The Tower Journal

Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

Dialing 911 After Finding Her Mother Comatose?

Because her mother’s drawer was left half
open, stuffed with love letters saved from 1954,
notes her dead father had written long ago,
saved with old bubblegum wrappers

folded neatly inside, like origami birds tucked
deep in the pages of an aging Bible. And because
they’d drawn hearts with their initials in ruby ink,
and since it happened to be the last day of July,

her father’s birthday though no one remembered
since he’d been gone for years, and because
her mother was sickly with an incurable disease,
her breath a kind of pardon in midair, words buried

within, robbed of her voice or even the want to say,
‘this is a beautiful day,’ was this an emergency
a reason to dial 911? Empty bottles of valium
strewn across the floor like a sad story of doomed

soldiers gone to war, with no one to come home
and save that which was beyond saving.
Should she put her mouth to her mothers, force
the whoosh of air, unaware of minutes to the ending,

on the edge, almost done, nearly there? She recalled
her mother’s old stories from childhood days
of Mary Janes, of kettle fires at Christmas,
prayers in the garden, of dancing in toe shoes

and crinoline gowns, of orchids in moonlight,
of strolls through Chinatown, of tuberose mornings
and glass pressed flowers, dinners on the table,
crystal in cabinets, one husband returning from battle,

of brothers dying, of money kept in cookie jars,
of things to look forward to, of things to dread,
of being without, of being within, of horoscopes,
birthdays with more yet unsaid, and she laid

on the bed, right next to her mother, placing one
ear to her chest and still heard a heartbeat, a drum
in the distance, like a train going home, so she
waited a moment, then picked up the phone.

Madcap Thoughts

The poet is a storyteller
The poet is a dreamer
The poet is not a poet
The poet is a string quartet
The poet is a violent rant
The poet is eating ice-cream
The poet is lost at sea
The poet died in everyone’s death
The poet is alive in a field of poppies
The poet eats from the palm of your hand
The poet hates what cannot be loved
The poet knows well of nights by the river
The poet is able to get out of chores
The poet will tell you a truth through a lie
The poet will tell you a lie through a truth
The poet drinks champagne cocktails
The poet sleeps with a cat on her head
The poet lives inside a sparrow’s nest
The poet despises war and violence
The poet tells her mother it will all work out
The poet knows of graveyards with her ear to the ground
The poet knows of heaven with her hand almost held
The poet is familiar with views on infinity
The poet finds each night an almost suicide
The poet finds each day a glorious madness

Death of the Old House on Lancaster Street

It seemed like a dream when she gazed past
windows where lilies wept over worn picket
fences in the act of grieving. She covered

her ears and heard echoes soft as silhouettes
through punctuating darkness and the tick
of clocks where opened doors bordered

emptied porches, save the half-light
from sconces like angels christening the dark.
She remembered how she used to swing

from an upside-down arc suspended on rope
with its back and forth motion, an aide-mémoire
of leaving and entering, beginnings and ends,

the hypnotic rising of saints through shadows
where beneath the lamplight of her bedroom
window she’d stumbled asleep in a coverlet

of flowers, with no one to cry to, where a rosary
used to hang in papery blues over fingerprint
markings from children now grown.

Her old house, a forgotten prayer or a midnight
death, when no one’s there.

Copyright © 2018 Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is an eight-time Pushcart nominee as well as a four-time Best of the Net nominee. She is the 2012 winner of the Red Ochre Press Chapbook contest with her manuscript Before I Go to Sleep. She has authored several chapbooks along with her latest full-length collection of poems: Hasty Notes in No Particular Order, released from Aldrich Press in 2013. 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 Artsand many more. According to family lore she is a direct descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson. 

The Tower Journal
Summer  2018