The International Literary Quarterly
Contributors

Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Donald Adamson
Diran Adebayo
Nausheen Ahmad
Toheed Ahmad
Amanda Aizpuriete
Baba Akote
Elisa Albo
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Rosetta Allan
María Teresa Andruetto
Innokenty Annensky
Claudia Apablaza
Robert Appelbaum
Michael Arditti
Jenny Argante
Sandra Arnold
C.J.K. Arkell
Agnar Artúvertin
Sarah Arvio
Rosemary Ashton
Mammed Aslan
Coral Atkinson
Rose Ausländer
Shushan Avagyan
Razif Bahari
Elizabeth Baines
Jo Baker
Ismail Bala
Evgeny Baratynsky
Saule Abdrakhman-kyzy Batay
Konstantin Nikolaevich Batyushkov
William Bedford
Gillian Beer
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Ilya Bernstein
Mashey Bernstein
Christopher Betts
Sujata Bhatt
Sven Birkerts
Linda Black
Chana Bloch
Amy Bloom
Mary Blum Devor
Michael Blumenthal
Jean Boase-Beier
Jorge Luis Borges
Alison Brackenbury
Julia Brannigan
Theo Breuer
Iain Britton
Françoise Brodsky
Amy Brown
Bernard Brown
Diane Brown
Gay Buckingham
Carmen Bugan
Stephen Burt
Zarah Butcher McGunnigle
James Byrne
Kevin Cadwallander
Howard Camner
Mary Caponegro
Marisa Cappetta
Helena Cardoso
Adrian Castro
Luis Cernuda
Firat Cewerî
Pierre Chappuis
Neil Charleton
Janet Charman
Sampurna Chattarji
Amit Chaudhuri
Mèlissa Chiasson
Ronald Christ
Alex Cigale
Sally Cline
Marcelo Cohen
Lila Cona
Eugenio Conchez
Andrew Cowan
Mary Creswell
Christine Crow
Pedro Xavier Solís Cuadra
Majella Cullinane
P. Scott Cunningham
Emma Currie
Jeni Curtis
Stephen Cushman
David Dabydeen
Susan Daitch
Rubén Dario
Jean de la Fontaine
Denys Johnson Davies
Lydia Davis
Robert Davreu
David Dawnay
Jill Dawson
Rosalía de Castro
Joanne Rocky Delaplaine
Patricia Delmar
Christine De Luca
Tumusiime Kabwende Deo
Paul Scott Derrick
Josephine Dickinson
Belinda Diepenheim
Jenny Diski
Rita Dove
Arkadii Dragomoschenko
Paulette Dubé
Denise Duhamel
Jonathan Dunne
S. B. Easwaran
Jorge Edwards
David Eggleton
Mohamed El-Bisatie
Tsvetanka Elenkova
Johanna Emeney
Osama Esber
Fiona Farrell
Ernest Farrés
Elaine Feinstein
Gigi Fenster
Micah Timona Ferris
Vasil Filipov
Maria Filippakopoulou
Ruth Fogelman
Peter France
Alexandra Fraser
Bashabi Fraser
Janis Freegard
Robin Fry
Alice Fulton
Ulrich Gabriel
Manana Gelashvili
Laurice Gilbert
Paul Giles
Zulfikar Ghose
Corey Ginsberg
Chrissie Gittins
Sarah Glazer
Michael Glover
George Gömöri
Giles Goodland
Martin Goodman
Roberta Gordenstein
Mina Gorji
Maria Grech Ganado
David Gregory
Philip Gross
Carla Guelfenbein
Daniel Gunn
Charles Hadfield
Haidar Haidar
Ruth Halkon
Tomás Harris
Geoffrey Hartman
Siobhan Harvey
Beatriz Hausner
John Haynes
Jennifer Hearn
Helen Heath
Geoffrey Heptonstall
Felisberto Hernández
W.N. Herbert
William Hershaw
Michael Hettich
Allen Hibbard
Hassan Hilmi
Rhisiart Hincks
Kerry Hines
Amanda Hopkinson
Adam Horovitz
David Howard
Sue Hubbard
Aamer Hussein
Fahmida Hussain
Alexander Hutchison
Sabine Huynh
Juan Kruz Igerabide Sarasola
Neil Langdon Inglis
Jouni Inkala
Ofonime Inyang
Kevin Ireland
Michael Ives
Philippe Jacottet
Robert Alan Jamieson
Rebecca Jany
Andrea Jeftanovic
Ana Jelnikar
Miroslav Jindra
Stephanie Johnson
Bret Anthony Johnston
Marion Jones
Tim Jones
Gabriel Josipovici
Pierre-Albert Jourdan
Sophie Judah
Tomoko Kanda
Maarja Kangro
Jana Kantorová-Báliková
Fawzi Karim
Kapka Kassabova
Susan Kelly-DeWitt
Mimi Khalvati
