October 21-28, 2019: Poetry from Contest Winners Ellaraine Lockie, Suzanne O'Connell and Alicia Elkort

This week presenting the winners of the 2019 (22nd annual)
Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest:

Ellaraine Lockie, Suzanne O’Connell and Alicia Elkort

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Ellaraine Lockie

Bio (auto)

Ellaraine Lockie (the first place winner of the 2019 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest) is widely published and awarded as a poet, nonfiction book author and essayist. Her fourteenth chapbook, Sex and Other Slapsticks, was recently released from Presa Press. Earlier collections have won Poetry Forum’s Chapbook Contest Prize, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Chapbook Competition, Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest, Best Individual Poetry Collection Award from Purple Patch magazine in England, and The Aurorean’s Chapbook Choice Award. She also teaches writing workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, LILIPOH.

The following work is Copyright © 2019, and owned by Ellaraine Lockie and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Stepping Over Arizona

1. step: a prefix denoting connection between members of
a family by the remarriage of a parent and not by blood

Her father, my mother, old and as lost
as widowed roadrunners
Her sister dead, mine never born
We baby-stepped with two left feet
through the maze of remarriage
Never enough time together
for the giant steps of intimacy

2. Step up: to increase, augment or advance by one or more steps

Now we’re thrown into the race of inheritance
Ours a slow plod through Depression Era compulsion
of crammed cupboards, closets and storage sheds
We breathe-in nostalgia from 9 decades of diaries
church bulletins, calendars, every letter ever received
and free logo pens as dry as Arizona sand
Exclamation points punctuate desert air
as we haul piles of apache tears and agates
Sort hundreds of boxes stuffed with the likes of rubber bands
tuna fish cans, yogurt cups, Popsicle sticks, toilet paper tubes
unraveled yarns, and my mother’s echo: Waste not, want not
Questions like Why 42 scissors and 60-some flyswatters
float over us like comic book speech balloons

It could all be tossed in the Goodwill truck but for the covert layers
of wedding bands, watches and diamond rings
Navajo squash blossom necklaces, turquoise/silver earrings
bolo ties and rings–many still wearing price tags

3. step by step: dealing with one thing and then another in a fixed order

In the kitchen, airwaves get filthy with four-letter words
when we find maggots in jars, 2-year expired food in the fridge
prescription bottles dated 20 years ago
and stacks of used and washed paper towels
Rags instead of toilet paper hanging on the bathroom dispenser
Under the sink floorboard the silver dollar collection
gone missing after Grandma died
Inside the bed frame a coffin-size compartment hiding
a lifetime stamp collection and antiques unseen by us before

My stepsister and I fall into the same bed each night half drunk
with wine, exhaustion and laughter too long and loud
After a week mimicking a month we wake
to the last ordeal that waits in the living room
Where heirlooms stare from a china closet
so full it strains the oak enclosed space
Every treasure assigned its beneficiary in my mother’s handwriting
Of course, no grandchild or cousin wants what they are bequeathed
So we spend the day as auctioneers cell-phoning photos
Invite friends and neighbors to choose from leftovers
Until the only thing standing in the forest of dead oak
is a tiny china deer with a homemade sign that says Homeless

4. Step: a degree in progress or a rank in a scale

On the last day we wave good-bye to truckloads
of garbage and donations
Say hello to our mode of transportation to Los Angeles
A U-Haul the size of a city bus with keepsakes
and eBay wannabes as passengers

My stepsister has taken only a pocketful of rocks
her family’s photo albums and her father’s Marine Corp
mementos in her one suitcase
When I see the tiny deer peeking out of it
the Tom Sawyer in me wants to take her behind the house
Prick our fingers and blend the blood

5. Step: to put or press the foot

We take turns gripping the wheel
The glare of enormity in the beast we’ve become
fades in the vastness of the Mojave Desert
Under the spell of Highway 40 the landscape opens
Along with our mouths in awe that we each traveled this road
when it was Route 66, The Mother Road
We confess to both being Daddy’s girls
One mother as cold-blooded as the desert tortoise
we just saved from roadkill
The other mother’s lifelong penchant for larceny
The rest of the skeletons freshly out of closets
shuffle their renewed lives back and forth between us

