Carolyne Wright

“This dream the world is having about itself….”

–William Stafford

won’t let us go. The western sky gathers
its thunderclouds. It has no urgent need

of us. That summer in our late teens we
walked all evening through town–let’s say Cheyenne–

we were sisters at the prairie’s edge: I
who dreamed between sage-green pages, and you

a girl who feared you’d die in your twenties.
Both of us barefoot, wearing light summer

dresses from the Thirties, our mother’s good
old days, when she still believed she could live

anywhere, before her generation
won the War and moved on through the Forties.

As we walked, a riderless tricycle
rolled out slowly from a carport, fathers

watered lawns along the subdivisions’
treeless streets. We walked past the last houses

and out of the Fifties, the Oregon
trail opened beneath our feet like the dream

of a furrow turned over by plough blades
and watered by Sacajawea’s tears.

What did the fathers think by then, dropping
their hoses without protest as we girls

disappeared into the Sixties? We walked
all night, skirting the hurricane-force winds

in our frontier skirts so that the weather
forecasts for the Seventies could come true,

the Arapahoe’s final treaties for
the inland ranges could fulfill themselves

ahead of the building sprees. We walked on
but where was our mother by then? Your lungs

were filling with summer storms, and my eyes
blurred before unrefracted glacial lakes.

Limousines started out from country inns
at the center of town, they meant to drive

our grandparents deep into their eighties.
Our mother in her remodeled kitchen

whispered our names into her cordless phone
but before the Nineties were over, both

of you were gone. Mother’s breath was shadow
but her heart beat strong all the way in to

the cloud wall. You carried your final thoughts
almost to the millennium’s edge, where

the westward-leaning sky might have told us
our vocation: in open fields, we would

watch the trail deepen in brilliant shadow
and dream all the decades ahead of us.

In memory of my sister


“This dream the world is having about itself…” was winner of the Firman Houghton Award, published in The Iowa Review, reprinted in The Best American Poetry 2009 and in The Pushcart Prize XXXIV: Best of the Small Presses.


Carolyne Wright has published nine books and chapbooks of poetry, a collection of essays, and four volumes of translations from Spanish and Bengali. Her latest book is Mania Klepto: the Book of Eulene (Turning Point, 2011). Her previous collection, A Change of Maps (Lost Horse Press, 2006), finalist for the Idaho Prize and the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the PSA, won the 2007 IPPY Bronze Award. Seasons of Mangoes and Brainfire (Carnegie Mellon UP/EWU Books, 2nd edition 2005) won the Blue Lynx Prize and American Book Award. She is editing an anthology on women and the work place for Lost Horse Press. A Seattle native who studied with Elizabeth Bishop and Richard Hugo, Wright has been a visiting writer at colleges, universities, schools, and conferences around the country. She moved back to Seattle in 2005, and teaches for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts’ Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA Program, and for Hugo House.