Dear Ekphrastic Writers and Readers,
I was mesmerized and intrigued by the submissions received for this challenge. Since I grew up on the banks of the Niagara River with picnics near thundering falls, words like these bring me back to my childhood. I was enamored with poems/words that captured the sheer power of the falls, making me feel its pull, drawing me back to that time. I recall the tiny speck Maid of the Mist, seen from the railing, walking clad in the thick yellow slickers and boots provided, later, a disposal poncho through the Cave of the Winds, marveled at the spectacular rainbows, dry rocks in 1969 when they diverted water from the falls, on the Canadian side from the top of the Skyline tower restaurant in 1964, the view breathtaking. I also enjoyed a few renditions of those who also have Falls memories. Thanks to all who sent their work – so many poems/ stories, it was a difficult decision to choose…
Special thanks to The Ekphrastic Review editor Lorette C. Luzajic for allowing me to serve as guest editor for this wonderful publication!
Julie A. Dickson
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.
Elaine Sorrentino, communications director by day, poet by night, has been published in Minerva Rising, Willawaw Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Ekphrastic Review, Writing in a Women’s Voice, Global Poemic, ONE ART: a journal of poetry, Agape Review, Haiku Universe, Sparks of Calliope, Muddy River Poetry Review, Panoply, Etched Onyx Magazine, and at wildamorris.blogspot.com. She was featured on a poetry podcast at Onyx Publications.
To Frederic Edwin Church Regarding Niagara Falls
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.
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.
An Item on my Old Bucket List
Niagara—some say the name is a bastardised form of the Iroquois "Onguiaahra." They say it means "The Strait." Now "Niagara" has become associated with a thunderous image. That I can feel.
I only ever imagined its deafening voice,
its power, its white foam, its cold spray,
imagined myself in a slicker with a hood--
preferably blue (or red)--
on a boat, getting nearer, nearer, nearer,
before we are being sucked into unimaginable
depths, Charybdis and Scylla,
my fellow passenger quiet
in the face of such a relentless force.
When I close my eyes
I see dark clouds pulling up,
attracted like magnets to a cauldron
of deep water, angry foam, killer rocks.
The door to Hades.
Who will pay the ferryman?
Rose Mary Boehm
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru, and author of two novels as well as seven poetry collections. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, once for the Best of Net. Her latest: Do Oceans Have Underwater Borders? (Kelsay Books July 2022), Whistling in the Dark (Cyberwit July 2022), and Saudade (December 2022) are available on Amazon. A new collection, Life Stuff, has been scheduled by Kelsay Books for February 2024. https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
The Ice Crack’d, 1912
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
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, (she/her) is a poet, collage artist, and writer living in Decatur, Georgia. Her work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Haikuniverse, The Light Ekphrastic and Mediterranean Poetry, among others. She has recently read live for The Poet’s Corner. Debbie loves beachcombing on Tybee Island and hanging out with her husband, Burt, and dog, Maddie.
Nik Wallenda Walks a Wire Across Niagara Falls
Into a theatre of wind and mist
a cable dips, disappears.
He moves steadily,
each step shortening
He dissolves into thunder.
The camera loses then finds his face
on distance relenting.
In shoes his mother made
his feet curl along the wire.
He tells the cameraman
his arms are numb.
Weighs the long pole
in sighs, side to side.
And we can see
the waters waiting
the letting go
the urge to.
He inches ahead
each second of inertia
from which we too
This poem was previously published in Muddy River Poetry Review.
Diana Cole, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has had poems published in numerous journals including Poetry East, Spillway, Cider Press Review, The Public's Radio 89.3, Friends Journal, Verse Daily, The New Verse News and Orison Books. Her chapbook, Songs By Heart was published in 2018 by Iris Press. She is an editor for The Crosswinds Poetry Journal and has taught a number of poetry workshops. Her full length book, Between Selves, was released this summer by Indian Press, Cyberwit.net. She has been published a number of times in The Ekphrastic Review. When not writing she is a stained glass artist.
Dad, You Have Left Us
with this falling desire to find
the most magic breezes,
the best of both worlds, to drive
some mighty drives.
Let us go back to 1986,
when my parents opened shop
then proudly spent the money
in big cities, on bigger cars,
at biggest waterfalls.
A road trip, and all is grand, all goes
fast, and y’all say how-ya-folks-doing.
Yellow taxis, subway steams,
rush-hush diners, sneakers' streams.
We got culturally confused over
morning coffee with no menu,
the fries on every sandwich, the toppings
on every sundae, in every National Park.
No end to the eye, no end to the sights.
