Few legends express more memorably the redemptive power of art than that of Scheherazade. As the story goes, a young king, embittered by his first wife’s infidelity, decrees that he will marry a new virgin each day and have her executed the following dawn to prevent her betraying him. One thousand women die as a result of this edict before he meets the courageous and talented Scheherazade, who against her father’s wishes agrees to wed the vengeful ruler. She requests, however, that her beloved sister Dunyazade be permitted to visit the royal chamber during the wedding night to say a last farewell. The king consents. Acting on a secret agreement with her sister, Dunyazade appears at the appointed time and asks the doomed bride to tell a story. Scheherazade immediately launches into a tale of high adventure and hairbreadth escapes but breaks off at daybreak before revealing the ending. The king, spellbound by her narrative, spares her life for one day so that he may hear the conclusion. On the second night, Scheherazade finishes the story and begins another but again breaks off at dawn. The king again postpones her execution. This pattern continues for 1000 nights. On the 1001st, Scheherazade tells her husband that she has no more tales to relate, but by this time he has fallen in love with her. Enraptured by her artistry, the king rescinds his decree, calling her the liberator of her sex. These details of course establish the frame for the Arabian Nights, a saga read and revered the world over.
Scheherazade’s ability to create art literally saves her life and transforms a tyrant. For the rest of us the stakes may not be so high, but they are real nonetheless. Luckily, signs of our prospective salvation are everywhere, ubiquitous as the Indian paintbrush and pink evening primrose that brighten roadsides these days, and in this issue of Voices de la Luna we call attention to many of them. San Antonio’s exuberant observance of National Poetry Month, for example, included over seventy readings, book-signings, panel discussions, slams, and exhibits. Another springtime highlight was the annual San Antonio Book Festival on April 2, a celebration which brought eighty featured writers to the Alamo City and attracted hundreds of visitors. A good thing got even better on April 10, when Voices hosted a gala benefiting Gemini Ink and honoring Wings Press director Bryce Milligan in an outpouring of art and energy that those who attended will long remember. In the midst of May’s abundance and bonhomie, though, we are aware of their opposites, of want and strife, and we acknowledge these as well. The featured poet for this issue, Sarah Cortez, examines close-up the gritty and often dangerous life of a Houston street cop. Additional poems and articles explore a related topic, the impact of poverty and its depiction in literature, while the continuing “Stone in the Stream/Roca en el Río” series offers glimpses of Mother Nature at her best—and worst. The contents of this issue run the gamut of human experience, conveying whimsy and rapture, opulence and destitution, and we at Voices hope that you read these pages with the same sense of renewal that we felt in putting them together. After all, as with Scheherazade, our lives just might depend on it!
Nose broke three times by drunks. They pick smaller officers to assault. Five fleets in one year. Lucky the county didn’t fire me. Three wives. No kids. I pay a good lawyer, so I don’t ever have to talk to the last bitch. One broken leg. Healed fine. Thirty-three years total on the force. Wouldn’t have changed a damn thing.
Two highways run like cracks through our city soaked with pickup trucks crowding like fish in dark channels On Saturdays my mother would stay home, load soy-sauce- soaked barbecue onto paper plates and squeeze oranges fresh to their peels tasting in them a city across the ocean, thinking her children could not speak Taiwanese but she could still pour it on our tongues On Saturdays she would rub an eyeful and a half of salt into mashed avocado and hand me cracked pits to throw into the backyard I would roll my eyes and tell her Nothing will grow from these but I tossed them anyway and watched them rub into the summer dirt My brother and I run like cracks through our mother My mother is a mirror I cracked She is a fried egg my brother soaked with ketchup until the Taipei summers drowned She is the salt in her eyes on the nights she worked late squeezing her way down a soaked highway toward home, looking across the ocean at a summer crowded and dark flailing with sirens and night market fish stripped of pickup trucks and sleeping pills I wonder, as I rolled my eyes at her cracked avocado pits, whether my mother asked herself if it were possible for anything to take root in foreign soil
From the making of harps to the making of houses he turned his hands to what needed doing, to what needed time and attention: building a house to live in building a house to die in Each smashed finger each bit of flesh taken by saw or blade or chemical took a bit of the music out of his hands, crippling what was there for the making.
It took the night for you to pass the velvet road, to ride on the wings of a force that drives life, challenges death overcomes uncertainty. At the threshold of birth, life struggles to stay the course, a dark shadow dangles on ready to defeat joy, silence hope. Time’s slow crawl in a chaotic moment is an infinitesimal pause before the first breath, a colossal gap like the moment of creation. Will nature remain on course, overcome the clouds of unbearable fear? Will there be clear air to enter the pristine body, sustain life? The sac bursts, warms the field like a hospitable river that soaks a meadow, drowns the shadows of death. The instant’s an hour, feels like a decade. Will nature overcome the adversities, man’s foolish mishaps? Will the forests of life survive the onslaught? The child’s cry is mother’s anodyne. Her sublime imagination boasts hope, portends nature’s victory in a battle of the looming war; alas, life against death.