The Harrison Freshet


A poem about Caroline Harrison [#64], daughter of Mary Martha Pelot [#33]

ÖMiss Caroline Harrison, an amiable young lady, was drowned when their home was swept into the river; also at the same time, her two brothers, Samuel and Independence Harrison, R. R. Merrill, Esq., a gentleman highly esteemed, reportedly engaged to Miss Harrison, and Mrs. Snowís young childÖ

- October 3, 1824 The Darien Gazette



The Harrison Freshet


The garden patch is lean and brown

With the brackish throat of the river

Where the marigold halo must drown

Like the sunset we never experience.


Within these eastern waters

Itís spring tide. I am gathering flowers, clothes.

The wind is whipping shirttails against bare legs,

A delicious breeze fills a gingham dress.


Itís just about dinnertime.A storm is coming.

We will board the windows and hold each otherís hands.

But first, Samuel has brought some fish and Sarahís

Baby is crying. The wind comes and goes.

Next Friday we will have a garden party.


The sky is India ink. Birds flee.

Even the absent drone of cicada

Seems loud as a train losing its head,

Pure and ripe as the new hornetís sting.


We are inside. The door is latched tight.

My brothers, sister, fiancť, the baby

Are safe with one curtain open tonight,

To view the spectacle. Time to say grace.


Before we close our eyes I want to look

Between the riverís surface and the trunks of trees;

To the twisting roots where they suddenly meet,

For that gray space missed, the place I cannot name.

It is too late, the light is flying backwards.

We have our faith and the Pole house on nearby hill.


But first I must serve the evening meal,

Want to hear my brother, Independence,

Play a fiddle tune. I want a holiday soon.

The rain pays us dearly now; our old roof

Creaks and wails beneath the sizzle on tin,

Mr. Baronís rooster just floated by in an old hat.

My lover, am I crazy? No.The catfish are frying:

Tonight we will have greens from my secret garden.


Sarah has gone to her child in a state.

The wind holds its old hand on my ear;

Lamp wicks burn low, almost blue.

My brotherís sit at table, they cannot speak.

Catfish linger on our best china plates

And yellow water has covered my feet.

Get the bible, I try to say but only think.


Fatherís portrait, roof and floor disintegrating,

The river calling us, taking back the wild

The premonition one gray evening hence,

My wedding day, our new river child.


There now, Iíve ruined this dress.

The deluge came in through the window

So cold, cold, but we are together.

The current enfolds, takes our home again.

Our hands, now ice-hands, still hold

Each other; our voices, like old feathers

Still find us brave above water.


Because there is another shore all golden

Always ahead, moving ever forward, we progress.

One summer we fashioned poles from stout trees

Not knowing in which hour they would be our release.


In every lightning flash we are beaded on the surface

Less human than before like the heathenís bag,

Shrunken heads bobbing near the shore.


We swim toward a hill: what is the purpose?

I can feel the river beneath my dress;

See grandfather watching us breathe our best?


The moon would be full in the west, devouring every minute

And the child has just been pulled from Sarahís breast.


There is no stopping this: we are over, under.

I never knew that spiders spun such glorious webs,

Filaments dazzle the eye. We move so slowly, we ebb.

And there are other creatures here this evening:

The paramecium, amoebae; Jacobís golden ladder,

Rotifers and swamp angel thrive in tiny droplets.


The hill is near. We swim with penny nails in hand,

Stout oak poles are here for safety and our reason.

I know, I know that catfish lay below

Us, smiling perhaps, this season.

Yes, my love. I know what youíre asking:

We have cherry cobbler for dessert,

The tea things for Friday are almost made.


Hold on, hold on; we have reached the pole,

But the river, the gray spaces in the trees

Love us so! We are the consumption

In this turbulent flow.


Samuel and Independence are fishing,

The wood is grinding into my skin;

Another childís lost. Donít die my love:


Become the rain driving down this tree-lined coast

On a future day that may remind someone of you

And I, all our kisses in the sun. Fly west my love,


Show them how we run.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††by John Allen Pelot Jr. [#953]


John is an English teacher and has published historical poetry in "The Sandhills Review."This poem was originally published in 1997 by the Sandhills Review (formerly the St. Andrews Revue) and was a runner up for the Ronald Bayes Poetry Prize. For any more information regarding this, inquires may be made to The North Carolina Writer's Network. John and his wife Martha live in Punta Gorda, Florida. He can be reached at