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About this poet

Though born on August 16, 1949 in Walsenburg, Colorado, Debora Greger spent her childhood in Richland, Washington, the eldest of seven children. Her town bordered the Hanford Site, a plutonium production facility constructed as part of the Manhattan Project in 1943. The plutonium produced at the site was used in both the first nuclear bomb tested and the bomb detonated over Nagasaki. This was where her father, along with many other Richland fathers, worked.

She attended University of Washington and graduated with her BA in 1971. She continued on to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, received her MFA in 1974, and, in the same year, was awarded the Grolier Prize in Poetry.

Her first poetry collection, Movable Islands, was published in 1980 to enthusiastic reviews. Five years later, she published her second book, and. Notably, her 1996 collection, Desert Fathers, Uranium Daughters, revolves around her father's work environment at the Hanford Site and the impact it had on her childhood.

Greger is also a visual artist. Her collages have appeared in several magazines and book covers, including Intention & Interpretation, edited by Gary I. Seminger, and William Logan's Desperate Measures. Her work has been exhibited in venues across the country.

Greger’s numerous awards and honors include grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts; the Academy of American Poets' Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award, selected by John Hollander; the “Discovery”/The Nation Poetry Prize; and an Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship.

Greger has taught at George Mason University and California State University, Chico. In 1988, she joined the English department at the University of Florida, where she currently teaches. She lives in Gainesville, Florida and Cambridge, England with her longtime partner, the poet William Logan.

Selected Bibliography

Movable Islands (1980)
And (1985)
The 1002nd Night (1990)
Off-Season at the Edge of the World (1994)
Desert Fathers, Uranium Daughters (1996)
God (2001)
Western Art (2004)
Men, Women, and Ghosts (2008)

The War After the War

Debora Greger, 1949

                     for Greg Greger

I

Where were the neighbors? Out of town?
In my pajamas, I sat at my father's feet
in front of their squat, myopic television, 
the first in our neighborhood.

On a screen the size of a salad plate,
toy airplanes droned over quilted fields.
Bouquets of jellyfish fell: parachutes abloom,
gray toy soldiers drifting together, drifting apart— 

the way families do, but I didn't know that yet. 
I was six or seven. The tv was an aquarium: 
steely fish fell from the belly of a plane, 
then burst into flame when they hit bottom. 

A dollhouse surrendered a wall, the way such houses do. 
Furniture hung onto wallpaper for dear life. 
Down in the crumble of what had been a street, 
women tore brick from brick, filling a baby carriage. 


II

What was my young father, 
just a few years back from that war, 
looking for? The farm boy from Nebraska
he'd been before he'd seen Dachau? 

Next door, my brother and sister fought
the Battle of Bedtime, bath by bath. 
Next door, in the living room,
a two-tone cowboy lay where he fell,
too bowlegged to stand. Where was his horse?
And the Indian who'd come apart at the waist—
where were his legs to be found? 
A fireman, licorice-red from helmet to boot, 

a coil of white rope slung over his arm 
like a mint Lifesaver, tried to help. 
A few inches of ladder crawled under a cushion, 
looking for crumbs. Between the sag of couch 

and the slump of rocker, past a pickle-green soldier, 
a plastic foxhole, cocoa brown, dug itself
into the rug of no man's land 
and waited to trip my mother. 


III

Am I the oldest one here? In the theater, 
the air of expectation soured by mouse and mold— 
in the dark, a constellation of postage stamps:
the screens of cell phones glow.

And then we were in Algiers, we were in Marseille. 
On foot, we fell in behind a ragged file 
of North African infantry. Farther north 
than they'd ever been, we trudged

straight into the arms of the enemy: 
winter, 1944. Why did the French want to live in France, 
the youngest wondered while they hid, 
waiting capture by the cold. 

They relieved a dead German soldier
of greatcoat and boots. Village by muddy village,
they stole, shadow to shadow, trying to last 
until the Americans arrived— 

as if, just out of range of the lens,
the open trucks of my father's unit 
would rumble over the rutted horizon.
Good with a rifle, a farsighted farm boy

made company clerk because he'd learned to type
in high school—how young he would look, 
not half my age, and no one to tell him
he'll survive those months in Europe,

he'll be spared the Pacific by Hiroshima.
Fifty years from then, one evening, 
from the drawer where he kept 
the tv remote, next to his flint-knapping tools, 

he'd take out a small gray notebook 
and show his eldest daughter 
how, in pencil, in tiny hurried script,
he kept the names of those who died around him.

Copyright © 2010 by Debora Greger. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 by Debora Greger. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Debora Greger

Debora Greger

Born in 1949, Debora Greger is a poet and visual artist, who currently teaches at the University of Florida.

by this poet

poem
	
                     in memory of Margaret Greger, 1923-2009


I.  Death Takes a Holiday

Battleships melted down into clouds:
first the empire died, then the shipbuilding,

but cloud formations of gun-metal gray
ruled over the sea that was England in June. 

A scarecrow treaded water instead of
poem

What is sky but water, more water,
crossed by eight bridges?
Is the ancient poet in a rush to reach land?

No, he’s already one of the Six Immortals.
How long before the papery iris-petals
he admires wrinkle? They barely grow beards.

In a thousand years, pilgrims will come.