Lake Chelan Trail
A thin brown line stretches
across a hillside of lodgepole pine,
leading from here
to somewhere, this trail the width
of my body wends along the deepest
of North Cascade lakes. Our days
of respite mingle with harshness
of charred stumps from old
forest fires. Some desires ripen
into fruit, others haunt like magic
in a tree. I once spent a summer
yearning for a boy and his promises
to appear in my mailbox. This trail
a desire at fruition. The ferry drops us
mid-lake, a tawny young man pulls
up the gangplank. The boat’s chug fades
as we hoist our packs. To embrace
a yearning is to let go. We’ve forgotten
playing cards, wristwatches. Thoughts slow,
words too. We are filled with breath.
Sudden rain leaves only brief traces
on arid land. Tracks of deer,
mountain goat soften into mud,
dry quickly and harden. Gullies of green
claim the moisture, slurp deep. An American
flag on a pole burrowed into giving earth,
a beer cooler and youth claimed
the campsite we’d hoped for. We continue
in amethyst dusk, past a black bear foraging
in the woods. She looks up. Dusk pulls
us to a deserted lodge, two claw-foot bathtubs
on the deck overlooking a lake melting
into vast shadows.
The bath water hot, we shed
packs, no longer bothered by lack
of playing cards, settle in with meteors
streaking across jeweled heavens.
Simons’ “Lake Chelan Trail” is comprised of twelve triplets stanzas and one single-line stanza at the end. This structure emphasizes two different feelings of enjambment, with short pauses between lines and with longer pauses between stanzas. This poetic device allows the reader to explore multiple avenues of meaning created by her words. She writes, “To embrace/ a yearning is to let go. We’ve forgotten/ playing cards.” The double use of enjambment here creates a juxtaposition between the warm image of a hug, a sense of freedom and forgetfulness, and the trifle of leaving playing cards at home, all in so few words. Here there is a greater separation between the concept that is forgotten and the playing cards, initiated by the space between stanzas. In another example of enjambment, the speaker shares a fond memory of “a summer [spent] /yearning for a boy and his promises” conveying both nostalgia and a present appreciation for nature. This light confession creates a conversational tone, like one friend reminiscing with another.
The sound patterns in these poems are likewise noteworthy. Simons’ lines are sprinkled with occasional rhymes such as “A thin brown line stretches/ across a hillside of lodgepole pine” and “forest fire. Some desires ripen.” These lines also place prominence on the sound of the 'i" within several of these words. Perhaps chosen simply for a pleasant repetition, perhaps to evoke thought on the speaker and the reader as the "i". Additionally, many of her stanzas begin with prepositions, with only three lines starting at the beginning of a sentence. This adds to the dimension of enjambment and the feeling that the poem flows continuously. Parallel structures occur as she begins four consecutive lines with “of,” all echoing back to a comparison to the trail’s width. These choices of form foster a smooth, continuous sound across the poem.
Simons makes use of structure and sound in various ways in her construction of this poem conveying a place in central Washington, specifically the Lake Chelan Trail, but also an experience and a sense of being that sprouts from this place. These aspects of form create a distinct feeling unique to the author, while conveying a shared sense of wonderment in nature and a conversational tone between the speaker and the reader. The poem allows for a connection, for those Pacific Northwesterners who are familiar with the majestic scenery and rugged experiences the wilderness has to offer.
By Alexandria Spofford
Suzanne Simons Biography
Originally from Indiana, Professor Suzanne Simons now lives in Olympia, Washington and teaches at the Evergreen State College. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Sociology, Simons went on to earn a Master of Arts in West European Studies, an education certificate, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry. Simons is interested in using poetry as an agent for social change, environmental awareness, and empowering marginalized groups.