Daniil Kharms
Velimir Khlebnikov
Akhmad hoji Khorazmiy
David Kinloch
John Kinsella
Yudit Kiss
Tomislav Kuzmanović
Andrea Labinger
Charles Lambert
Christopher Lane
Jan Lauwereyns
Fernando Lavandeira
Graeme Lay
Ilias Layios
Hiên-Minh Lê
Mikhail Lermontov
Miriam Levine
Suzanne Jill Levine
Micaela Lewitt
Zhimin Li
Joanne Limburg
Birgit Linder
Pippa Little
Parvin Loloi
Christopher Louvet
Helen Lowe
Ana Lucic
Aonghas MacNeacail
Kona Macphee
Kate Mahony
Sara Maitland
Channah Magori
Vasyl Makhno
Marcelo Maturana Montañez
Stephanie Mayne
Ben Mazer
Harvey Molloy
Osip Mandelstam
Alberto Manguel
Olga Markelova
Laura Marney
Geraldine Maxwell
John McAuliffe
Peter McCarey
John McCullough
Richard McKane
John MacKinven
Cilla McQueen
Edie Meidav
Ernst Meister
Lina Meruane
Jesse Millner
Deborah Moggach
Mawatle J. Mojalefa
Jonathan Morley
César Moro
Helen Mort
Laura Moser
Andrew Motion
Paola Musa
Robin Myers
André Naffis-Sahely
Vivek Narayanan
Bob Natifu
María Negroni
Hernán Neira
Barbra Nightingale
Paschalis Nikolaou
James Norcliffe
Carol Novack
Annakuly Nurmammedov
Joyce Carol Oates
Sunday Enessi Ododo
Obododimma Oha
Michael O'Leary
Antonio Diaz Oliva
Wilson Orhiunu
Maris O'Rourke
Sue Orr
Wendy O'Shea-Meddour
María Claudia Otsubo
Ruth Padel
Ron Padgett
Thalia Pandiri
Judith Dell Panny
Hom Paribag
Lawrence Patchett
Ian Patterson
Georges Perros
Pascale Petit
Aleksandar Petrov
Mario Petrucci
Geoffrey Philp
Toni Piccini
Henning Pieterse
Robert Pinsky
Mark Pirie
David Plante
Nicolás Poblete
Sara Poisson
Clare Pollard
Mori Ponsowy
Wena Poon
Orest Popovych
Jem Poster
Begonya Pozo
Pauline Prior-Pitt
Eugenia Prado Bassi
Ian Probstein
Sheenagh Pugh
Kate Pullinger
Zosimo Quibilan, Jr
Vera V. Radojević
Margaret Ranger
Tessa Ransford
Shruti Rao
Irina Ratushinskaya
Tanyo Ravicz
Richard Reeve
Sue Reidy
Joan Retallack
Laura Richardson
Harry Ricketts
Ron Riddell
Cynthia Rimsky
Loreto Riveiro Alvarez
James Robertson
Peter Robertson
Gonzalo Rojas
Dilys Rose
Gabriel Rosenstock
Jack Ross
Anthony Rudolf
Basant Rungta
Joseph Ryan
Sean Rys
Jostein Sæbøe
André Naffis Sahely
Eurig Salisbury
Fiona Sampson
Polly Samson
Priya Sarukkai Chabria
Maree Scarlett
John Schad
Michael Schmidt
L.E. Scott
Maureen Seaton
Alexis Sellas
Hadaa Sendoo
Chris Serio
Resul Shabani
Bina Shah
Yasir Shah
Daniel Shapiro
Ruth Sharman
Tina Shaw
David Shields
Ana María Shua
Christine Simon
Iain Sinclair
Katri Skala
Carole Smith
Ian C. Smith
Elizabeth Smither
John Stauffer
Jim Stewart
Susan Stewart
Jesper Svenbro
Virgil Suárez
Lars-Håkan Svensson
Sridala Swami
Rebecca Swift
George Szirtes
Chee-Lay Tan
Tugrul Tanyol
José-Flore Tappy
Alejandro Tarrab
Campbell Taylor
John Taylor
Judith Taylor
Petar Tchouhov
Miguel Teruel
John Thieme
Karen Thornber
Tim Tomlinson
Angela Topping
David Trinidad
Kola Tubosun
Nick Vagnoni
Joost Vandecasteele
Jan van Mersbergen
Latika Vasil
Yassen Vassilev
Lawrence Venuti
Lidia Vianu
Dev Virahsawmy
Anthony Vivis
Richard Von Sturmer
Răzvan Voncu
Nasos Vayenas
Mauricio Wacquez
Julie Marie Wade
Alan Wall
Marina Warner
Mia Watkins
Peter Wells
Stanley Wells
Laura Watkinson
Joe Wiinikka-Lydon
Hayden Williams
Edwin Williamson
Ronald V. Wilson
Stephen Wilson
Alison Wong
Leslie Woodard
Elzbieta Wójcik-Leese
Niel Wright
Manolis Xexakis
Xu Xi
Gao Xingjian
Sonja Yelich
Tamar Yoseloff
Augustus Young
Soltobay Zaripbekov
Karen Zelas
Alan Ziegler
Ariel Zinder

