Poem of the Week | January 27, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Belle Isle” by Laura Romeyn!

Laura Romeyn is the author of Wild Conditions, winner of a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University (2015-2017), her poems have appeared in AGNI, Crazyhorse, Harvard Review, and The Yale Review, among other journals, and her writing has received support from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Born and raised in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region, Laura currently lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Belle Isle

A four-mile hike from camp and back
is mapped for me. Who made the map

wants me far from the edge of the shore
I track without my shoes on. And listen,

I know the woman this island was named for.
In a canoe, tied to a tree on shore

she bobbed until the bark of it became
the island I stand on. I arrive drowned

in cattails, flies, the tide at my feet.
A doe laps at scumwater, sips and picks

at dead fruit. The same fruit that grows
fresh above me. Suspended in trees

that shift and groan so the fruit seem
active. Unspool above a stream that runs

and runs. Where a canoe has been
hauled out. Where I slip into a coat,

the river’s. Fabric where the trees sing.
Where they stop and start. Call out

for me       then don’t       then do.


Author’s Note

For generations my family has been visiting Belle Isle in Detroit. It’s an island park: part swamp, part forest, truss-style bridges. There’s lots of local lore surrounding the ghosts of Belle Isle, some of whom beckon visitors into their canoes. I’m not sure that I’m a believer, but I had the idea to explore what it would be like to be tempted into the landscape, then ultimately, fully absorbed by it.