I kin get ye across” the river man said,

On his raft with a pole in his hand,

As we watched the river rising, hour after hour,

Tearing loose trees, bridges and sand–

The raft looked too shabby,

For me and my kids,

and another unborn full of sign;

He couldn’t get us all in a single trip,

and I couldn’t leave no one behind.

Not to fret” he said, as though reading my mind,

I could cross this ol’ river if’n blind”

We watched as the river lapped at our door;

My children were hid, up in the rafters–

We’d either have to cross over today,

or surely drown and all go meet our maker.

I gave Saul the baby, tied tight to his chest,

Though he himself not yet a man,

I’m trustin’ you, boy” I said to my son,

“I’ll get these soon as I can”

I put them aboard and paid the old rafter,

With the last of my master’s gold spoons,

And watched them cast off and head for the shore,

by the light of a brand new full moon;

I never saw my son  or the baby again,

don’cha know they were sold to a slaver,

The river went down, we hid in the rafters

and prayed with the voice that God gave us.

On one side of the river, lay freedom, you know,

We was saved by an old Quaker preacher,

Who took us across, to Ohio, and safety,

Where we lived with him and his wife, her a teacher.

I shouldn’t have trusted that old river raft man;

I failed, and Oh, God! please forgive me!

A boy and a babe warn’t no contest for him,

He sold them both far down the river.

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted March 18, 2012

Updated September 1, 2018


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