A full-length poetry collection begun in residence at A Studio in the Woods in New Orleans, Ecotone gives voice and life to a unique endangered landscape: a bottomland hardwood forest on the south coast of Louisiana currently under threat from environmental degradation and invasive species. Recently completed, the manuscript is currently under review. An interview with Susan Larson on WWNO’s The Reading Life is available here; more information from the Studio is available here.
Washing day. We packed our things
and, leaving camp, headed south along
the river, where just outside of town,
a quiet stretch of bank had become
an unofficial gathering point: families
basked and swayed in the breeze,
indifferent to the cries of the city behind
them, their children let loose to run
along the sandy quai. As at the well
one could relax, caressed by the swells
of the waves from the passing ships—
skiffs, mostly, with the occasional sloop
or catamaran acting as ferries
for those who wished to be carried
to the distant bank, or back upriver.
In all our days combined we had never
seen a river of such size:
it stretched almost to the horizon,
our eyes straining toward the opposite shore,
but the locals assured us that we were
not mistaken, it was not a lake,
and that its current would take
even the strongest swimmer to its bed
in an instant. We must have seemed
unsure, for one young lady—
just of schooling age—gaily
took our hand and led us further down
the shore, where the sand turned
to gravel, then to shingle,
then to rock. Noon, and the angle
of the sun hung like a sword
above our heads. Without a word
she brought us around a final bend,
our shoes shredded from one end
to the other, reeking of the rotting fish
we had stepped over and through, sliced
open by the propellers of the boats
and washed ashore. Our throats
caught—not at the scent—
but at the sight.
Before us lay the scattered wrack
of countless vessels on the rock,
a graveyard of ships which had foundered
on the inland shoals, wandered
lamely upriver in search of aid,
were hurled instead at speed
onto land by the torrential current.
Oars, rudders, planks and hulls, errant
nameplates and scraps of flags,
rigging still tethered to its ties, bags
of waste from the lower galleys,
rope coiled in dark knots, alleys
of shattered wood, a handful
of loose rivets—iron and steel
alloy—strewn about, so young
they had not even begun to rust.
The wind picked up, brought a thick salt tang
along with it. The young woman’s long
hair fanned over her face in the breeze,
occluding her level gaze.
The Directorate forbids traffic at night, she said.
But some people just wish to be dead.
(published in Dark Mountain Journal Volume III, 2012)