Poem by Joan Jobe Smith

A navigable river in south central United States, 1,018 miles
long, it rises in the high plains in east New Mexico, flows east
crossing the Texas Panhandle and then becomes a boundary
between Texas and Arkansas, turns south in southwest Arkan-
sas and crosses the border into Louisiana, flows southeast a-
cross Louisiana into the Mississippi River into the Gulf of
Mexico and I was born in Paris, Texas, 30some miles from
the Red River and first time I saw it in 1953 it was brown
muddy as old chocolate when we drove over it in my father’s
new Ford Fairlane on Christmas Day to see my grandpa Old
Robert dying of TB in an Oklahoma hospital, my grandma Nora
weeping in the back seat beside me. I had to wait in the cold car
with the dog, little kids made old folks sick they said and on the
way back to Paris crossing over the Red River again my grandma
Nora told us about the big flood of 1914 when a big old 100-year-
old pecan tree like that big one over there fell over into the river.
Folks came for miles to save it, an Eiffel Tower, its roots Goliath
arms reaching for the sky. Hundreds of folks pulled and pushed
and tugged and heaved ropes tied to the tree trunk and branches
while the Red River raged wild and turned maroon and almost
drowned a lot of them. For days the folks camped out, stubborn
as only Texas and Oklahoma homesteaders can be and they saved
it just fine and come spring of 1915 the pecan tree rewarded the
folks with the biggest bumper crop ever known, horns of plenty
of plenty of pecans, three thousand pecan pies it must’ve made,
all the women doubling up pecans in each pie, four cups instead
of two, to float on top the brown sugar custard, not one pecan
orphan losing its way from that tree, not one pecan gone afloat,
uneaten Ishmael down below in that dirty old Gulf of Mexico.

Photo: “The Red River” by spysgrandson