 

President, Publisher & Founding Editor:
Peter Robertson
Vice-President: Glenna Luschei
Vice-President: Sari Nusseibeh
Vice-President: Elena Poniatowska
U. S. General Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
London Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Geraldine Maxwell
New York Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Meena Alexander
Washington D.C. Editor/Senior
Editor-at-Large:
Laura Moser
Argentine Editor: Yamila Musa
Deputy Editor: Allen Hibbard
Deputy Editor: Jerónimo Mohar Volkow
Deputy Editor: Bina Shah
Advisory Consultant: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
General Editor: Malvina Segui
Art Editor: Lara Alcantara-Lansberg
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Deputy General Editor: Jeff Barry

Consulting Editors
Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boullossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Hollis Clayson
Sarah Churchwell
Marcelo Cohen
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Beatriz Hausner
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Thomas Luschei
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Martha Nussbaum
Tim Parks
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Daniel Shapiro
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Daniel Shapiro
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Assistant Editor: Sara Besserman
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Conor Bracken
Assistant Editor: Eugenio Conchez
Assistant Editor: Patricia Delmar
Assistant Editor: Lucila Gallino
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Krista Oehlke
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Assistant Editor: Naomi Schub
Assistant Editor: Stephanie Smith
Assistant Editor: Emily Snyder
Assistant Editor: Robert Toperter
Assistant Editor: Laurence Webb
Art Consultant: Verónica Barbatano
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz


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Glenna Luschei

The Power of Prose:
From Three Rivers: A Memoir
By: Glenna Luschei
 

 



(Chapter Two)
Iowa

Cornstalks, guests at my wedding
tassled hats and pouches of corn.
I have known my friends
since we were kangaroos.

They never ask
where I’ve been, who I am.

They don’t wonder why
They produced an Aquarius,
whose stone is amethyst
who plays the bassoon.

The Missouri River banked my first home in Onawa, Iowa, on one side. The Loess Hills bordered it on the other. Onawa flew as straight and flat as a runway. It was my runway, the place where I took off. As a girl, I spent my summers “walking beans” and detasseling corn in the blaze of the August heat in the fields. Me and my companions trooped through the soybeans each morning with machetes, feeling like warriors as we cut out the weeds row by row, taking care not to destroy the bean plants. On other days, we shook corn pollen from silken tassels into each corn plant’s green crevices so the cobs would develop. We told stories to lighten the work, challenged each other’s snapping points, and talked about our boyfriends who were also detasseling corn in a separate field. At day’s end, we roller- skated in the town rink, ate watermelon and sometimes climbed the watchtower behind our house to gaze out over the wide golden Iowa fields. The men built the tower during the Second World War as a watch tower, and there it remained.

