Bridging the Ontario Mississippi

Spring, 1823 John Hays, night-crossing, canoed
over the falls. Death by swift black current.
Men crossed the river with the seasons:
by boat, by ford, or over thick winter ice,

‘til the first timbered bridge rose in a town
of one grist mill, one saw mill, one school,
retail store, tavern (or two!) and one
“commodious Distillery.” And little more.

Over decades, spans rose and fell—
A railway bridge and one at the lower rapids,
while that old wood bridge shook from the shock
of spring freshet and the firings of cannon

until they laid foundation stones in water, brought
wrought iron from Glasgow. Built a fine new bridge that
sent the rattle of railings and rumble of planks
echoing forty years.

In 1899, Abram Morphy Jr. crossed to attend
his Aunt Rachel’s funeral and fell into the water.
Death by river when a bridge collapsed in the spring roar
of the mill falls. Last in a score of Mississippi drownings.

1957. The new section of highway routes to the south.
There’s a railway overpass, and the bridge across the Mississippi River
near the old Indian campground. Indians Landing.
No shake, no rattle, and no cannons firing.