of the divers is meant to warn boats to stay away, but some people can’t figure that out. Close calls when surfacing to the float were common for us, especially with jet ski riders thinking they could use it as a slalom.

Those dives were some of my favorite times, and sometimes the source of a good laugh. The hardest part of a river drift is kicking a short distance from shore at the start (on the surface), and then back in again at the end. However, the current could be unpredictable at times, pushing divers further from shore, only to discover when surfacing at the prescribed time that it’s a very hard kick in. One time, my buddy and I overshot our exit at a bend in the river and had to exit at an island (connected by a bridge). I still laugh when I think about walking into a bar wearing a wetsuit and asking the bartender for a quarter to make a phone call. She gave it to me with her phone number!

I had some interesting finds from the river bottom, including boat motors, anchors, hundred year-old bottles, a musket from the early 1800s and a ship’s anchor that sat on my lawn for years. I did have a boat for a couple of years, but I never got the same satisfaction from that as I did from diving. The boat always seemed like too much work, and as they say, “A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money.”

My ankle was broken when it was run over by a forklift in the late Nineties. Coincidentally, I had been diving earlier in the day, not knowing it would be my last dive. By then, my dive frequency had dropped off. After recovering from the injury, I never returned to diving.

But that did not mean the end of my time by the river. I always enjoyed sitting on the shore in the morning hours. I worked afternoons, and it fit easily into my schedule. The river was always one of my favorite photo subjects, at Niagara Falls, in the lower gorge, and just a half-mile from my house, where I often could get a shot of the morning fog as it dissipated. I retired within seven years of that last dive, which gave me even more opportunities sit by the water and read or watch the birds and kites catching the breeze off the water.

Four years ago, the year before I moved here to Missouri, and after fifty-eight years of living so close to the Niagara River, I bought a kayak, which offered some great opportunities to appreciate the wildlife and scenery along the Niagara and local streams.

The rivers in Missouri are not on as grand a scale as the Niagara, but that’s not necessary for an enjoyable paddle. In fact, some of the rivers would qualify as creeks in New York State, but seeing an eagle or a mink as I sit on the water is a great reward for being by a quiet stream. As I sit there, it’s not hard to think back to the early mornings spent with my father. I would gladly rest here by the side of these rivers.

And now for Step #3 of Day #3… Three poets that I follow:

Elan Mudrow – evocative poetry with timeless images
Ben Naga  – don’t be surprised if his comments come in the form of a poem
Elusive Trope (Douglas Ear Branson) – poetry, photos and more

Ken G. / rivrvlogr