This is a piece that I wrote in June, 2004. It started as a poem and grew and now I'm not sure what it is. I just know that I felt like I wanted to post it tonight.
The Mississinewa River used to come visit us once a year. The roiling brown water would crawl over the low banks, slide and slip down the small creek and flow across the fields.
We sat in our house on top of the knoll and watched.
The water crept closer on the west, rising up the lane, across the yard, into the garden, where it met itself creeping in from the east, on the other side of the house.
We could see the water advance, inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot, until all roads out were gone.
Dad would cuss, tell how those fools upriver had dredged the banks, caused the flood, ruined the flow.
My sister and I listened. We had no idea what dredged meant, we just wondered why those men were so mean, so stupid.
My baby brother wanted to go outside, meet our guest, play in the water, splash in the new pool that used to be our front yard.
Mom said, “No! The water’s dirty. You’ll get polio. You’ll drown.” Then she’d ask, “What are we gonna do, Red? What will we do?”
We had no phone. We had no way out. Our house was an island that grew smaller by the hour.
I remember the last year we lived there. My uncle Maurice rescued us with his small green rowboat. He came late in the afternoon and rowed us out to safety, two at a time.
We kids thought it was high adventure. We had tales to tell; we could boast at school, relive the drama, be brave when it was over.
Dad lost all the crops. We moved the next year, couldn’t afford to lose again. We moved far from the river to dry flat land.
Next year I read the paper. Mississinewa came to visit the farm again. She must have been distressed to find us gone. She came even closer to the house, looking for us. This time a helicopter came to save the family, to trump our story, to cheat us of glory.
I felt angry and sad and lonesome.
I think of these visits when I cross the Mississinewa now. My sister always said it was her river. She’d played in it and listened to its murmur and welcomed it to our home.
She’s gone now, dead these last three years. She can’t come to visit any more either.
I’m far from the river, far from home.
The river still flows through wide shallow banks and speaks when I pass over.