As we stand at the midpoint of summer, we can look back to spring, when the year’s first flowers began to poke their heads through the soil in search of the sun, or forward to winter, when leaves will drop from the trees and icy cold winds will chill our bones. The prepositions we use to describe time are instructive: we look behind our backs to see the stages of life through which we’ve already passed, and we face forward to look ahead to the uncertain future. No matter how old we are at this point in time, or any other, we can always imagine ourselves standing at zero on the number line of our own lives, with our past accomplishments, joys, and sorrows lying to the left of zero and our future ambitions and dreams lying to the right.
In this issue of Voices de la Luna, we address the theme of “Young and Old” from a variety of perspectives. We hear the perspectives of grandparents and youth, each with his or her own outlook on life, based not only on age but also on experience, background, and worldview. In particular, this issue offers an expanded youth poetry section, featuring for the first time a group of students called the Barrio Writers. Our featured poet, Bryce Milligan, takes us on a car ride through a blizzard toward a final visit with a loved one. Renowned young adult author Rick Riordan discusses his approach to writing for young people, comparing it with writing for an adult audience. Other contributors recall the halcyon days of youth, either their own or their children’s. Still others recount memories of parents and grandparents or offer their own thoughts on aging.
As always, select voices from the past join the chorus of contemporary writers (and, in this issue, a few frogs) on the pages of the current issue. We expand our poetry therapy section in this issue, as poetry therapist Cyra Dumitru joins Voices co-founder and poetry therapist James Brandenburg in offering her pespective on the role that poetry can play in healing. Voices board member Lauren Walthour interviews local artist Donna Dobberfuhl, a sculptor whose work can be found in such diverse locales as Northwest Florida State College and the San Antonio Zoo. The cover art comes to us courtesy of Adam Green, an artist and writer who splits his time between England and Spain. In this issue we also bid adieu to the magazine’s longest-running regular feature, the serialization of the novel The Marchers by Voices’ other co-founder Mo Saidi—but not to worry, the entire novel is now available in print and online!
Finally, for those of us who are growing older—that is, everyone reading this—I will close with the words of poet Robert Browning, from his poem “Rabbi ben Ezra”:
Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in His hand Who saith “A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”Welcome to the August 2016 edition of Voices de la Luna!
Last night the carillon sang of itself, as it will when the evening winds befriend the east-bound bats and the undampered brass can hum unhammered, trending with the wind. Beyond the bellsong, far trains rumble. Two and one half miles exactly, southeast of my pillow some Amtrak engineer feathers his low horn like Coltrane easing his way into some newborn melody. So we enter the night. Evensong yields to the nocturne sung by the silver trains (holding back for the main act, as if asking: Is anyone here? Anyone at all?) Silence follows, dense and dark, and I slip once more toward the borders of sleep when bells break out—crossing bells now—less than a mile. Chorded horns thrum loud, rising, insistent. They demand: Are you there? And I reply speaking to the night, speaking to the trains as Samuel spoke to the Lord from his cave, I am here.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them
—“Digging,” Seamus Heaney
Quietly, my father and I worked, leveling my mother’s fresh grave. We moved in slow circles, raking the broken earth flat. We shook seeds from handfuls of hay, then covered the ground with the straw that remained. We didn’t speak. Nearly thirty years old, I strained to stay composed. I aped his movements. I wanted him to think that I might yet become a man. When we finished filling and emptying our watering cans, my father, who cared little for words, spoke what I have come to believe was his greatest compliment: Hey, kid, don’t forget how to do this.
The doorbell to 182 Meadow View Drive rings once, twice, and the repairman from Pathways Cable Company quickly checks his handheld display to make sure he has the correct address. It is late on a Tuesday morning, muggier than usual, and a thin bead of sweat swells between the man’s eyebrows. He instinctively shifts his gaze for a moment to the houses on his left and his right, then feigns another glance at the device in his hand. It shows nothing at all and he reaches again for the doorbell button to make one final attempt. But before his finger can reach the button, there comes a rustling on the other side of the door, a scarcely discernible curse, and the door opens to reveal a woman, middle aged, not bad looking, and slightly confused at the imposition, which is, in this case, precisely how she is supposed to look.
“Yes,” she says, looking uncertainly at the repairman. She offers nothing more, only stands and stares, arms crossed, awaiting an explanation.
“Good morning, ma’am. Philip Benson with Pathways Cable. I’m here to follow up on the service bulletin you should have received in the mail a few days ago.” He flashes a company ID badge, taking care to keep his thumb over enough of the photo to ensure that she doesn’t get a good look. The gesture is superfluous, for the woman never takes her eyes from his face.
“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she replies. “Our cable is fine.”
“That’s good to hear, ma’am. This is just a routine service visit to check your converter box. We need to make sure you have the latest firmware. We’re in the process of transitioning our service to a cloud-based system and we need to check each subscriber’s set-up to ensure that you’ll successfully receive the new higher quality video that we’ll be transmitting in the coming few weeks. It won’t take a moment, ma’am.”
The repairman has carefully rehearsed his introductory speech, peppering it with just enough technical jargon to ensure that the woman is in no position to understand what he is saying, much less take issue with it.
“So you’re saying you need to look at our cable box.”
“Yes indeed, ma’am, if it’s not too much of an inconvenience. Won’t take a minute and I’ll be out of your hair.”
It’s a miracle, he thinks, that more of this sort of thing doesn’t happen. People these days trust anyone in a uniform who acts like he knows what he’s doing.