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2019 Voices of Texas Celebration


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Editor’s Note

James R. Adair

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press… —First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

On Nov 17, 1734, John Peter Zenger, publisher of The New York Weekly Journal, was arrested by the sheriff and charged with libel for his paper’s critical comments about the colonial governor, William Cosby. Zenger’s lawyers argued that although the paper did indeed print opinions that were critical of the governor, they were nevertheless true, and truth is an absolute defense against libel. The prosecutor disagreed—regardless of the truth of the allegations, he argued, defamation itself was a crime. Sensing that the judge overseeing the case was favorable to the prosecution, the defense lawyers argued their case directly to the jury. When the jury received the case, they deliberated for only ten minutes before returning a verdict of not guilty.

Word about the case spread widely throughout the British colonies, and Zenger’s aquittal made him a symbol of freedom of the press. The case undoubtedly contributed to the support for the adoption of the First Amendment to the Constitution, the first freedoms of the Bill of Rights. Freedom of the press in the U.S. wasn’t completely secured by the jury’s verdict, nor even by the adoption of the Bill of Rights, as courts have continued to argue over the limits of press freedom in cases such as the 1957 “Howl” Obscenity Trial and the various rulings concerning the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s. The struggle continues.

In addition to its focus on freedom of the press, this issue of Voices de la Luna showcases the work of many creative writers and artists. Our featured poet, George Wallace, invites the reader to accompany him to Thrace, to Spain, in crossing the Rio Bravo from Mexico to Texas, and even as he learns to take flight. Dramatist and poet Amalia Ortiz shares thoughts on her craft, plus a bit of her history, in our featured interview.

We share the work of several youth poets in this issue. They deal with issues as diverse as self-discovery, reminiscence, war, and texting. Other poets comment on and critique current events, explore foreign lands and distant corners of the universe, interact with nature, and contemplate the writer’s craft. On the prose side, Voices co-founder Mo Saidi shares his journey from Iran to America, and from being a doctor to becoming a writer. We have short stories about writing, fate, and family (with some overlap among the themes). Our contributors also share their artistic creations and comment on the art of the distant past.

Finally, we celebrate an aspect of freedom of the press that isn’t often considered: the movement of works protected by copyright into the public domain. The passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (a.k.a. the Mickey Mouse Protection Act) prevented works pubished in 1923 or later that would otherwise have entered the public domain in 1999 from doing so. After a delay of twenty years, many works published in 1923 have entered the public domain, and we publish a few of them in this issue. Look for works by Kahlil Gibran, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and others. Freedom!

 


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Themes for future issues
May 2019: The Moon
August 2019: Mothers

Current Voices

 

Opening Letters One by One

George Wallace

Opening letters one by one at a small table, completely alone in the company of men, Lorca and a letter opener in his left hand, hung up in the heat of day, death watching from the towers of Cordoba, death staring down like the sun and yet time stood still, Narcissus staring deep into the pond, this reflection a cool embrace, this terrible insult called fascism blossoming everywhere and a terrible beauty, this yearning for that which cannot be satisfied, for love, for consolation, for what lies beyond Spanish borders, escape into the inferno of vowels and verbs, fricatives, wild embraces, escape into a private dialogue with immortality, a year older than Jesus and what is there to show for it, and what’s worse, poetry exploding in the brainpan like bombs, the power to love men, one by one by one, irreconcilable, tragic, the power to rob death with the stroke of a pen, intoxicating! he opens these letters one by one because he must, because there is no other choice, deceive fate or be consumed by it, walk along as long as you possibly can in the fragrant garden of oranges and lemons, wedded to blood, wedded to death and the company of men, surrounded by clusters of flowers, like a shroud, like a poet, like a man sullen, drunk, ripe with life, completely alone

 

Cicada

Jill Ewing

 

We Need New Words

Carolyn Chatham

We need new words These no longer get it done We need new words in our lexicon to serve us in our time of desperation We need new verbs Khashoggied, we show our bloody stumps where fingers were dismembered, bone-sawed, silenced We need new words to speak for him The princeling promises we’ll forget Predicts this too will pass Blow over We need new words to cut him down New words to blow away a crown Old words, so sharp, so rapier have lost their power blunted by too many battles We need new words with killing power Standard usage fails us now Kavanaughed and gerrymandered We need new words with nuclear power To plow them under Now and forever

 

El Montán Postcard

Gary Sweeney

 

Windows

Kathleen Glassburn

Peeling white paint barely covers the clapboard of their recently purchased big old house. A metal ladder extends twenty-four feet up an exterior wall. Kate stands to the ladder’s side, her sneakers muddied by the damp, disturbed ground. Don’t walk under. A smell of raw wood fills the air. The ladder looks as if put there by some taunting giant.

“It’s time for you to check placement of those third-floor front windows,” Carl, foreman of the remodeling project, says. Her face grows hot as he takes in her features, then adds, “The ladder’s perfectly safe, Mrs. Shaw.”

With a fluttering stomach, Kate closes her gray eyes for a second. “Can I do it tomorrow? I’m in kind of a hurry.” She figured the inside stairway would be ready.

“Tomorrow morning,” Carl says. “Our installers want to finish this job by the weekend.”

“I’ll be over here as soon as the kids are off to school.”

Walking across the street to the shingle-covered cottage that they’ve rented for several years, Kate chastises herself, Why not just go up there?

Why? Because she avoids high places, except in completed buildings and airplanes. On a ladder? All that open space below and above and around.

It’s ten o’clock. Mattie’s at her second-grade class, and Johnny’s in the kindergarten room. She has several hours to herself and planned to use them writing. Instead, until she leaves to pick the children up from Seattle’s Hillside Elementary, memories of other scary heights sneak into her mind like ghosts flitting back and forth.…

 

Satan Considering the Serpent

Gustav Doré, illustrating Milton's Paradise Lost

 

Regrets

X’zavea Gillard

Ranchview High School, Grade 11

The great Mac Miller once said, “My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send.” I listen as my thumb hovers over that send button. The nervousness builds up as if I’m shooting my first gun. My breathing increases as I decide… Send. Don’t send. Send. Don’t send. I take one final breath. SEND. Nov 14. 7:43 PM. Message delivered. “Hey, I love you.”

 

 


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