6. Step: the difference in pitch between two notes that are next to each other

The metronome from highway seams plays
its hypnotic countdown that regresses us to childhood
The cab radio alternates opera and classical
for her New York City with country western for my Montana
My stepsister still dresses in tailored attire, I in fringe and cowboy boots
We hum along and the cab
reverberates like a bipolar karaoke night
Laughter like we were Thelma and Louise
I the one with a gun, she with the good sense

7. Step: To move or proceed as if by steps into a new situation

On the second morning my boot slams the brakes
as a driver passes with shouts and finger pointing
at the black plume of smoke trailing the truck
Shock that there are no brakes transforms me
into a Mojave jackrabbit in headlights
My stepsister quickens to see that she
employs the emergency brake overnight and I don’t

The slow salvation of this straight level road and perhaps
blessings from my Hopi Katsina barrette roll us to a stop
Recovery requires time with a roadside waitress
who has heard our story from the mechanic
She asks if we’re friends having an adventure
A pause long enough that the woman blushes
thinking her own thoughts about what we are

In these still and silent moments
blood loses its power to a highway
How it can be a birth canal, a Mother Road
that spawns the sticky glue bonding siblings
One that connects to a lifetime of other roads we’ll travel
We say to the waitress We’re sisters



Suzanne O’Connell

Bio (auto)

Suzanne O’Connell (the second place winner of the 2019 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest) is a poet living in Los Angeles. Her recent collection "What Luck" was published by Garden Oaks Press. Other recently published work can be found in Poet Lore, American Chordata, Alembic, Forge, Juked, Existere, Crack The Spine, and Pennsylvania English. O’Connell was nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her first poetry collection, “A Prayer For Torn Stockings,” was published by Garden Oak Press in 2016. Visit Suzanne on the web here.

The following work is Copyright © 2019, and owned by Suzanne O’Connell and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

The Man Who Dusts The Bones

“Man of few words,” Janice always said.
She was, as usual, right.
I like quiet.
I like calm.
I like predictable.
But after Janice died, it got too quiet,
even for me.
I went on disability for a while.
Night work suits me.
Quiet, calm and predictable.
Coupla miles on Jefferson, turn right.
Park at Dinosaur Hall.
Eat my sandwich every night at 3:00,
same one every time,
bologna and cheese.
I found a new family here.
and the baby.
All dinosaurs,
except for me.
In the next room,
giraffes and jackals
linger near a waterhole.
In my own diorama,
I arrange the tool kit:
Dawn detergent
cotton balls
feather duster
white alcohol.
Grief is not a profession.
I hardly cry anymore.
My new family is fifty-five million years old.
They aren’t going anywhere.
I won’t ever be left behind again.


Alicia Elkort

Bio (auto)

Alicia Elkort’s (the third place winner of the 2019 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest) poetry has appeared in AGNI, Black Lawrence Press, Califragile, Georgia Review, Heron Tree, Hunger Journal, Jet Fuel Review, Menacing Hedge, Rogue Agent, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and many others.  Alicia’s poems have been nominated for the Orisons Anthology (2016), the Pushcart (2017), and Best of the Net (2018). She lives in California and will go to great lengths for an honest cup of black tea and a cool breeze. 

The following work is Copyright © 2019, and owned by Alicia Elkort and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

A Blessing

Tali’s presence is an etching across the table—sacred,
faded print of ink twenty years late, her eyes wild, her words,
married & my girl is nine, against my own, single still,
writing in my spare time. Tali leans in like I’m a priest
behind the latticed aperture, stained windows unveiling
the light of a divine presence. She needs to confess
& be forgiven, her fingers working a hole in her seat.
She disappeared without a word because my memories
of a man pinning my ten-year-old self to the floor &
thrusting & spitting &—she wasn’t ready to remember
her own father, his gun, bullets & him, inside &
to her head, year after year breathing the bullets
down, until he reached for her sister & her mama
set the house on fire. Words pour out of Tali’s
mouth, lit from within, embers on a log,
burning a sadness so resonant I imagine
every soul in the restaurant caught mid-
breath, turning, in their own grief.
I want my friend as I always imagined her —
breathy & twenty, a gorgeous world at her feet. 
As I leave the restaurant, the scent of the sea wafts
across the avenue, and Tali’s words follow,
a corona of fireflies I bless again & again—
the words, the blessing, the words, the blessing,
until the sound of his gun becomes rain,
becomes halcyon tones of distant thunder.  


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