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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Interlitq has acted as a collaborating institution of Americas Society in New York, founded by David Rockefeller in 1965

 

Glenna Luschei

The Power of Prose:
Trying to Leave Cuba
By: Glenna Luschei
 

 



New Year's Day 2017, and too many things we wanted to do before we left Cuba on the midnight flight. First the bumpy jeep ride to the river, then the boat trip, followed by snorkeling in the lake. At last, lunch at the alligator farm and then back to our hotel in Matanzas for one last swim before heading to the airport in Havana.

It started off as the trip of a lifetime. I signed up for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art Cuban art tour for children. I travelled with my son, Tom, his wife, Yasmin and my two grandchildren, Linda, 12 and Andrew, 6. We visited homes of artists and enjoyed meals with them. My favorite artist was Sandra Ramos who portrayed Cuba as a caiman, or alligator.

I dressed in my swimming suit, but when I started to put on my sandals they broke apart. I said, to my daughter- in- law, "Yasmin, look what happened to my sandals."

"Glenna, your feet are swollen,” Yasmin gasped. “There is a medical clinic next door. Let’s call them.”

"No, they might keep me here."

"It's too dangerous for you to fly in a pressurized cabin."

We made the call. The doctor and her team arrived in five minutes but the two stretcher-bearers did not bode well. The doctor looked like a Red Cross nurse in red, white, and blue. She smiled pleasantly, her voice was firm. When I told her we had a midnight flight, she said, “Before you get on any plane, we need to take you to the clinic and do everything we can to reduce the swelling in your feet.” She said I had pulmonary edema brought on by heart failure.

All this in Spanish and the beginning of a saga which kept me in a Cuban hospital for a week.

I felt my heart contract, then beat wildly. I agreed to go to the clinic. It was a decision that changed my life, maybe saved my life.

The two stretcher-bearers carried me to an ambulance. My two grandchildren, Linda and Andrew, came to kiss me goodbye before the medical team carried me away. Yasmin gave me a hug.

“I know you’re doing the right thing,” she said. “Tom will be right by your side.” I sighed with relief. My heart bumped.

The clinic was a ramshackle building with apparently only one exam room. There was another table with a woman on it. The doctors helped her out and then turned to me. They put me on an IV and introduced a bundle of electrolytes to take down the swelling. “Usted está muy bonita,” the doctor said. She was trying to cure me by flattery. She told me I looked like a famous Cuban actress, Rosita Fornes. “She had an affair with Cantinflas. You look just like her.”

Heaven help me. All I wanted to do was go home.

As the hours dragged on, I said to my son Tom, "The deal is, when the plane leaves, you go.”

He said in return, "The deal is, I stay here until we can go together." He was the child who kept vigil over my daughter Linda until her death of AIDS at the age of 36.

“Go get your mother some ice cream,” the doctor said, “the parlor is down the street.”

"It's ten o'clock, Tom replied, "Is it open?" She said, “It’s always open.”

It was, and we ate ice cream cones while we waited for the swelling to go down, still planning to board the plane.

At the last minute the doctor sent me to the hospital instead. The swelling wasn’t subsiding and my heart rate was wildly high. Ice cream was not going to cure me.

Yasmin and the children boarded the flight without us and arrived safely home in California at her parents’ house. She later told me that her family formed a circle to pray for me. Her own grandmother had died only two days before and the family was still in the midst of mourning her. I will always be grateful for Yasmin’s Mexican family and their exuberant and generous nature, their caring of the elders, especially me.

Another ambulance ride and Tom and I arrived at the hospital ICU later that night. It was freezing. There was a bed for me in the ICU but there were no sheets or blankets. I found out that in Cuba, patients bring their own supplies, including soap, towels and toilet paper. Worse luck, I also had to have a catheter.

When I was a tourist in Cuba on an earlier trip, a guide told us that people would really appreciate the soap and shampoo in our hotel bathrooms. But it didn’t get through to me how scarce those small luxuries really are. The Cubans did everything they could to share with me, and when I left I vowed to share with them. For one thing, the x-ray machine wobbled when I stood on it. I shared the x-ray with my own doctor when I got back home, and he considered it a curiosity, almost a relic. I promised in my heart to contribute a new x-ray machine to the clinic.

For now I was trying to get into bed and somehow get warm. A nurse brought me a yellow blanket. It was all I had for comfort. “A woman died today and her family never picked up her things,” she said. Tom gave me a hug, pressed my hands, wished me goodnight and disappeared. I was grateful for the warmth of his touch but was frightened I would never see him again.

After Tom left, I lay in bed in the dark, wrapped in the yellow blanket. I felt profoundly alone, shivering and wondering if I should send out a report for my lost son. I was relieved to learn the next morning that Tom had spent the night just down the hall.

In the morning, a nurse dabbed my face awake with cold water and brought me a cup of sour yogurt which I found delicious.

To my immense relief I caught sight of Tom outside the hall talking to the doctors. He seemed jovial. Could he possibly have good news? I kept motioning for him to come in, but he didn’t acknowledge me. What if he was safe outside but never able to come into the room? I might be isolated for the rest of my life. I was crazy with anxiety and exhaustion.

When Tom came in, he told me that the medicine, Solotol, which my cardiologist prescribed, was damaging my heart. The Cuban doctors changed my prescription, but the pharmacy did not have my new medicine in stock.

“I’ve got to go out and search for it,” Tom said. I remembered the bizarre healing practices I had seen, and hoped that he did not have to throw blood on chickens as in the santería ceremonies.

Tom left and Dr. José came in.

I put him on notice. “Voy a salir mañana,” I said. He told me I was not going tomorrow because I was 83 years old and had heart failure.

“Y que tengo que hacer para salir?” I asked.

“Tranquila,” he said. “Relax”.

I had no choice. I wrapped the yellow blanket tighter around me and lay back on my sweater, which I was using as a pillow. I was shattered and my heart was broken too. My heart was beating out a gliding rhumba. Matanza was the place where Cuban-African rhythms emerged, including the rhumba, so maybe it was just getting well.

I thought of Tom and his kindness towards me and how he took care of my daughter Linda when she was so sick. I drifted off and remembered an earlier time when we spent our lives in other hospitals, caring for Linda and hoping and praying she would be healed.

Hours later, I woke to the sound of an old woman’s voice, “un poquito agua por favor,” she said over and over again. Nobody answered. I got up with my own liter of Ciego Montero water. A nurse shook her head at me, “She is not thirsty and she is not sick. We just give her a hospital bed to protect her. She has nowhere else to go.”

Abuela

I bit the dust in Matanzas
like the Spanish fleet
the indigenous Cubans destroyed.

I bit the dust in Matanzas
where all mornings unfold alike.
The nurse dabs me awake with cold
water from the mountain stream.
She leaves the liter bottle stamped
with the troll to last all day.
All Cubans drink the same fairy-tale water.

All afternoons sleep.
Abuela tunes up, “Ay Dios mio ayúdame”.
Second day I have entered her litany.
She chants, “Ella es norteamericana y habla español.”
By the time she winds down
the nurse brings us rice and a drumstick.
I begin to crave the sour yogurt.

Late afternoon the TV clicks on.
Children march in the streets.
Abuela naps.

Evening at last. Another drumstick.
The nurses retire
and I creep out to the heavenly unlocked balcony.

Life goes on.
The fiesta convertibles like the one I rode in
and stray dogs pass each other in the street.

"The Power of Prose"