I’m Not John Muir, I Just Wish I Was

I had every intention of writing
a poem for Niagara Falls.

Only I can’t, because words still won’t come
I wish they would, but I’m still struck dumb,
awestruck, leaving anything of substantial merit
plummeting into whitewater rapids suspended.
Empty pages drenched by spittle from the falls.

There can’t be any words, not really now that it’s done.
Maybe John Muir in his infinite wisdom would find some.
Alas I love the outdoors, but am still left with none.
No grand metaphors for the falls, no grand simile
for the sense of confounding wonder they stirred in me.

My stony silence spills out onto dampened stone,
as another Asian tourist hands me their new iPhone.
Twenty pictures in two hours or more, as the sun sets
and my jeans grow wet as the chill creeps along my thighs.
Just me, myself and I, glancing back by the roadside,
back to Niagara in the distance, the landlocked tide.

I think you had to be there, shrunken like I was,
soul submerged under the falls and cascading outwards
onto the Maid of the Mist, soaking those stood starboard
and then soaring up above the falls to a starry stratosphere –
eternal elation spurred by awesome expectations.
Realised
while my feet are still planted on the pavement by the water.
My being, the essence of my self ignited and awoken.

That was everything, all at once.
In a flood a thousand litres strong. This is still everything.
And I was lucky to be there. I’m lucky to be here,
Niagara’s thunderous applause echoing in my ear,
spurring me on from the rear, willing me forwards,
warming cold bones from a foreign time zone.
Back home. I flew out the next day with Jet Blue
with memories of water falling from a horseshoe, jet blue.

That was everything, all at once, landing in Birmingham,
in love with life but disappointed not to have seen Jim and Pam.

Toronto, June 2016

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