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The Falling: Three Who Have Intentionally Plunged Over Niagara Falls With the Hope of Surviving

ISSUE:  Winter 2017


1. Annie Edson Taylor (1901)

Don’t hate me because I sent the cat first.
Darling, desperate times require—
well, they require.
I told the little girl who owned the cat 
I’d buy her a new one.
Days of waiting for a coin 
of mention in the newspaper. 
Days of waiting for wind—
for a sign, a purple swallow 
circling the falls in a figure eight.
Draw me a line of three corks  
and three holes so I can breathe in the barrel.
I thought I’d have all the floppy feathered hats 
a gal could hope for.

No one seems to realize I am a star, 
the original Queen of the Mist. 
Tell me: What does a soul 
look like after you dash 
a plump cat to smithereens?
All I have are beat-down tap shoes
(someone even stole my barrel!),
a feather, a snip of string.

But look at the elegant line 
of the arch of my foot, my boot,
how each hoop in my skirt 
sings when I walk. 
Isn’t that a picture?
Surely that’s worth a picture.


2. Charles G. Stevens, the Demon Barber of Bedminster (1920)

The right arm: 
only thing 
to be found.
It even waved
a little.


3. Steve Trotter (1985, 1995)

At age twenty-two, the youngest person to go over the falls successfully, and twice

In Tallahassee, you learn                    to make the drinks
real sweet. Sweet drinks                      equals  sweet skirts
to wait for you long after                     the bar closes. At the base, 
there are boulders—                            smoothed by years of drumming 
water. And somehow,                          you missed every single one. 
You’ve got a charmed life,                   a deer-bone amulet, 
and star-spangled shorts                    to cheer you on both trips. 
But even you know                              your boundaries. There’s a limit to 
how much you are able to                  ridicule her. Venus flytraps 
snap shut when the trigger hairs      are touched not once, but 
are tapped exactly twice. Look          at your life: It can count.
Two is good,                                           just enough, for you. 



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