Poet Special: Works by Carol Lynn Grellas (June 2014 / 14.11)

Poet Special: Works by Carol Lynn Grellas (June 2014 / 14.11)

Carol Lynn Grellas

Opus in the Midst of Silence

Because he was my piano,
a place I called home; carved
from mahogany wood or angels,

an ivory shrine of intricate keys
held in perfect order from cheek to rim
that unlocked the song in me where

no melody ever played that way before.
Because his heart was a metronome
of beautiful secrets shared, a pyramid

for hidden tombs long buried but never
forgotten, his body unparalleled in regalia
no matter the agedness of sunlight’s

wear, or the unbearable shifting from lust
to relief that occurs when life takes over.
Because his voice was limitless

with a myriad of notes forcing memories
to pierce through that breath-dead harpsichord
yet once more, hoping to penetrate what used

to be, as if my same soul remained—
but because he was my piano, he was
a place I could sit and linger, lament

my way through old music and broken rolls
until rotating pins finally bore through,
became unfastened and a never-ending

roundabout of love pressed past
the bridge into some kind
of sacred vibration.


Requiem for the Sandman

Those were the days when men wore fedoras
and kissed their children goodbye in the early
hours of dawn. Women dressed in pill hats

like Jackie O and held their secrets in
peau de soie handbags. Inside, your father
paced the portico with a pack of cigarettes

and tipped the jasmine leaves with crackling
embers. Your mother’s fingerprints dotted traces
of Shalimar edging the locks of each unreachable

door. Goodbye notes were written within little
black books of three ring binders placed in a hope
chest, bungled or forgotten as time misremembers

everything. You can’t recall what happened
with his things, whether they were thrown
or given away, his body still from coldness.

There are days you hear your mother’s voice
so much so that when you speak, you wait
for her to answer. There are days you wait to see

your father walk through walls, become visible
again the way he’s promised in dreams. Don’t tell
your secrets to the world, be the light inside the sorrow,

be the gift within the morning. Know there’s always
an unplanned ending. Even now, you’ve never
been sure exactly how it went—

your father’s hands outstretched, chockfull
of another round of pills and you’re still
too small to knock them over.


Things I Can’t Remember to Forget

Your hair that clutched gardenias braided over
                                    jaundiced light from chandeliers
that flickered flame,
                 the girl who stood beside a deer
                                               atop the knoll,
                          the hours left to ponder
life’s eternal pause,
                         the way you held my hand
                 with body wilted,
           shadow dancers living through
a rounded shade,
                         prayers recited in the humdrum
                                               of the evening,
                 sparrows weeping
                         to the lonely sound of rain,
           limbs retaining one last leaf for you
to garner hope,
                         pages bent to every parable
                                                          inscribed with tears,
                                    twilights counted through
a steeple made of fingers,
                         your tongue weighted still
                 from too much left unspoken,
your body frozen with a lily laid upon your breast,
                         my poem tucked inside a drawer beside
                 your bed,
                         all the litany of answers never
found or given, everything remaining
                                               that you’ll never need again,
                 a midnight’s dying through the glory
of the dawn, the crossbar where a headboard
                         held a sunken pillow,
                                    an abandoned kitchen
                                                          with its row of empty chairs
                                               the sound of horses in your heart.



Forgive me, I have packed my bags−
my suitcase full of budding flowers,
pictures clipped from when you were
born, my pockets lined with daisy-
chain yellow bohemian tops
perfumed and worn. I am a peasant,
a wannabe wanderer, an orphan
in search of a long ago past
              missing the road to a place
grown over where lost saints sing
to the sound of bells. I am unfolding,
my skin smoothed pale for the first time
softened in years, your names
embroidered inside my soul, beautiful
              tattoos forever marked, a thousand
apologies for this silent goodbye, this
hushed hysteria brewing a lifetime,
before you were born.
              I am fatigued, a woman
exhausted, gardenias wilting behind
my eyes where no one sees the sadness
I’ve known; a place where promises
have alternative endings, a home
unfinished where no doors opened.
Tell your father I have no goodbyes
I’ll be back in the springtime, I’ve taken
the car.


The Cutting

You’ve forgotten the cape in the closet,
his request to pick up a handful of violets

a basketful of lavender; your grandmother’s
need for a kiss. The nearby lumberjack’s

severing axe and the cannibal’s willingness
to devour anything. You listen to strangers,

dream of happy endings, ignore the lock
on your mirror-backed door. You lie there

sleeping, the forest awake, the woodcutter
mindful, your penchant for red.

* * *

Author’s commentary:

With regard to the writing process, I try to find time each morning, usually an hour or more if the day allows. A portion of that is often devoted to reading poems written by some of my favorite writers and I do love to listen to old audio clips from poets like Randall Jarrell, Anne Sexton, or Sylvia Plath, to name a few. They put me in the mood to write, the cadence and the rhythm of their mellifluous voices. It’s a little bit like being seduced or hypnotized by just the sound of words. I do focus on my own work as well by either beginning a piece or at the very least working on one that’s already en route.
For me, the most challenging part of the poem is the opening or the first line. It’s like trying to find the correct key to a locked room. Once discovered, the door releases. I’m not always sure what I’ll encounter on the other side or who may show up, the for that matter, at least in a metaphorical sense. I also love what Dorainne Laux says in her book, The Poet’s Companion: “Poetry is an intimate act. It’s about bringing forth something that’s inside you— ”. I agree completely. There’s usually some introspection, meditation and a certain amount of vulnerability involved, even if I’m writing a persona poem. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to find my voice through a façade in order to improve perspective. I’m able to step back from myself. I don’t mean to say that I’m being impersonal by doing that but rather the opposite is true. By stepping back, I’m often able to become more inspired, removing barriers and breaking through my own boundaries.

I read a sumptuous interview of Billy Collins recently where he mentioned something about ‘starting small’ as a way of gaining what he called ‘authority in a poem.’ I took that to mean, being real, shedding the abstract as much as possible. I’m not a devotee of trying to figure out every nuance in a poem in order to comprehend the meaning and so I try to remember that in my own writing as well. I don’t want to put the reader in a moribund state of mind by getting caught up in the obtuse. I want to write poems that speak to the reader, poems with an enthralling message and a strong element of emotion.

There are days I’m exhausted from the whole process, especially if there’s been some unforeseen revelation. When I’m swept up in the moment and less self-conscious of writing, a symbiosis occurs, a perfect synergy between the muse and me, right in the middle of an ordinary morning when all of a sudden nothing seems mundane and sometimes if I’m lucky, something magical happens. I just need to remain present enough in my own head to capture it and jot it down.

Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is winner of the Red Ochre Press Chapbook contest with her entry Before I Go to Sleep. She has authored several collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in a wide variety of online and print magazines including The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, War, Literature and the Arts, Able Muse, Poets and Artists, and many more. According to family lore she is a direct descendent of Robert Louis Stevenson. Read more here.


About bluefifthreview

Blue Fifth Review, edited by Sam Rasnake, Michelle Elvy, and Bill Yarrow, is an online journal of poetry, flash, and art.
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1 Response to Poet Special: Works by Carol Lynn Grellas (June 2014 / 14.11)

  1. Diane Finleu says:

    Carol Lynn – I’m so moved by the words you write and the love so rich. Beautiful.

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