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Glenna Luschei: California Poets Part 1, Four Poems

Glenna Luschei

August 27th, 2020

California Poets: Part I

Glenna Luschei

Four Poems

Mourning Doves When Bill died we turned into doves. I call them the Bill and Glenna doves. They call back, their morning gargle. They mess up the bird feed, splash water out of the bath. We were like that. Anything for a laugh. When they run off on errands I don’t fret. We’ll meet up, fly together. Zenaida Macroura Daughters-in-law My daughter in-law doesn’t look twice before she jumps on a bus blasting merengue. She trusts the chiva will butt her where she needs to carry on the revolution. She doesn't look like me. Why should she with my hair that resembles Grey Poupon, even the gray part? Her hair is black as a raven’s wing and her eyes click like castanets. She is not ladylike as we learned to be, crossing our patent leather shoes so boys couldn’t see the reflection from under our skirts. She treats boys with fierceness, not fear, offers a gang member tattooed and pierced a ride home through rival territory. Kindness and bravery: her watchwords. She forced the bus driver swerving through Colombian mountains to stop to let the passengers knock on a hut to use the bathroom. The driver wanted to shoot her down but she was a quicker draw. Back in the US she nearly performed a citizen's arrest on the waiter slow to serve a Mexican family. Best of all, she inspires my grandchildren to treat me, their abuela, second only to la Virgin de Guadalupe. What miracle did I perform to merit a daughter- in- law like this, plus the Sicilian one who serves cannoli for Christmas? That one tells me some day she'll take me to her native Sicily. Arm-in-arm we’ll walk through the piazza in our black skirts, shiv at the garter. I did the right thing by my sons, though when Dominica and I drive through Skid Row on the way to the Mission, I flinch when she offers my son’s overcoat, to a man freezing on the corner. She says, “He needs it worse.” I’d like to return to Sicily where in antiquity my own kind, the Cyclops worked as smithys. People identify me by my third eye. I can see it all now. After my long life, I need those women worse.

Poseidon sent the whale, Cetus, to destroy the shores of ancient Greece.

Calving Scientists call Tahlequah's care for her dead calf unprecedented but isn't it natural to carry the dead with us, lift them up as she did, all 800 pounds of her baby, only rising to take a breath, lifting? On our endangered earth, we, tentative with life, ponder, "How can the orcas survive when we net their fish, plow boats into their mating grounds? Can this pod, with only one live birth, go on?” Massive glacial calves crash into the sea. Ablation and evaporation. Polar bears lose their footing. Our calves die of addiction, bullets, transmission of love. We lift them up, keep them floating with us. On our last Mother's Day I visited hospice. You asked me to feed you. After, I wheeled you under the purple jacaranda trees. Bloom and death. Eros and Thanatos. You told me the nurse loved to brush your flaxen hair. "God gave me a mane." You handed me the brush and I took your curls in hand. "Tomorrow is my quality of life conference." I kept on brushing. You had to decide. You loved the stories of the gods and goddesses. Eros had to choose. Psyche blinded her lover. Oh Aphrodite, you knew my beautiful daughter and her vanity. Lend her your brush, your mirror. The Fifty-Two Year Cycle of the Aztec Calendar Stone

This poet who fancies herself Sherlock envisions the ghost of her nemesis, Moriarty embedded in the Aztec calendar stone.

So we meet again, Moriarty. You handsome and hefty, all fifty pounds of basalt. You knew the man I loved and kept him from me. You called him Cipactli. In Nahautl that means dragon. My name was Zochitl, flower. Your language sounds like the water in which you tried to drown me at Pie de la Cuesta. Always water, always children, always in Spanish, your ghost comes to haunt me, to taunt me. You taught me duende, told me I was a fighter worthy of your wrath, told me my heart would get me. Fifty-two years ago they sent a diver out after me. The waves tossed me but I could still see my son on the shore. Thrashing, I watched him getting smaller and smaller, I couldn’t drown. I had to drive him to Little League ten years later in a town where we had not yet lived. I gave that swimmer my last hundred pesos, sodden, hidden in my bra. Next time on the Rio Grande, birth of a daughter in El Paso, deep vein thrombosis. I ran the household from a wheelchair. I had cases to solve. You’re playing with me, Moriarty. You wanted to save me for yourself. I should have known we would meet in Cuba, when I bit the dust in Matanzas. The doctor said I would die if I got on that plane. One week in hospital, my son flew me home first class. Your ghost loved that, Moriarty. If only I could wait fifty-two more years, I know you’d give me one more scare.

Author Bio:

Born in Iowa and educated in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, Glenna Luschei holds degrees from the University of Nebraska where she graduated with high distinction and was tapped Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar board. She has lived most of her life in Latin America and the American West. She is now an avocado rancher in Carpinteria, California, and served as a panelist for offering aid to farmers with the USDA, also working as a translator for Spanish-speaking workers. Luschei acted as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts which awarded grants to writers. She completed her PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2005.

In 1967, Luschei moved from Colombia to Albuquerque, with her fourth child under one arm and her first book, Carta al Norte, under the other. In Albuquerque, she established her Solo Press and the magazine Café Solo as an exchange with Latin American writers.

She participated in the New Mexico Poetry in the Schools, was named the D. H. Lawrence Fellow and a grantee of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Her book, Thirty Songs of Dissolution, was published in 1977 by San Marcos Press, Cerrillos. Her retrospective of poetry, Salt Lick, was published in 2009 by West End Press, Albuquerque. Her book, The Sky Is Shooting Blue Arrows, was published in 2014 by the University of New Mexico Press. Her latest book, Zen Duende, a collaboration with Erik Greinke, was the winner of the Pushcart Prize and was published by Presa Press in 2016.

Her books of Spanish translations include those of work by Luis de Góngora y Argote and Sor Juana, Solo Press. Her Solo Press publication of Luis Aleixandre brought her and her husband Bill Horton to Aleixandre’s Nobel Prize investiture during their wedding trip in 1977. Some years later, the couple moved back to Bill’s home state of North Carolina. During that time Luschei was awarded a Fortner Prize and an honorary doctorate from St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

After Luschei’s move to California, Solo Press added Solo Flight, an activities group supported by the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, to produce Poetry and Jazz Festivals as well as book fairs. She brought New Mexico and Mexican poets into her events, including Carlos Fuentes.

Luschei has taught for Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; UCLA Artsreach, California Men’s Colony and Atascadero State Hospital, as well as at the University of Nebraska Writer’s Conference. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Writer’s Fellowship and many California Arts Council individual grants.

In 2000, she was named Poet Laureate for the City and County of San Luis Obispo.


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