The Story of Big Mar
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.