T. S. Eliot opens his monumental poem The Waste Land with “April is the cruellest month,” one of the most revered one-liners in literature, but I suspect he made that observation only because he never visited San Antonio in the springtime. If he had, such a thought would have been as likely as water-skiing in January, for here April connotes exuberance and renewal, outreach and transformation. Buds magically sprout on bare branches; flowers magically erupt from those buds, and chrysalids morph into butterflies. Had Eliot given us the pleasure of his company during this month, he would have gazed in wide-eyed wonder at fields of bluebonnets, pink evening primrose, wine cups and poppies stretching for miles under electric blue skies. He might have taken in the parties and pageants of Fiesta Week. Some brave soul even might have broken a cascarón over his head.
Our celebrations don’t end with Fiesta Flambeau and the King William fair, though. In April we observe National Poetry Month, a four-week verbal feast which in the Alamo City includes activities ranging from slam contests and flash gatherings to exhibits and traditional readings, many held in such vibrant venues as the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center. At this time Voices de la Luna also stages its literary gala. This year’s event, generously co-sponsored by Haven for Hope, proved an occasion to remember—and savor.
Spring is in addition the season of pilgrimage. Right about now, we begin to think of road trips, of packing our swimsuits and heading out to Padre Island or Canyon Lake. In this sudden desire for travel, we join millions of others over thousands of years who have felt this same impulse, including Geoffrey Chaucer’s immortal pilgrims, who walked their long and legendary road to Canterbury during this month. The year as well boasts its share of literary milestones: throughout 2015 we will honor the 750th birthday of Dante Alighieri, whose majestic epic, The Divine Comedy, traces one man’s journey from The Inferno to Purgatory and finally Paradise, the longest trip of all.
Then, of course, there’s the time-honored association of April and the concept of love in all its dimensions. Dante, of course, was well known for his adoration of Beatrice, his guide through Paradise, and in this context Chaucer’s pilgrims again come to mind. One of the most intriguing is the Prioress. A study in ambiguity, she professes a dedicated spirituality but has over-dainty table manners, enjoys her meals perhaps too much, fusses continually over her pampered dogs, and wears a pricey habit. From her equally expensive rosary hangs a gold brooch bearing the words Amor vincit omnia, “Love conquers all.” At this point, the reader well might ask what kind of love she exalts, but no matter. In Chaucer’s vision there is room for every variety, and the same may be said of Voices. The poetry and prose contained in the current issue demonstrate as many permutations of this emotion as there are writers to express them.
Poor T.S. Eliot. He undoubtedly missed out, but you need not, since exploration of the aforementioned topics—springtime, National Poetry Month, Fiesta, the Voices de la Luna/Haven for Hope Literary Gala, the works of Dante, and the grand theme of love—all get their due within these pages. Happy reading!
Take care of them. If they want water, Dump them in the river. If they crave Freedom, let them loose among rattlesnakes. If they want to breathe, let them breathe dust. Let the desert mouse nest in their white bones. Give them shelter with your greed. With your rape. The road kill is a sign you’re almost home. Point to it and show them who they are. Their life’s a documentary, a newscast. But for you, everything is possible. You’re the map that leads them astray, Priest leading a funeral procession. Load this cargo. Shackle them with promises, Backaches that keep them from killing you.
“Mon in the mone stond and strit” across the sky around his Mother Earth, looking down in his slow progress, grieving for her. Mother, threadbare, is catching fire while her resident, self-serving children, who are not the Man in the Moon, add fuel to the flames that burn her. “It is much wonder that he ne doun slyt” but holds firm above not daring to take his eyes from his Mother though he can pull the tides back and forth, in and out, the water too seems alight and cannot quench her flames. Those other children stripped her of her abundance to feed their own insatiable desires. Though she had given selflessly and plentifully they consumed without a thought for her and the Man “shoddereth and shereth” at the sight of their neglect. As she burns, they poke and prod her for nourishment she can no longer give as they look to the Man in the Moon, their long neglected, unacknowledged sibling, wondering as he goes behind the clouds of smoke, “Whider trowe this mon ha the wey take?” The man, keening for his failing Mother, watches alone as those other children tear each other to bits over her remains, and, ungrateful to the last, pick her bones, denying the true cause of her wasting, of her dying. Only the Man in the Moon grieves for his Mother. The others writhing in the mire of their selfishness cry out only for themselves as Death refuses to hurry, to relieve their suffering wrought by their disdain for the Mother of them all.
On a path in piney woods you stood beside your dad facing the camera trying to be all grown up in waders too big for ten-year old shoulders, a fly rod twice as long that look on your face is not just uncertainty of what may or may not be caught in a mountain stream. I look into hunched shoulders, puzzled eyes and see love like first buds in spring and I know flowers fade far too soon, far too soon.
It was a hot afternoon in the middle of June when I walked into the Courtyard for the first time. The Courtyard is an outdoor emergency homeless shelter which provides to those in need three meals, showers, and a mat to sleep on under the open sky. As I come from the small German community of Fredericksburg, Texas, downtown San Antonio was culture shock for me. I had one year of sobriety under my belt after being active in alcoholism and addiction for twenty years, but when people say everything eventually catches up to you, they are not lying. My addiction to drugs and alcohol led me to multiple suicide attempts, time spent in jail, and homelessness, but it also brought me where I am now: helping others who are going through crises similar to my own.
A year prior to becoming homeless I decided to get sober after a major suicide attempt. My probation had been revoked because I was too addicted to drugs and alcohol to follow the guidelines. I remember feeling like a total failure, an embarrassment to my brother, and an uncle that my niece and nephew would be better off not knowing. I was sitting next to a rundown travel trailer, which was all I had to show for 20-plus years of working. I took 2700 milligrams of Zoloft, threw a rope into a tree, called 911 and told them to bring a hearse because I’d be dead by the time they arrived, and hanged myself. The last thing I remember of that night was stumbling off of the trailer hitch and grabbing the rope. I woke up in the hospital on May 28, 2010, and have been sober since. I did my jail time and got out unemployed and without a place to call my own. So I ended up in San Antonio, Texas—homeless, but homeless and sober.
I walked into the intake office at Haven for Hope and spoke with a really caring person named Sara. I explained everything I’d been through and how I had ended up in her office. She explained the Bexar County residency requirement for staying on the Haven for Hope campus, which at that time was thirty days, but told me that I could get my residency at the Courtyard, the outdoor shelter. Knowing about my depression, she explained that she was not a counselor but gave me her business card in case I needed someone to talk with. Sleeping outdoors for thirty days or not, I knew from her act of kindness that I was in the right place.…
Thanks to Sara, Fred, Laura, Michelle, and Jason, I have learned to listen to people, meet them where they are, and believe in them. I was once deemed that person who would never change, and if I can change, anyone can. Laura never gave up on me and led me in the right direction, and I aim to do the same for every person I work with. My work doesn’t stop with people experiencing homelessness. As a staff member who lived at Haven, I am really interested in how things can be changed to better serve the residents. I am also a voice to educate staff members on what life is like living as a homeless person.…