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.

Shipwreck

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)