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The Trenches We Dig


In New Orleans working on a novel where the main character, a little girl named Jazzy,

evacuates Katrina to her grandparent’s home in Jackson, Mississippi,

I’m studying maps of New Orleans to understand the storm surge

from Katrina

while I’m sitting in the Bywater neighborhood,

which is separated from the Lower 9th Ward by the Industrial Canal, where the storm surge breached the levee

on both sides, inundating this part of the city

(but not the Bywater because we’re higher ground), and

I cannot believe that civilization ever developed

on this water-surrounded spit of land,

the land’s secondary status exacerbated by

our determination to connect those engulfing bodies of water—

the Mississippi River,

Lake Ponchartrain,

the Gulf of Mexico

—with more water,

i.e. canals.

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