Mama's River

Jeannette DesBoine

I could hear the rattle of conversation trickle across the muddy waters as mother and two of her sisters chatted, chuckled, and fished from a rickety old wood canoe.  I stood nearby; blindly staring as water-moccasins skimmed the dark water; encircling the boat as well as the edges of the make-shift shore upon which I had been deposited.

They were everywhere – the black snakes that walked the water like religious icons while I stood petrified where she had left me – to stand alone – and wait.  I watched the movement of the serpents with one eye and the movement of the sisters with the other. I didn’t move a muscle. I couldn’t.  

The water-moccasins did not seem to faze the women. They took no notice of the snakes or of me as they baited their hooks and dropped line after line into the treacherous North Carolina waters. Not one attempt was made to return to shore.  

I could feel my heart pounding. I tried to call to the little boat. I wanted to scream.... I thought I was screaming but no sound came out. My vocal cords constricted like my paralyzed limbs. Time stood still for the ceaseless hours that the women continued their fishing games and their idle conversation while the river swelled around me. Water sloshed into my shoes and onto my socks. Water rolled down my cheeks. Water drenched my inner thighs, ran down my legs and nipped my ankles. The ground disappeared from under me. Snake-filled dreams replaced the soil. Terror overcame me. I died in a pool of deep-black tears.   

The women say I was catatonic when they came to fetch me.  They remember it as the summer before my seventh birthday.  They laugh and joke and think it extremely funny story to tell...but, I don’t find it at all amusing!  Deeply etched onto my psyche is the crippling image of abandonment; of snakes; of terror; and, of the fact that (for all their efforts) not one of this triumvirate caught a single, solitary fish.   I say the joke is on them!    

Jeanette DesBoine admits to being “possessed by the love of words and haunted by the spirit of the printed page.” She describes herself as an English teacher by degree (UTEP), a writer by definition, and a poet with a passion for theater and spoken word.  She is currently working on her fifth book in the “book-a-year” commitment she made to herself ... “just because.” The first four publications are available at

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