October 4-10, 2021: Poetry from Contest Winners Kelli Simpson, B.J. Buckley, and Mary Beth Hines

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Learn more about the 2021 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest here.

Send us your poetry. Click here for submission guidelines.

Kelli Simpson

Kelli Simpson won first place in the 2021 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest. She is a mother and poet living in Norman, Oklahoma who has published poems in Lamplit Underground, Rabid Oak, The Avenue, Ghost City Review, and The River.

The following work is Copyright © 2021, and owned by Kelli Simpson and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


Can’t quiet my voices, so I
choir them;
soprano, alto;
interior, ulterior;
hymn, hum

of disintegrating stars
and breath.
Lying on my back beneath
Crybaby Bridge,

I’m a swallow
in its soft, cement underbelly,
and I swallow great gulps of graffiti.

Straight scripture. No
Shakespeare in spray paint.
Colors and colors and
crumbling pillars.

Deanna + Darren
Southside Rocks!
Angele Marquez is a ho
pass it along

The shades unspool
and the words
retool into notes
on my bridge bard’s
unquiet voices;

soprano and alto,
interior and ulterior,
humming and hymning;

then, disintegrating
into breath.

I’m a swallow
swallowing a sparrow

I unspool
and retool
love notes;
death threats;
proof of life.

I was here.
Pass it along.

B. J. Buckley

B. J. Buckley won second place in the 2021 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest. She has worked in Arts in Schools/Communities programs throughout the west and midwest for over 45 years. She conducts residencies and workshops in schools, libraries, senior centers, homeless shelters, museums, at conferences, with writing groups and book clubs, and with special needs adults and children. Her poems address the stark and dangerous beauty of the west, its animals, plants, weather, geology and geography, as well as the lives of the people who choose it as home.

The following work is Copyright © 2021, and owned by B. J. Buckley and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


There was the afternoon we found the half-longhorn
mired in the dregs of a waterhole, just enough
wet left to tempt her too far to get free, mudlocked,
panicked, her eyes closed, so still we thought
she was dead. Then she heard us, she heaved,
earthquake of muscle, the sound of her, screaming,
drooling, her eyes exploding planets. No one spoke.
We could get us killed, her horns like rapiers.
Swede threw a dally, let his rope float like spider silk,
he got her first try, backed his horse. Then Darl.
Then Clay. I was in the pickup, we could dally
to the hitch if the horses failed, I could haul ass
for help if . . . Well, if. Those horses. My god, those
horses, they came abreast and leaned and pulled
back every time the cow heaved, and it was music.
Even the awful suck when she came loose
was music. They walked her up a ways and let her
stand. She could fall down dead. Her thundering
machine of a heart. We didn’t know how long she’d
struggled, how long without water. Long. If something
inside her was broken. The horses, foam sweat all over
their bodies, letting the ropes go slack.

Mary Beth Hines

Mary Beth Hines won third place in the 2021. She is formerly a project manager who writes poetry and short fiction and non-fiction from her home in Massachusetts. Her work has been published, or is forthcoming, in journals such as Crab Orchard Review, The Galway Review, Gyroscope Review, The Lake, Literary Mama, and Sky Island Journal, among others.

The following work is Copyright © 2021, and owned by Mary Beth Hines and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Noah’s Wife

On the fourth straight day of rain I begin
to contemplate Noah’s wife, her life, married
to a six-hundred-year-old stiff-necked man,
young-old mother of three grown sons, survivors.
And every gray morning thereafter the whole
of that summer, I woke and imagined her climbing
up a rickety ladder to the wet deck, fog-thick air,
for breath, and the brackish choice evening-after-evening—
cacophony of kidnapped swine and jays or whitecaps
and thunderheads—the water winning every time.

Selfish for a few spare minutes—a glimpse of cloud-
filtered moon, dome of imagined stars—she cobbled
a brief daily escape from the menagerie of couples
sniffing and mewling, braying and copulating
to save the world from a righteous god’s wrath while she
cloaked her doubts in words, prayed as best she could
under the circumstances, her losses accumulating
like those of my friend who, that same summer,
lost her son to a deluge of modern afflictions—dizzy
celebration, sink into wormhole, giddy party gone wrong.

Every evening through that sluicing, swelling season,
I listened for the wife’s dazed voice amidst the hush
of drizzle, rush of storm—attuned to how light
and sound carry across space, through time; heard her ask
beseechingly, quietly, for one good thing or another:
a daughter, a couple of peaceful years, a name of her own
to recall, suddenly, upon waking from a bad dream,
a name she might bequeath, one sweet on the tongue,
begging to be belted out in bass, in those low,
languid notes that reverberate long after a song is over.