Round: Mirrors of Bagram
He can’t speak, but learns that he can sing
his wishes, the brain’s right hemisphere remembering
melodies for “Go away,” “Come back.” His wife
stands beside him, mirroring his life,
spooning his medicine. She recalls him like someone
else, a man lost to an IED outside of Bagramin ’07, a man who remembers nothing
until the therapist comes with her singing
book, her specially strung machines
with melodies to call back the brains
of patients shaken loose outside of Bagram—
men who sing their wishes with perfect aimbut whose words go nowhere, off the scale
in a mirror’s infinite regression. It’s all
his wife can do to stand beside him, the other
man who could have ordered his thoughts before
the blast unstrung his wishes. Bagram’s mirrors
crack, he rocks and rocks, his memories’ ordersshake the scales, but his arms are ghost limbs
stringing no other instrument. The singing programs
ache in his brain, his wishes are measureless
against the shakes within. His wife addresses
him from the mirror, that other life. Her voice breaks
but he sings to her because he cannot speak.
Copyright © 2017 by Carolyne Wright
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Carolyne Wright’s anthology, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace (Lost Horse Press, 2015), received ten Pushcart Prize nominations and was a finalist in Foreword Review’s Book of the Year Awards. She has nine earlier poetry volumes, five books of poetry in translation from Spanish and Bengali, and a collection of essays; and has received Fulbright, NEA, 4Culture, and Seattle Arts Commission fellowships. After returning to her native Seattle in 2005, Wright has taught for Richard Hugo House; for the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA Program; and for Antioch University Los Angeles MFA Program.
This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems brings together the most powerful and resonant poems of Carolyne Wright’s books and chapbooks to date—from the lyrical mapping of inner life and the human nexus in Stealing the Children (1978); to poems of witness set in Allende’s Chile and in Brasil under military dictatorship in Seasons of Mangoes and Brainfire (2005); to the adventures of an audacious, bodacious, ‘gregarious loner’ alter-ego featured in Mania Klepto: The Book of Eulene (2011); to the new poems of “Mute Sister,” a sequence.
“Carolyne Wright’s poems connect the personal and political and walk the difficult edge of poetic lyricism and social engagement. They are poems that search for “a language between us” in which personal loss becomes a metaphor for an injured and debilitating world where political violence and conflict keep us from fulfilling ourselves in meaningful ways. For her, our lives are often drifting and “unfinished” in this world of divisions. Yet while she refuses to pretend that lives of great suffering and sorrow don’t exist and aren’t costly, she often enacts those complex, particular moments when the oversimplifications of political ideologies run up against the strange power of our individual lives.”
“The language of Carolyne Wright’s poems is as rich, diverse, and bursting with life as the natural world of the coastal Northwest she calls home; but her home is the world, much of which she has traveled. Her poems engage that larger world and the lives of its citizens, their history, turmoil, and jeopardy. Hers is a poetry both of celebration and of sober courage.”
“Like the first line in the title poem, the haunting poems in Carolyne Wright’s wide-ranging collection won’t let us go. Beginning with a new sequence of deeply moving elegies about her mute sister, whose presence was kept a secret, these poems grab hold, taking us back through the decades. But this isn’t a nostalgic journey; rather, Wright’s subjects range from Luna moths to César Vallejo. Deftly employing witty word play in a variety of forms—from acrostics to ghazals to pantoums—this collection interweaves voices and cultures, vividly showing “this dream the world” and reminding us of poetry’s role in bearing witness to what can’t, but must, be spoken.”
—Holly J. Hughes