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Glenna Luschei: California Poets Part 3, Three Poems

Glenna Luschei

June 25th, 2021

California Poets: Part III

Glenna Luschei

Three Poems

I Ate the Heart "The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor." I heard the news from the hallway, my parents crouching in front of the radio. Everything changed. Then my father wore an air-raid helmet and carried a flash light door to door every night. At last, "All clear." Once, by accident, I turned on the hallway light then collapsed, waiting for the bomb to fall, sure I had killed my family, wiped out the whole town. At the post office, Uncle Sam pointed at me but no Zeros made it to Sioux City. All winter we saved gas-rationing coupons to drive to our grandparents’ farm, away from war. Grandmother ushered us into hallways of peace. She hoarded her coupons for baking cherry pie, too sour without sugar, served platters of fryers. I ate the heart. My parents laughed and chased us in tag. We swam in the Republican River, pumped well water for washing our hair. I hated to go back to the War. On the drive home we picked up a sailor in uniform. He held the baby in his lap.

When couples parked to spoon on the banks of the Missouri they sighted German U-boats tunneling beneath the River.

Grass Skirt

Onawa, Iowa, Halloween, 1943

Mother walked us to school that day. We lugged the Winesaps for apple bobbing.

Not enough syrup to make popcorn balls like last year. Cold out.

In our jacket pockets we carried war-bond books.

I carried my grass skirt, too, for show and tell. When I wrote my soldier I confessed my longing

for a grass skirt like the ones they showed in the war movies. Army censors marked out his return address but I knew where he was stationed because he also sent me a shell bracelet that spelled out Figi. Mother said my grass skirt smelled like seaweed, but I loved it.

As we passed Mrs. Wilson’s house we remembered when a soldier and Father Murphy stood on the porch. Mrs. Wilson yelled, “Oh no, not my boy.” My sister and I ran to her. Neighbors gathered to help her back into the house.

When we got to school, we read on the blackboard, "Help finance a Jeep." "Jeep" was easy.

We had to sound out "finance." That day our war-bond money went for the Jeep in honor of our school. In class I read my poem about my grandfather's long johns on the clothesline leaping like kangaroos. Someone asked if she could hear it again. Then again.

I didn’t know how to write poems about the war, only kangaroos, Figi Islanders, and Athena riding Pegasus.

Tricks or treat at night. Pumpkin candle for a light. I wore my grass skirt over pajama bottoms. Sad at Mrs. Wilson's house. Her three blue stars in the window; now the gold one. She smiled and handed out Hershey bars. Wherever did she get them? On the way home, snow surprised us. We walked over ice, covered in white. We followed in someone’s footprints, maybe the ghost of a soldier looking for home.

My Stroke

The thrashing lasted only a few moments.

Then I was calm.

They told me that I had a stroke,

the area affected was the basal ganglia, a hemorrhage

in the left frontal cerebellum.

All I knew was that I wanted to talk without stuttering,

I wanted to say, “Good day how are you?,”

but it came out, “Err, err, err, cock-a-doodle-doo.”

After that, there was no more jealousy in my bones.

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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