No one ever knew what the Valley’s weather would bring. Sometimes it rained torrents, great arching thunderstorms, and the foremen called the crews out of the fields in midday. Other days, we froze in cold-morning pickup trucks and later stripped to swimsuits in the sweltering afternoons.

The Loess Hills Valley bears the name of its soil, wind-deposited residue of the last Ice Age. Loess soil is called “glacial flour.” It’s a fine silt, hard to stabilize or cultivate, but rich in nutrients. Our farm, twenty miles away, reaped the benefits of the soil. Our corn came up big and hearty every year, and our soybeans, too. We had plenty of food. We also had plenty of work to do, adults and children alike. The women kept busy all summer canning vegetables. My parents picked wild plums and strained them through cheese cloth.

Although my family and our neighbors in Iowa grew acres of corn and beans, nothing seemed as abundant to me as the place I loved most on earth, my Grandmother Stevens’ Nebraska garden, with its row on row of peony bushes and mass of blue iris. Grandmother taught me how to plant and cultivate vegetables.

“Always plant lettuce under the new moon, harvest under the old moon,” she’d tell me as she walked the ground with a willow stick.

“Use the willow to find the deposits of water. That way you’ll know where to plant.”

In memory of Grandmother, I’ve grown vegetables, flowers and trees in every place I settled. Every summer I fill her silver water pitcher with a vivid bouquet of zinnias. I pass that love for tending the earth on to my children and grandchildren. When we lived in Colombia, my oldest daughter Linda and son Erich wanted to grow vegetables from our finca in the back of their red wagon.

“Plant under the new moon and follow the moon’s phases.” I instructed. They nodded their heads, not caring why we were planting that day, just that they were getting their hands in dirt.

They grew big bouquets from my hibiscus blossoms. In a country like Colombia that depends on omens, this mantra of gardening never seemed crazy.

Perhaps my children inherited my love for flowers and homegrown food because I carried each of them in my body through long verdant summers in my grandmother’s garden.

Gardens heal me of life’s cuts, bruises and influenzas. When I was young, we lived too far from Nebraska for a regular diet of Grandmother’s homegrown produce and I caught every illness that came along. At my birth, the Sioux City doctor proclaimed, “Healthy lungs!” But these lauded lungs did not keep me from a parade of throat and ear infections as a little girl. Strep throat, colds, broken bones and fears of polio repeatedly landed me in the Sick Room.

This refuge was the most cheerful room in our first Onawa home. The Sick Room sheltered my earliest efforts at poetry. Iowa produced the meanest winters and the hottest summers. To protect us from this immoderate weather, Mother dosed us with a tablespoon of cod liver oil every day, and with Edgar Cayce’s vinegar cures. Both of our parents lectured us on steering clear of germs, but perhaps we were meant to catch things from one another-and not only illnesses but relayed stories and a constant flow of infectious fun.

I have a picture on my desk of my father holding me at my baptism. Mother said that as soon as the minister put water on my head, Dad took out his handkerchief and wiped my scalp clean. He wouldn't risk my catching cold, but I think the baptism still took.

My father was desperate to keep us alive, though I didn’t fully understand his fixation until years later. He brought home an eight-foot-tall apparatus that looked as if it could have come out of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.

“What’s that?” we asked.

“This is a sun lamp. It will keep you well. Doc says vitamin D will prevent infections.”

This sun lamp emitted a ghastly purple light, an ominous ticking noise, and a vile odor.

My brothers and sister and I covered our eyes with folded wash-cloths while we lay like lamb chops under the lamp. Because our exposure had to be brief to prevent sunburn, we could only begin telling our Sick Room stories, tales of ghosts lurking and ghouls dragging unearthed bodies through cemeteries. We finished our phantasmal tales at night, huddled together in the dark whenever one of us was confined to the Sick Room with a cold or broken arm.

