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Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

CarolLynnCarol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is the 2019 finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Award with her manuscript An Ode to Hope in the Midst of Pandemonium and winner of the 2012 Red Ochre Press Chapbook contest with her manuscript Before I Go to Sleep. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of online and print magazines including The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, Poets and Artists, War, Literature and the Arts and many more. She is a nine-time Pushcart Prize nominee as well as a seven-time Best of the Net nominee. She has had several collections of poetry published including On the Edge of the Ethereal, Aldrich Press and In the Making of Goodbyes, Clare Songbird Publishing House. Her book Epitaph for the Beloved, will be released later this year from Finishing Line Press. She is a member of the Saratoga Authors’ Hall of Fame and the Sacramento Poetry Center Board of Directors. According to family lore, she is a direct descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson or at least her mother says so.

Leap Year

When she shares her secrets, you might judge
her for loss of time—staccato memories, recounting
calamity with the hush of a sparrow’s last breath,

her lungs emptied of prayers after a stuttering
of darkness, shadows lurking in the corner of her eyes.
Don’t worry about the scars on her skin, the long

tear of her body’s broken wing, the forever stain
of bruises on the tops of her feet, bones snapped
and butterflied, stapled back together like a robot

in a child’s toybox, there are stiches for torn flesh,
titanium plates for jagged bones, but how to give back
the unbrokenness—make her whole again?

And when she wakes at night her mind powerless
to her body’s recall, she will tell you, it’s nothing.
She will pick feathers from her pillow and try to make

a nest for sleeping. A safe place to cushion
the restlessness of unsaid pain. She isn’t quite the same,
her writing a scribble, a nervous twist of cursive,

a quill paralyzed with despair. On a bad night,
her husband will hold her still, there, there, he’ll say
and bend her tremors towards him, to the soft hollow

of his core, close her eyes, and whisper a fairy’s song
in her ear. She feels safe when he’s near. But now
and then the darkness murders her once more,

betrays her sense of calm, and a killing takes place
until she opens her eyes when she’s like a book
without a name, a handful of pages ripped

from the middle. That’s the problem
with almost dying; it keeps happening
again, and again and again.

Handful of Stallions at Twilight

For my father, Army Corporal 7 Ordnance, Korea
Golden Gate National Cemetery Plot: 2C 4599

Thoughts on what’s left behind—

The memory of a houseful of mourners,
my aunt as she opened the freezer, saying—

Be strong for your mother, here
are dinners for the next 100 days.

Our old dog Blackjack who slept
on your favorite pillow. The two years

he napped there as if you’d come home
then died in the loneliness of waiting.

I still remember the hollow of your eyes,
how shadows lurked through a haze of brown.

What voice must have said, there’s no more
happiness, surrender, take this handful of pills.

They say heroes die in the battle, do some
face the enemy once they’ve come home?

And where are your medals, your ribbons
of honor for winning a war?

Here, this souvenir, this gathering
of stars, this American flag that covered

your casket while buglers played
the day you were buried to the sound of Taps.

I’ve saved your drawings, your pictures
of stallions, and notes that you scribbled,

your jumbling of thoughts. Did you write
the answers on the bark of a tree?

Will it one day rot, too weak to stand, fall
onto itself against the cold earth, its canopy

of leaves splayed over ground, your sadness
removed where a cluster of dandelions rise

wild and free? Who will know the sorrow
that came to you? Or was it joy—

a vison of angels carved from stone,
a golden gargoyle adorned at the gate?

When I found you, your cheek still kissable,
skin the shade of water and sleep,

but too much time had passed to save you.
What life is so eclipsed by grief

death becomes a wanted thing? Was your last
goodnight an escape or apology?

Did you see an opening through a pinhole
in sky, a path beyond dark to moonlight?

Maybe you hoped someday I’d follow?
Was death so sweet a promise no daughter

could call you back? In my dreams your horse
gallops on the meadow, the one you drew

from a black and white sketch. Sometimes
you’re the rider; sometimes there’s just a horse…