Wonderstruck, we got
and our giant car past traffic lights
swinging from wires, we got pulled over
on I-90, by shiny-sunglass-sheriff.
Onwards to Graceland, for the King,
forwards to the Falls, for dear Marilyn.
Liquid silver river, blue-green falling
with no fear for borders,
or for yellow ponchos.
Nature is a thunderous wonder,
nature at its thunderous best.
Feeling like film-living in the mist
of rainbows, the foredeck pointing at
caves and hidden myths.
Dad, you have left us
with this healing desire
to hold on to memories, of cities,
of road trips, the water. You have
shown us your tall way, to fall without fail.
(To my dad, October 1997)
Now the gulls
have chased away
the long- and lacewings,
Now the silt has risen
from the river floor
to overturn her days and ways,
and now their boat trip
has not shown the mist
she had hoped to see,
she sees that rainbows still fall on,
that tides rest at her feet
and barrels drift away anyway.
He might brighten up
once they drive down to the lakes,
once he stops mocking her love
for the waterfalls that make her
think straight, he wants to
control her rise and fall
but her moods to sing like birds
and butterflies, is a step further
towards the edge of
falling days, where her best choice
is, to choose her road carefully, is
to be aware of plunging
without sinking. To see he might just
be in her way. Dive in, dear girl,
but rise, down the shiny waves.
Kate Copeland started absorbing words ever since a little lass. Her love for language led her to teaching; her love for art & water to poetry…please find her pieces at The Ekphrastic Review, First Lit.Review-East, Wildfire Words, The Weekly/Five South, AltPoetry and others. Over the years, she worked at festivals and Breathe-Read-Write-sessions; she is now curator-editor for The Ekphrastic Review and runs linguistic-poetry workshops for the IWWG this year. Kate was born @ harbour city and adores housesitting at the world. https://www.instagram.com/kate.copeland.poems/
Memories of a Niagara Falls Morning, 1856
White. Cold. My first noticing was the dense mist. Not tendrils curling around like fingers but thick like a blanket, moisture-rich, like being inside a cloud. It would burn off later as the sun climbed in the sky. I needed there to be good visibility for the crowd. Next, as always, I noticed the noise. A pleasant natural cacophony at a distance, it became a pounding, rushing freight train as I walked towards The Spot. We'd scouted it weeks before, using word-of-mouth and triangulating with newspaper reports from a few years back. The crushing sound, the energy of the spray - it really made me feel alive.
My good friend Itzak was already waiting, well wrapped up in his long greatcoat with the collar turned up, thick padded leather gloves, his long mutton chop sideburns slick with the water vapour and his dark curls were straggling from under his peaked cap. Itzak's lips curled into a smile at my approach and he had that devilish twinkle in his eye confirming why he was the only person I could have trusted to help me with this caper.
If - no, when - I made it to the bottom of the Falls I'd be famous. No-one else had ever managed the journey and survived, and certainly no woman, though truth be told very few had tried, and even then not voluntarily. The last poor fellows had fallen, one almost rescued then pulled under by the cruel currents. My journey would be sensational in a different way. The reporter would be here soon, as would the usual troupes of tourists, as soon as the dense fog lifted to unveil the splendour of the Falls.
"Who's that? Is he the man from The Gazette?" I asked Itzak, pointing to a tall stranger. He looked old, probably as much as thirty. The man nodded in our direction but seemed preoccupied as he turned to look at the water cascading over the edge.
"Him? That's Frederic. I spoke with him yesterday afternoon. He's some sort of artist, sketching the Falls. You know how popular it is for postcards and pasting onto tourist tat."
"He's not drawing us, is he?" I was suspicious of the detached, aloof stranger.
"No, no worries there." Itzak flashed me another smile. "He told me he's only interested in the Romantic Ideal of nature. He won't even paint what he sees, but only the best version of it, he said."
"Hah! Perhaps he'll have a new romantic ideal in mind later!"
Itzak smiled again and stepped to the side to reveal the barrel. It was large, dark, heavy - befitting the seriousness of its purpose. Painted on the side in large white letters was "Bella D'Angelo, Niagara Falls, 1856". Inside, it was packed with soft, cream, newly spun wool. My playful mind suggested that it would be just like climbing into the clouds themselves, although thankfully drier.
"Are you sure you'll have enough room in there?"
"We've tested it out, Itzak. There's enough room for me to snuggle down, for you to add the last soft pillow of wool on top and bolt on the lid. As long as Bertrand is ready with the boat at the bottom all will be well."
"Ah, here's the reporter now. Let me help you in and you can talk to him from there before you nestle down. That will make it more dramatic."