We listened to grown-ups passing by.

“The Dionne quintuplets were born the same year as Glenna.”

“Madame Chiang Kai Shek insisted on fresh silk sheets every day.”

“FDR killed the baby pigs.”

“Their first child died in that house.”

“Her mother almost didn’t let her marry him.”

“That sickness runs in the family.”

Tad bits of conversation intrigued us.

Despite cod liver oil, Edgar Cayce and the sun lamp, someone in our family was always stuck in the Sick Room. I loved the cozy space, framed with large windows on two sides; the western exposure featured a window seat, where we gathered in the last warmth of the setting sun.

When my grandparents visited, we children piled onto the widow seat to hear Grandfather Stevens playing Appalachian folk tunes on his old mandolin. Decades earlier, he had strapped it to the bed of the prairie schooner that brought the Stevens family west to Nebraska. My mother, his daughter born a decade after that westward trek, inherited his musical gift. As a young woman, she played piano for silent movies in her hometown theater, including Rudolf Valentino’s romantic epics.

On the south side of the Sick Room by my bed, the windows opened onto the backyard. Staring out through those panes, I composed an early poem “Kangaroos on the Clothes Line”, a response to a fourth-grade assignment to describe an animal. I compared kangaroos to my grandfather’s long johns, which hung on the clothesline out back, flapping in the breeze. When I read the poem in school, some friends asked if they could hear it a second time. I remember that one of these, Margaret Ann, raised her hand timidly and asked if they could hear it for a third time. This threefold reading of my poem hooked me for life and made Margaret Ann my lifetime friend.

One blustery winter afternoon, I lay alone and bored, recovering from German measles. I lifted the blinds of the Sick Room (careful to protect my eyes-measles could cause blindness) and there were Grandfather and Grandmother Stevens, coming up the walk with my two favorite chickens. To speed my recovery they had brought the birds on the train, from high and dry Nebraska, where I always felt well, to our Iowa river bottom.

Grandmother knew it would cheer me to see the birds I’d watched peck their way out of their shells.

“Fresh eggs’ll do you good.” She was a natural healer. She smeared her poultice of mud on my bee stings after having waded in her lily pond. Her special homemade “snake oil” dried up our colds. Whenever I have an ear ache or sore throat, I put a clove of garlic in my ear like I used to do.

On my tenth birthday, I lay in the Sick Room, recovering from my tonsil operation. My parents brought in a heartening surprise. Dad had fashioned a wooden easel outside in the lumber yard. The easel was triangular, and with a place for canvas on each side. I spent hours painting still life bowls on that easel which I have kept all these years for my children and grandchildren.

The Sick Room, with its fevers, ancestral music and stories, created a chrysalis for me, a near-hallucinatory state of awareness that began to emerge in words. Physical illness still has the power to transform me. When I am very ill, I see and hear more acutely. I intuit what I need to keep or discard, in order to make a fresh start. Surrendering to sickness transcends my everyday distractions and worries in the same way that hallucinogenic drugs induce visions for others. I embrace the darkest nights the body is forced to endure, feeling I’ll achieve a metamorphosis of the soul and emerge stronger than when I succumbed initially to the process.

The Sick Room formed the story room in our home, the place of words and songs, where children snuggled together under grandmother’s quilts to listen to pioneering stories, and to parents and grandparents reciting anecdotes that seemed to arise from spectral worlds. The Sick Room was a shelter, where the dilemmas of the present were illuminated through lessons about past bravery; a place where our dreams for the future were seeded with knowledge of our roots. I planted my first garden of lettuce seeds, in a wooden box on the wide south-facing windowsill.

My work and passions-poetry, gardening, children by blood or art-sprang from seeds planted in that room. The native Loess soil still clings to my wandering feet.

If people ask what they can bring me from their travels, I always say, “Bring me seeds.”

Like my pioneer ancestors, I carry seeds from one place to another in my pocket, or sewn into the hem of my dress. You never know when you might want to plant a garden. A sower of seeds, born to tell stories, I survived the myriad illnesses of the Sick Room to make words burst into bloom.

"The Power of Prose"