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Niagara Falls

Some half-wit Barnum, amateur Noah,
fashioned an arka—salvaged, broken barge—
to populate with creatures trapped or bought:
black bear, wolverine, a fox like a flame,

peacocks, possum, hogs, raccoon, wailing tribe
of forsaken dogs, weasel, skunk, even—
according to eyewitness reports—six
silver monkeys shipped by rail from New York,

God’s mange-thumbed menagerie chained to planks
that would have floated three runaway slaves
had not abolitionists threatened court.
Then Noah bid his bestiary good-bye,

the raft of lamentation set adrift,
its creatures more confused than crazed, almost
calm as the ark spiraled toward the maelstrom,
the waters’ vast uproar drowning weak cries,

white mists like shrouds enveloping the crew
while spectators whooped and scrambled both banks
and newsboys shifted beer a nickel a glass
till it perched midair on the precipice....

Folklore swears the bear survived, pummeled ashore
where men beat her with clubs and muzzled her,
then dragged that rough beast saloon to saloon
where drafts of whiskey were chugged down her throat.

By morning she lay a rank heap on State—
schoolchildren leapfrogged the raggedy corpse.
Then one cat was found, eyeless, legs broken,
so for the next decade tramps tortured strays

to sell them to tourists, farm boys, and Poles
as The Cat Swept Over Niagara Falls,
singular souvenir, His living hand,
New World miracle—only one dollar.

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Bibliographical reference

Michael Waters, « Commerce », Caliban, 19 | 2006, 301-302.

Electronic reference

Michael Waters, « Commerce », Caliban [Online], 19 | 2006, Online since 13 December 2016, connection on 26 May 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Michael Waters

Salisbury University, Maryland

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Licence Creative Commons
Caliban – French Journal of English Studies est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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