And that's where it all went awry. It was a combination of the slippery rock under Itzak's foot as he helped me, the proximity of the barrel to the edge - after all The Spot was the perfect launch place for a reason, that reason being ease of falling – and the power of gravity sucking at the weight of the barrel with me half in it.
I'll give The Gazette reporter his due. As obituaries go, it was nicely written. I'd get the fame I wanted but not quite in the way I desired.
Emily Tee writes poetry and flash fiction. She's had recent pieces published in Willows Wept Review, The Ekphrastic Review and elsewhere online, and in print in some publications by Dreich with other work forthcoming elsewhere. She lives in the UK.
Niagara November 1978
After Thanksgiving dinner in North Tonawanda
We drove to Niagara through chilly evening fog,
parked and walked carefully toward the falls.
The sidewalks and grounds were frosted lace,
along the path branches of flash frozen trees
had spent blossoms suspended like icicle earrings.
Although we remembered 4th grade science
and the hydraulic water cycle
we forgot to realize that when they melt
the radiant ice diamonds
will mingle with human breath
mist their way to heaven
before returning to earth
in never ending rotation
to churn and crash over the falls
as they had for Frederic Edwin Church in 1857
when his breath and artistic vision
captured and contributed to the movement
of the eternal roar.
Daniel Brown has recently published at age 72 his first collection Family Portraits in Verse and Other Illustrated Poems through Epigraph Books, Rhinebeck, NY. He has most recently been published in Jerry Jazz Musician and Chronogram Magazineand was included in Arts Mid-Hudson 2023 gallery presentation Poets Respond To Art in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Hearing the World Differently
The gallery lies in silence.
Clusters of faces pause
canvas to canvas
lips miming words,
the unheard musings of the many.
I inhale their movement,
jackets and backpacks jostle
the canvas to my right
the vertical drop of Niagara Falls
drawing us into its power.
The tide turns.
My eyes conjure sounds
only I can hear,
decibels of cyan and teal
the roar of acrylic licking the frame.
I taste the grit of salt on teeth,
sea-spray fresh on my face.
Violet tones colour my mood,
the distinctive tang of oil on wood.
I open my senses, hear it all.
Kate Young lives in England and enjoys writing poetry, painting and playing the guitar and ukulele. Her poems have appeared in various webzines, magazines, and Chapbooks. Her work has also featured in the anthologies Places of Poetry and Write Out Loud. Her pamphlet A Spark in the Darkness has been published by Hedgehog Press and her next pamphlet Beyond the School Gate is due to be published in the next month. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
Dichotomy of light and shade
rainbow blurred in cloud and rain
white suicidal water
tangible tears of spray
rocks of despair, eddies of grief
days of uncertainty and loss
Still the blue face of control
cascades of courage and resolution
accepting the crags of destruction
the far horizon of the past
tethered on the edge of memory
Sarah Das Gupta
Sarah Das Gupta is a retired teacher living near Cambridge, UK who has taught in India and Tanzania. Her work has been published in over 12 countries including US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Croatia and Romania
Hear Me Roar
The roar of Niagara Falls, while eluding sound, doesn’t fail to irradiate
sight with its jazzy waves and frothy strokes of jade — these sweeping
illusions, swallowed whole by the Deep, howl against deafening winds, westward and warbling — veiling the fading sunlight holding Hope hostage --
as renegade avalanches are welcomed by a deluge of stratus tears wailing louder than the Sky itself — the gaze lustily cascades over escarpments of
towering cliffs while the river’s limbs engulf the clamoring boulders — dark talons of the night threaten to eviscerate the roaring cacophony of
discord with the manifestation of gloom alone— if the eyes can imagine the jaded purging into the Deep, can that which does not roar still be Heard?
Ann Marie Steele
Ann Marie Steele, who resides in Charlotte, NC, America, is a writer who dabs in poetry, essays, and short stories. She holds a BS in Journalism (News-Editorial), and an MA in Secondary English Education. Ann Marie pens pieces about love and loss, and what she observes and experiences. The loss of her youngest son, Brandon, has influenced much of her writing. Her poetry has been described as “resiliently defiant.” Ann Marie has been published in The Ekphrastic Review with her pieces, “Every Lilly Donned with Grief” and “I Dare You, Pretty Please.” When not teaching high school English, Ann Marie enjoys partner acrobatics, where she can often be seen flying upside down.
Looking at Church’s Niagara Falls on the Web
Niagara is a revelation of the cosmos to each and every man.
