Jimmy was a dreamer, a handsome James Dean kind of guy.
Jimmy decided at 17 he was in love, so he eloped with his child bride
and kept it a secret until nobody would question her age.
He loved his bride and she loved him. They had a baby
daughter who was a dreamer too.
Jimmy had tiny flecks of gold in his eyes that looked like the sun
had burned right through them. Sometimes he wore a patch.
Jimmy loved to dream but he loved his child bride and daughter
more than any dreamer would think possible.
When Jimmy was 20 he was drafted in the Korean War.
He didn’t like war so he pretended he was blind in one eye
and when that didn’t work he bought a sunlamp and stared
into the light for 29 minutes a day
Jimmy was never really blind in either eye but his dreams
began to be slightly blurred.
When the army said he could still see well enough to kill
a man, Jimmy went off to war.
Years went by and he sent love letters home to his child bride
and daughter who were both growing up, alone.
Some of the letters spoke of the things he missed most
from back home. All of the letters had a pencil sketch
of wild horses running through a field.
When Jimmy returned from Korea he was different. He stayed
out all night and played cards. He drank a lot of whiskey
because his dreams were more like nightmares.
He went to strip-clubs and bars parading around with prostitutes
or cheap whores according to his child bride.
He started talking about the men in his platoon.
He wore a fedora with a long duck feather wedged beneath
the black satin ribbon.
Jimmy loved Winston cigarettes.
Sometimes Jimmy drew horses but they weren’t running free
anymore. They looked sickly, their heads hung down, their tails
never flowing in the wind.
Jimmy’s mother was concerned. She asked the doctor
to straighten Jimmy out. She ordered electric shock therapy
to get rid of his nightmares.
Jimmy told his daughter he was being followed. He said people
slipped things in his drinks. He said he chewed bubblegum
to get rid of the taste.
He started hallucinating. His dreams were not dreams anymore.
Jimmy couldn’t tell the difference between his child bride
and a cheap whore.
He acted funny, told his daughter not to look at his eyes.
Not to stare at the sun and never trust anyone, especially
other men with fedoras who started hanging around after
hours leaving ashes on the steps.
Jimmy liked to smoke but those ashes weren’t his. Jimmy
feared for his life and his family’s lives too.
He began to lock the doors feeling paranoid.
He wrote crazy stories in a secret black binder.
One night, Jimmy took an overdose of sleeping pills
His daughter found him with his eyes closed.
Jimmy didn’t need a patch anymore.
When they buried Jimmy they draped his coffin
with an American flag. His daughter kept it with his drawings
of horses, the ones with their tails whipping through the wind.
Years later someone told the family that Jimmy was in a special troop.
That the government had given him LSD in something they called
* ‘Operation Midnight Climax.’
Jimmy had been part of an experiment that went terribly wrong.
Jimmy had been playing Black Jack at a safe-house
set up by the CIA.
Jimmy died an unsung hero. But his daughter never doubted
his dreams were real, even when they became more like nightmares
Some days she turns on the sunlamp for 29 minutes and lets
the warmth surround her face. She wears a patch on both
eyes to protect her from the light or anything else she doesn’t want to see
She says Jimmy’s dreams are still alive in her. She runs
her fingers over his pencil sketches and reads herself to sleep
with the crazy stories he wrote in the secret black binder.
She dreams of horses and unsung heroes and all things that sound
too impossible to be true.
On his birthday every year she takes out the folded American flag
and drapes it over her bed. She puts on his feathered fedora
and smokes a Winston cigarette then chews one piece of bubblegum.
Jimmy would have liked that.
Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is a seven-time Pushcart nominee and four-time Best of the Net nominee. She has authored several chapbooks along with her latest full-length collection of poems:Hasty Notes in No Particular Order newly released from Aldrich Press. She is the 2012 winner of the Red Ochre Press Chapbook competition for her manuscript Before I Go to Sleep and according to family lore she is a direct descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson. www.clgrellaspoetry.com