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Poetry

Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

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Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is an eight-time Pushcart nominee and a four-time Best of the Net nominee. In 2012, she won the 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 has authored numerous collections of poetry including her latest chapbook: “Things I Can’t Remember to Forget” Prolific Press 2017. She is the Assistant Editor for The Orchards Poetry Journal and according to family lore she is a direct descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson. www.clgrellaspoetry.com

The Exhaustion of Relentless Caring

When the mother says goodbye─
she is saying, I love you, look
both ways when you cross the street,
eat your peas and carrots, your name
is engraved in my eyes, you are all
I see, beware of strangers, there is
always a charming traitor
posing as your friend.

She is saying, tell me everything,
even things you’re too afraid
to share, because she’s grown
accustomed to worry, to hovering
over the kitchen sink, washing
the dishes and weeping.
She is saying, don’t be stupid
for the sake of convenience,
follow the yellow brick road,
there’s always a place called home.

When the mother says goodbye─
she is saying the world won’t be gentle,
won’t cradle you in its arms, won’t
rock you to sleep without nightmares,
won’t protect you from a nuclear war,
a certain apocalypse, water laced
with lead. She is saying bullets
are flying overhead or hidden
in the hands of madmen, and no
one will protect you from yourself.

She is saying all her nights
are spent in silent prayer, her days
calculating Christmases she has
left, presents still to wrap, gifts saved
for the future, decades from now,
even if she won’t be there.
When the mother says goodbye─
she’s making secret promises
to god, planning her good deeds
in exchange for karma, carving
your name on your skin, counting
up wishes and endless wondrous
things coming your way.

She is saying her life wasn’t sacred
until you were born as she kneels
beside her bed to pray, humbled
by a greater power, she is saying
she didn’t know joy until she saw
your face and she’s grateful
for your life. She is saying
everything about you is just so
beautiful it almost breaks her heart.

Prayer for the Unborn

Maybe you can change it ─
the way your mouth remembers
a kiss on the skin of an infant
the petal soft curve of a cheek
three drops of blood on the carpet
the way your legs quivered and bowed
the hum of lullabies echoing off mirrors,
hidden weeping save one stained
pillowcase and the incandescent candle
persistently lit near the statue of Mary
like an ache in the dark and the hope
of light between mornings

Turning the Car Around

When I’m driving my car,
I still hear my dad’s voice
say, turn around sweetie, follow
that guy on the motorcycle,
he knows the way, as if there was
some kind of grand payoff for
following a stranger in any direction
other than the one we were already
going. But that was his dementia
taking over and I knew better
than to listen to an old man whose head
was overrun with madness
and by the time I could have
explained it to him, he’d long forgotten
he’d ever questioned which route to take
home or that there was another way
to anywhere even here.
But now that he’s gone I wish at least
once I’d done what he’d asked,
followed that guy on the motorcycle
as if that guy knew the way, that guy
with the wind at his back and his engine
revved up with the rebellious sun gleaming
down like a flare in the middle the road
and our fumbling so desperately as we tried
to navigate those last few months of his life
and the loss of his memories,
and all that we hoped to hang onto
like some kind of desperate salvation
or escape from reality where the familiar
might keep us safe since neither of us
knew where the hell we were going.

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