The Story of Big Mar

Suzy Harris

Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana

1. The Great Flood, 1927

In a muddy stretch of the Mississippi

about thirteen miles south of New Orleans,

the river curves at a place called Caernevon.

In this epic storm, the rich motor out

in their pleasure boats to watch dynamite

explode the levee, water roaring across the breech.

On the east bank, the water rolls over

truck farms and cattle ranches

already saturated with more rain

than anyone can remember.

Once land, now water.

Once orange trees, now alligators and muskrats,

bass and crappie,

coots and ducks, eagles and egrets,

even the irrigation canals submerged.

2. Hurricane Katrina, 2005

Over time, houses rise up next to Big Mar,

a cul de sac, and then a golf course,

a playground, more houses and lawns.

Now, almost eighty years after The Great Flood,

the water rises again,

seeping up through the split-levels,

busting doors and windows,

leaving rotted floorboards

mildew stained walls, mangled swing sets.

3. On an air boat, 2015

Down the road, a rebuilt house dressed in white

stands on new stilts twenty-one feet high

while its neighbor’s garage door still tilts unhinged.

The sky is as blue as a Van Gogh painting.

Egrets, terns, kites—swirling masses

of feathers and small brains—

keep watch, as a brown pelican

casts its broad shadow across the bow.

Here in Big Mar, sand, silt and mud

create newborn islands of land

where cypress, moss and willow

dig in their roots, hold their ground.

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Suzy Harris is a retired attorney. Her poems have appeared in Calyx, Rain, VoiceCatcher, Windfall, anthologies published by the Poetry Box, and an anthology called Come Shining: Essays and Poems on Writing in a Dark Time. She has several poems forthcoming in an anthology called Body Politic: Illustrated poems about the body and disability. She lives in Portland, OR.

Abby Michelini