Two poems by Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

It Was Then

It was then when I paused at the driveway’s
entrance and saw the owl perched on the highest

branch of the magnolia tree, far-flung
across the street—

then when clouds tore into soft bits of scalloped
white throughout the sky like jagged tiny bones—

then when my heart felt too full and too empty
at once, when I remembered my mother’s kiss,

and my aunt’s hand on my cheek—
then when it seemed as though I’d fallen back

in time to a place of schooldays, green plaid skirts,
and nuns tapping blackboards with a ruler

for young scofflaws in uniform with disregard
for the rules of convent days—

then when the Korean War was mentioned
by my father, who learned to clean a bazooka

between love letters sent home, saved
in my mother’s nightstand drawer—

then when agapanthus grew rampant across
the unfenced yard, when children played spud

on the blacktop in the center divide,
tiny derelicts without a care—

it was then when I remembered abortion
clinics on 1st street, and protestors lining walks

while standing beside Melanie as she waited
to be seen— then when I took her home

embryo free her womb filled with guilt for becoming
motherless at 17— then when JFK was shot

and Martin Luther King said he had a dream—
then when San Francisco meant stephanotis
in your hair, hitchhikers with torn jeans and antiwar
slogans more prevalent than yellowed mustard seed

on a summer’s hill— then when I learned to say goodbye
to a soldier with bad numbers calling in a lottery

of young men— then while seeing that bird in all
its glory, clap the wind with wings as if infinity

had unclaimed its boundlessness— then when
serenity rustled past me as I sat in the driver’s seat

of my car thinking, I don’t want to be anywhere
but here, knowing as I thought it, as daylight’s breath

traveled from my windpipe to lungs, everything
I’d just mourned and celebrated had moved on,

even the owl, who’d I’d been sharing this moment with,
opened his feathers in silent flight, as if to say,

it’s over. And it was then when he rotated
his head in search of tomorrow’s prey, something

to savor like the tiny cat that crept
beneath that tree—just then, swallowed

whole and regurgitated, with all
that can never be kept.

Homage to This Heart

This heart is half wing and song,
part of each child carried from
womb through daylong

gatherings of gardenias.
This heart is fuller when it doesn’t
have to be—

when no one’s counting on it,
it plays hide and seek with its owner—
and doesn’t cry in public but weeps

on a pillow during nighttime hours,
holds secrets of belladonna remedies
to anyone who can’t be kind— it’s like

a miniaturist’s piece of art but essential
to the rest of me, even when it wills
itself to a piqued state. It thrives

on a lexicon of love, twists in and out
of madness. It’s a scar-filled amputated
bionic thing, with a bright flare inside

and not even the cruelest death
in spring can stop its craving for light

Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas lives in the Sierra Foothills (CA) and is currently enrolled in the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA in Writing program. She is an eleven-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a seven-time Best of the Net nominee. In 2012 she won the Red Ochre Chapbook Contest, with her manuscript, Before I Go to Sleep. In 2018 her book In the Making of Goodbyes was nominated for The CLMP Firecracker Award in Poetry, and her poem A Mall in California took 2nd place for the Jack Kerouac Poetry Prize. In 2019 her chapbook An Ode to Hope in the Midst of Pandemonium was a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. Her latest collection of poems Alice in Ruby Slippers, a book of form, was just released from Aldrich Press and has been selected in Sundress Publication’s, The Wardrobes Best Dressed. Her work can be found online and in print and has been recently featured in Mezzo Cammin and Verse Daily. She has served as the Editor-in-Chief for the Orchards Poetry Journal and Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Tule Review Her work has been included in the Saratoga Authors Hall of Fame and according to family lore she is a direct descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson. Her website is clgrellas poetry.com

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