April is National Poetry Month and San Antonio is celebrating. About 20 writers, photographers, and history buffs gathered Saturday, April 9, for a group event, “Writers Take a Walk,” along the San Pedro Creek.
For a full list of poetic events this month, visit the National Poetry Month – San Antonio website here.
The stream will see major construction later this year as part of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project. The writers walked along Phase I of the project, which should be complete in time for San Antonio’s Tricentennial Celebration in 2018 and is surrounded by a number of other downtown housing and commercial projects.
Bryce Milligan, publisher of Wings Press; Rosemary Catacalos, 2013 Texas Poet Laureate; and Catherine “Jazz Cat” Lee were just some who were able to attend the presentation by Kerry Averyt of the San Antonio River Authority on April 9. River Authority administrator Bridget Hinze said they can offer a presentation about the redevelopment project to any group.
Local Sierra Club member Barb McMillin is glad the San Pedro Creek will have a proper waterway and walkway.
“Touching the past will become even more present,” McMillin said. “There will be many moments in the future to reflect on the water’s history. And this experience will be quiet and comfortable and parklike.”
Downtown resident Barbara Maxwell was inspired to search for her San Antonio roots.
“I found my family had a residence at 241 Houston and commercial property at 31 Cameron, which now is Penner’s,” Maxwell said. “I walked on over to Penner’s this morning and they knew my family, in fact, they had been very close. Needless to say, I am looking forward to my next visit to the Texana room at the Library.”
Some of the highpoints of the hike sparked memories and poems. The San Pedro Creek faces the back side of the block for Casa Navarro, the O. Henry House, the Spanish Governor’s Palace, the DeLaGarza Homestead, and the jail on Laredo Street. Perhaps the creek improvements will bring recognition to these sites.
Peter Holland is a lifelong San Antonian who has attended several ‘Writers Take a Walk’ events. Although he could not attend this walk, his love of nature compelled him to contribute this poem in absentia.
Rio San Pedro – by Peter Holland
Bubbling out of limestone clear and cold
she was a small river but a river none the less.
A gossipy companion for those with labours to do
a city grew up about her sapping her flow
but when the rains come, and they come hard,
she proves to be every bit the river
forgotten nearly paved over she trusted
she would not be lost to forgetful time
those who love her have been heard
soon she will be artfully reborn
she will be given several new faces
but one old and beautiful heart.
Carol Siskovic, a retired teacher from Northside ISD and Alamo Colleges, is another poet who finds inspiration from the ‘Writers Take a Walk’ events. She was intrigued by a little house near Dolorosa Street and the San Pedro Creek.
O. Henry Breathed Here – by Carol Siskovic
A small frame house transported
from its original location to another,
easier for tourists and visitors to find,
in the center of a city now eager to
lay claim to one of theirs made good.
Through the magic door we follow,
guide pointing out the magic desk,
the magic typewriter, the magic chair.
Cameras click, people claiming
their separate turns to sit and pose.
Take a picture! If I sit where he sat,
place my fingers on keys he touched,
perhaps I, too….
Lea Lopez Fagin, a Family Nurse Practitioner, is another ‘Writers Take a Walk’ veteran. Originally from Peru, she brings an international view to local landmarks.
San Pedro Creek – by Lea Lopez Fagin
Oh! San Pedro Creek,
your glistening waters
dressed in mosaic patterns
bring bright sparkles to my life.
Flowing with a gentle melody,
you twirl around and around
like a colorful fiesta ribbon
across the west side of San Antonio.
You give life, peace, and beauty
to plants, trees and birds.
Your clear waters run like a gracious
ballerina dancing to the tune of time.
Unafraid of restraints
of origin, race, creed and color
your slender figure skates
through steel barriers across the city.
Witness to San Antonio’s past and present,
you talk to me of Jose Navarro’s joy when he signed
the Declaration of Texas Independence,
and of O. Henry’s wit in The Last Leaf.
My little creek, you are my mist on steamy days,
my poetic muse on starry nights,
and my loving child that needs protection
to tell stories to generations yet to come!
Antonia Salinas Murguia writes poetry from the heart and has contributed two articles to the Rivard Report. Her poem recalls the hopes and dreams of Fray Isidro Felix de Espinosa who named the creek in honor of Saint Peter back in 1709.
Blessings – by Antonia Murguia
Hay va el aqua, vamos a vivir donde el agua nos bendecirá.*
And that is how the San Pedro Creek became vibrant in the lives
of the San Antonio people.
The flowing of the spring that keeps the water going prove to be
the most important breathe of life.
The people took care of it and the city grew around it.
After a while, some forgot about the importance
of the little creek, but not all.
Many years later, it was decided to improve the path
for flood control and beautification.
Great planning was done to retain the natural beauty.
People worked together and everyone was invited for input.
In two years, part of the revitalization will be completed
and the San Pedro Creek will be more beautiful than ever imagined.
I can’t wait to feel the soft wind as I will walk along the swirled path.
When it is done and I visit for the first time, I will close my eyes to hear,
Hay va el aqua, vamos a vivir donde el agua nos bendecirá.
and I will whisper, Gracias.
*There goes the water, we will live where the water will bless us.
One of the benefits of exploring an area with a group is that everybody learns something from someone else. Construction for the San Pedro Creek Improvements Projects begins later this year. Take your friends out for a walk soon.
Echoes Along the San Pedro Creek – by Don Mathis
We used to live over there,
two houses away
from San Pedro Creek.
And sometimes at night,
we could hear la Llorona
crying for her children
“Aaaiiii… Mis hijos!”
That’s where it happened,
When I was a young girl,
I had to walk past the jail
on Laredo Street,
right by the creek
and the men in prison would call out,
“Hey chula baby.
You sure looking good!
I’m gonna see you when I get out.”
And they would whistle.
I had one baby in my arms
and pushing another in a stroller,
and I was pregnant out to here!
And still the jailbirds would sing,“Hey mamacita!
Oh, baby; come over here.
Hencha me un besito!”
I guess I looked like a fertility goddess.
I laughed, because I once was
on the other side of the bars
and felt ashamed for my gender
at the rude and crude boys.
But down the cell,
where the women were imprisoned,
they sang Christmas carols
one late November.
“Silent Night,” the heroin addicts sang.
“Holy Night,” the whores echoed.
The men laughed at first,
but soon were reminded
of more innocent times.
And they shut up and listened.
Do you remember when
the Fiesta carnival was right here
in this parking lot?
The carnies would bark,
“Step right up!
Win a kewpie doll for your girlfriend.
Three darts for a dollar!”
Food vendors would shout
and the bells would ring.
It all happened right here
on the Arroyo de San Pedro.
Each author retains copyright to his or her poetry.
The public is invited to the subcommittee meetings of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project. The next meeting is at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 12, at the San Antonio River Authority, 100 E. Guenther St. Contact Bridget Hinze, 210-302-3257, firstname.lastname@example.org, for dates of future meetings.
Top image: The Salinas Street Bridge over the San Pedro Creek is one of the structures slated for redevelopment. The group at the ‘Writers Take a Walk’ event explored the basin before construction begins this fall. Photo by Barbara Maxwell.