We had always lived here,

Near the river,

Where the rapid rush and flow

of water dashing over

the rocks was a constant sound,

As soothing at night as a lullaby.

None of us ever

feared the river

where we played

along the riverbank,

watching turtles sun themselves

on rocks and occasionally

spying a water moccasin

lift its head out of the water

to stare back at us.

The shoreline as strong and

filled with brambles and bushes

where blackberries grew

in wild profusion;

We’d pick bucketsful for mama

to make cobblers and jam.

I had never known fear of the river;

it was a constant companion–

Until one night when it began to rain

Heavy, drenching, pouring rain,

rain that saturated the ground

and continued to pour down,

day and night, with little let up.

Soon the river began to rise

while the rushing waters

continued southward.

The banks became covered

and all the bushes and brambles

disappeared into the muddy water.

Daily, mama and my brother Joey

and I watched the water rise

until it reached over our front porch

and mama said we had to go.

I stuffed all I could, my clothing and

books and old photos of mama’s

into an old suitcase and we drove

away from the river,

to stay with mama’s cousin, Beulah,

who lived some miles away,

high above the town and the rushing river.

The river reached flood stage and most of

the downtown stores were underwater.

Weeks passed before we could return home,

but when we reached our property, nothing

was there. The house and bushes and brambles

had all been washed away, and all I could see

as we looked around was a big old turtle

sitting on a rock. I think he was smiling as if

to say when everything else is gone, I’ll still

be here.


Sandra Lee Smith

originally posted June 8, 2009

Updated July 31, 2018

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