(the judges of the 2014 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest)
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Aaron Gardner lives in Ojai, California and is a poet, educator, and father of two phenomenal children. He has been heavily involved in the spoken word scene since 1999, and was the Oakland Grand Slam Champion in 2010. He has been published in journals and online publications such as Ibid, Rivertalk, Cult 456, and Poetry Superhighway. Aaron continues his work locally with young poets to help them discover their voices and the power contained therein.
The following work is Copyright © 2014, and owned by Aaron Gardner and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
You first found him under the bed at age 12.
He grew bold as you aged, moving to your
He sat on your shoulder during the wedding,
When you cried flower petal tears
You tried burning him out, leaving
For someone who never believed in Heaven,
City Kids at Upper Lake Tahoe
The snow fell sudden and strange
City children with grins like
Later, around a fire,
Seventeen with a backpack full of
When her mother went to prison,
She drinks and she drinks and
At home, when no one looks,
In rehab he learned a new language
Some days he wakes up with the
Some days the floor is his only
always have small voices,
When this happens,
Douglas Richardson is a novelist and poet who resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Jen. He has had fiction and poetry published in literary journals, such as The Nervous Breakdown, Straight Forward Poetry, Misfits’ Miscellany, and Aesthetica (UK), as well as in the anthologies The Night Goes On All Night and Ekphrastia Gone Wild. For more information, please visit Douglas’s Kirkus Pro Connect page, at https://www.kirkusreviews.com/author/douglas-richardson/
The following work is Copyright © 2014, and owned by Douglas Richardson and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
you check in
At the Starting Line
From our vantage point at the starting line, we can see how the coastline shapes the bay. The race official points across the water to a mountain on the faraway shore and announces that we will run until we collapse into the arms of the Virgen de Guadalupe.
in the bathroom
A Lucid Afternoon
On a lucid afternoon you sit at the kitchen table writing a letter that details every essential memory of your life—eating lemons, watching game shows, and so on and so forth for forty-five pages. You put it in an envelope and walk to the post office. You feel different now, lighter. Your back has stopped aching. You pass by the used car lot. The cars have olive branches for antennas. Your dinner and meds await back home, a photo of your wife on the fridge.
Scent of the Ocean
scent of the ocean
Hannah Dow is a recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University’s English M.A. program. She is now pursuing her Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers in Hattiesburg. Her work has been featured in Poetry Super Highway, as well as in journals such as Literary Laundry and Contrary Magazine. She is honored to be judging this year’s contest.
The following work is Copyright © 2014, and owned by Hannah Dow and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
The tar pits were a false heaven luring thirsty animals to their black-gold surfaces. Not pools, traps. So many animals died there. The paleontologists think the animals were stupid to fall for the trick, which is why they have gathered their bones and put them on display in Natural History Museums, as if to say—“See how stupid the animals were? We are so much smarter.”
Last month, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology met in Los Angeles to discuss the latest fossil findings from Rancho La Brea. They spoke clinically. With close attention to detail. They spoke about the markings on cougar, hyena, cheetah, lion teeth. They showed maps of hunting injuries—a wolf kicked in the skull by his prey, a sabre-tooth tiger dragging his twisted spine.
Every day, I am lured to a false heaven. Every day, I am hoping no one notices or finds out I have been stupid enough to fall for another trick. Every day that I am alive, I am hoping no paleontologist looks at me like I’m a cloth bag full of bones he can open and read and find out what I ate and who I chased and whether I have ever been kicked in the head.
This is what scares me: They have let the tar pits go unpunished. In fact, the city of Los Angeles has worshipped them, has risen around them. What scares me is that after so much death, the people have come together to celebrate what they have found. What they have found is Massacre. Carnage. Extermination. Genocide. They are excited by massacre. By death. Death is exciting to them.
“Have you been there?” my friend asks me in a letter.
If I had said otherwise, he would think I had fallen for the tar pits. He would try to dig me out. He would find only my bones.
Eclipse Parcial de Sol
After Ron Padgett
After Italo Calvino
As he enters the city of Araceli, the traveler feels that he is being watched, and he is. To get to the city, he must first pass through a long tunnel of mirrors. There are few places to stop along his journey into the city, but when he does stop, it is so that his horse can sip what looks like mercury out of small streams gushing from the mirrored walls.
At the city’s gate, the traveler is greeted by two twin frowning men, with foreheads wrinkled from ages of squinting their eyes against the mirrored glare. The twin men hand him a stamped ticket, and the traveler realizes that the city is in fact a museum. Some citizens of Araceli reside in glass cases. There are families dressed in tiger skins, chewing the carcasses of antelopes. Others have their faces painted gold and they wield scepters and staves. The less fortunate citizens of Araceli live in closer quarters, each family relegated to one large picture frame. Beggars and prostitutes have had their shirts pinned to the wall of a large, blank room. The most dangerous criminals of Araceli, however, must lie very still, so that passersby can read the crimes etched into their hairless backs. Meanwhile, the rulers of Araceli are always patrolling the museum, flashing their badges and enforcing quietude and sweeping the floor when necessary. They make sure the tiger families have been fed and that the criminals are lying very still.
Once inside the city of Araceli, the traveler notes the importance of mirrors, of remembering the way he looked atop a moving horse.