HomeSouthern VoiceThe Caloosahatchee – A River In Florida

The Caloosahatchee – A River In Florida

by Patricia Lewis Speir

Eerie shadows spread across the narrow, twisty river,
reflections, perhaps, of a Calusa Indian’s spirit
lingering in the dense cypress and palmetto hammocks
readying his canoe of yellow pine.
Reflections, perhaps, from senile oak trees
that once hugged the river’s banks —
their sprawling gray limbs reaching
into the churning black water,
their shrouds of moss pulled into mysterious vortexes,
down to buried memories
of ocean life, of roaming mammoths.

This once feral river succumbed to the destiny of progress,
to a kind of carnage that tamed and controlled —
its soulfulness dredged
and dumped like garbage,
its delicate bends that took centuries to carve
were straightened,
its enchanted fingers, lush and full of life,
were drained and left to die —
for pleasure seekers speeding past life
on sweltering summer days.

Exploring a small creek to see where it went,
digging with bare hands into the cool mud
for fossils that tell stories —
too small an adventure now
when in the palm of your hand
a gadget can hold the world.

A fifth-generation Floridian, Patricia Lewis Speir is from La Belle, a cozy, small town located in south Florida between Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers.  The Caloosahatchee River, part of the Intracoastal Waterway, was and continues to be La Belle’s feature attraction. “In the 1950s, leisure time with family was often spent on the Caloosahatchee in a small boat pushed along by a sputtering Evinrude,” says Speir. “I learned to water ski while keeping alert for submerged alligators and water moccasins. On hot afternoons, I met friends at ‘branches’ or ‘holes,’ pools of water formed by springs that were connected to the river by tributaries. It was common to find fossils, shark’s teeth and Indian Head coins washed up along the riverbank.” Speir  now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she completed a BA degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Apartment Living
  • Richard / April 21, 2013

    This Floridian loves it.

  • John / April 21, 2013

    Love the imagery in this piece and its pastoral quality. As a Florida kid, my next door neighbor, Todd, used to go every year to LaBelle (which he pronounced LAH-bell) for a fishing trip. I was always kind of intrigued by that notion; fishing in a place with a weird name. He might as well have been going to Mars. Imagine my disillusionment when I actually visited LaBelle much later as an adult! Great Florida poetry; keep it up!

  • Olivia / April 22, 2013


  • Regan / April 24, 2013

    What a great poem! “succumbed to the destiny of progress” has to be my favorite line. If I cose my eyes, I can imagine this place in my mind. A place that carries the remnants of long ago. Your description encourages the traveller in me to contemplae a visit to touch the senile oak trees myself.

  • Kimberly / May 1, 2013

    I’ve been taken back to Grandma’s house on the river, swimming in the water on Christmas Day, racing to see who will get to the other side first. Sitting with Mom and Aunt Pat close to the dock watching the boats pass, I can almost smell it! Thank you for the ride back in time!