David C. Huntington
Sure, I’ll breathe poetry there. My mind will be an embouchure
through which your powerful waters pour thunder. I will hear
nothing else, not the sharp sound waves spearing my bellows,
nor honeymooners whose croons you swallow into white foam
and spew out as a shimmering arch of rainbow. You’ll teach me
about the cosmos by proving the paradox of water in motion:
that its motion is a stillness, that its stillness is ever in motion.
My body will be a speck of silence swallowed by your howling
emerald olivine chrysoberyl pale blue ice snowy pinnacles,
your ten-thousand-year-old ceaselessly cataracting avalanche,
your constant breath ever billowing through one diapason,
yet not one prism in your mist ever splits light the same way.
Like that bared jagged root snagged on your brink, I’d abide
inside your relentless remaking. Eyes on a digital or hands
on a canvas covered with smooth strokes would never equal
the whole of me, mind, body, heart and soul, all immersed
in the whole of your eloquence greater even than my whole
world, you patient shale-shaper, finale of the Niagara River,
you Ice Age’s fossil water, you rhapsody of ancient glaciers
ever burgeoning into new birth, you under whose arcades
lovers sport crowned with bright sprays, you whose sheer
impetus splashes the sun’s and moon’s incandescent faces,
I keep calling you Whirlpool, Horseshoe, Luna Falls, Iris Falls
and you chant to purple clouds a booming Gravity is Grace.
Lucie Chou is an ecopoet working in mainland China. Currently an undergraduate majoring in English language and literature, she is also interested in the ecotone between ekphrasis and ecopoetics, and in exploring the magic presences of other-than-human living beings bleeding into the lonely arrogance of human experience. Her work has appeared in the Entropy magazine, the Black Earth Institute Blog, the Tiny Seed Journal website, The Ekphrastic Review, Transom, and in the Plant Your Words Anthology published by Tiny Seed Press. A poem is forthcoming in from Tofu Ink Arts, both in print and online. She has published a debut collection of ecopoetry, Convivial Communiverse, with Atmosphere Press. She hikes, gardens, and studies works of natural history by Victorian writers with gusto. In August 2023, she participated in the Tupelo Press 30 / 30 project where she fundraised for the indie press by writing one poem each day for a month. She writes for a constellation of brilliant readers hopefully including street trees and feral animals she encounters in each city she travels to.
Strands of darkening
an Ontario skyline
near Horseshoe Falls
sending frothy waves,
sheets of water
into the Niagara River,
as we stand
on the observation deck
at Skylon Tower
by its sheer force
its glow on a dark
June evening sky,
before we whisper
under the stars.
Dr. Jim Brosnan
A Pushcart nominee, Dr. Jim Brosnan is the author of Nameless Roads (2019) and Driving Long Distance (forthcoming 2024). His poems have appeared in the Aurorean (US), Crossways Literary Magazine (Ireland), Eunoia Review (Singapore), Nine Muses (Wales), Scarlet Leaf Review (Canada), Strand (India), The Madrigal (Ireland), and Voices of the Poppies (United Kingdom). He holds the rank of full professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI.
The first time it happened was on a family holiday when the parents piled the four of us into the back seat of our wood-panelled Plymouth station wagon, circa 1959.
I hear ya, the 4 Ds, what were they thinking?
We piled in, we were piled on, we were on a camping trip from Ottawa to see the falls, the mythical falls!
A long day journey with moi pleading car sickness so I could sit up front and not stay squished in the back with the squabblers. I know, you're wondering how can 4 kids be packed into the back seat of a station wagon: no problem: this trip was 20 years prior to that belt legislation. Plus, we had Heidi with us, a usually sweet dachshund, but cranky car companion. What were they thinking?
Am writing this in the throes of slouching towards 75, can't remember anything much about the actual road trip. But we must've played horses and cemeteries. You get points for horses you see in the fields and you lose all your points if someone yells 'cemetery'. This requires lots of I saw it first.
But I do remember the awestruckness of seeing the falls, feeling the mist, the magnetism of the cataract, the thunderous roar, the trembling...and the irresistible desire, more the irresistible need, to leap. To be one with the shoots, the flumes, the brume....
Even today, with small cascades, like Hogsback Falls on the Rideau River in Ottawa, I want to leap.
Anyone out there feel the same tug?
Perhaps Annie Edson Taylor did when she first saw Niagara Falls. To design and build a barrel, at age 63, and throw herself into the river and over the falls! We're talking a drop of 160 feet, a flow rate of 85,000 cubic feet per second! Though she was the first person to survive this remarkable feat, she was not the risk taker you might take her for: she sent her cat over the precipice a few days earlier, and he survived.
You? Would you go over Niagara Falls for fame and fortune?
Donna-Lee Smith resides in Montreal, Canada and has a hankering to leap.