October 5-11, 2020: Poetry from Contest Winners Taylor Byas, B.J. Buckley, and Angele Ellis

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Learn more about the 2020 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest here.

Send us your poetry. Click here for submission guidelines.

Taylor Byas

Taylor Byas won first place in the 2020 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio an is a black poet and essayist. Originally from Chicago, She moved to Alabama for six years, where she received both her Bachelor’s degree in English and her Master’s degree in English (Creative Writing concentration) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her poetry has appeared in New Ohio Review, The Journal, storySouth, Glass Poetry, and others. She has poems forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, Hobart, Pidgeonholes, and others. Her prose appears or is forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine, Empty Mirror, Jellyfish Review, and others. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and Best New Poets 2020.

The following work is Copyright © 2020, and owned by Taylor Byas and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

The Black Girl Comes To Dinner

We drive into the belly of Alabama,
where God tweezed the highway’s two lanes
down to one, where my stomach
bottoms out on each brakeless fall.

Where God tweezed the highway’s two lanes
with heat, a mirage of water shimmers into view then
bottoms out. On each brakeless fall,
I almost tell you what I’m thinking, my mouth brimming

with heat. A mirage of water shimmers into view then
disappears beneath your tires. 
I almost tell you what I’m thinking, my mouth brimming
with blues. Muddy Waters’ croon

disappears beneath your tires.
I want to say I’m nervous beneath a sky brilliant
with blues. Muddy Waters’ croon,
the only loving I’m willing to feel right now, the only loving

I want. To say I’m nervous beneath a sky brilliant
enough to keep me safe means to face what night brings.
The only loving I’m willing to feel right now, the only loving
that will calm me—I need you to tell me I am

enough. To keep me safe means to face what night brings
to the black girl in a sundown town—
that will calm me. I need you to tell me I am
safe. That they will love me, that the night will not gift fire

to the black girl in a sundown town.
Your grandmother folds me into her arms and I try to feel
safe. That they will love me, that the night will not gift fire
are mantras to repeat as

your grandmother folds me into her arms. And I try to feel
grateful. But get home before it’s too late and watch out for the flags
are mantras to repeat as
we drive into the belly of Alabama.

B.J. Buckley

B.J. Buckley won second place in the 2020 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest. She is a Power, Montana poet and writer who 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 © 2020, and owned by B.J. Buckley and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Diana in Autumn

I am not afraid to say I live by blood.

Before that red flow gushed
from my own belly

I was a swimmer elbow-deep
in the carcasses of deer,

I ripped breath’s tunnel
from a slit throat,
used all my strength
against the weight
of a stomach full of grass
and alder shoots.
I held a heart, still beating,
in my hand,
took with soft lips
from the blade of my father’s knife
that slice of liver, hot and raw,
my first communion.

Before my breasts bloomed
I had burned bodies,
torn flesh from bones,
howled the mad wild joy of it.
Eden is closed,
and I in every ruddy leaf
am Fallen.
I love the incense of decay,
the deer,
this dust we are
and were and will be,

the arrow singing slaughter

in my hand.

Angele Ellis

Angele Ellis is the third place winner of the 2020 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was also the 3rd place winner in the 2018 Poetry Super Highway contest, and served as a judge in our 2019 contest. Her poetry has appeared on a movie theater marquee, after winning Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ G-20 Haiku Contest. She is author of Arab on Radar (Six Gallery), whose poems won a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Spared (A Main Street Rag Editors’ Choice Chapbook), and Under the Kaufmann’s Clock (Six Gallery), a poetry-prose hybrid inspired by her adopted city of Pittsburgh, PA, with photographs by Rebecca Clever. She is a longtime editor and community activist, and has committed civil disobedience seven times.

The following work is Copyright © 2020, and owned by Angele Ellis and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Scenes from Frozen River

(1) Often Rebuked, Yet Always Back Returning

to this burdened snowscape, this land pressed
flat by a lake effect sky. The deep blue bays
of Ontario ripple and swell, an ocean
drawing in. Tides, shrieking gulls, shells.

Twenty years ago, pulling up to a cousin’s
winterized cottage in Chaumont—Shah-moan,
for the French nobleman who claimed it—
her mother warned: Don’t be shocked if she’s strange.

O God of our childhood. She was bloated and strung out
on pain pills—shaking and keening over her best friend,
killed in that so-called one-car accident two years before.
Broken—broken through a frosted wall of glass

the fabled good looks of Yasmina,
my father’s far relation. On that other side—
unknown beauty whose tear-stained mouth embraced
her steering wheel at the terminus of white tracks.

My aunt: She wouldn’t have wanted to live after that.


(2) Often Rebuked, Yet Always Back Returning

to this burdened snowscape, this land where
a hard-bitten movie heroine craves a doublewide,
bad enough to smuggle illegals on thin ice
over the invisible border slicing the Mohawk rez.

I know her plowed-field misery. And the other,
her accomplice: black hair and pillowed cheeks.
The young face of my Mohawk cousins, before
we started gambling, every goddamn day.

I know that plywood shelf crowned with Regal,
these dead drifts deeper than crevasses,
those thrift stores stalked by marked-down bosses.
This land slapped flat by a husband’s hand.

On film, beached hope is salvaged. The ravaged
woman goes to jail. Her Mohawk friend tends
their children in the showroom trailer, gleaming
whale tamed by its female Jonah. Swallowed

whole into darkness, I no longer care how it ends.


3) Often Rebuked, Yet Always Back Returning

to this burdened snowscape, this land, in a van
far removed from the rattling paneled station wagons
of our pasts. Upholstered plush muffles gossip
as we glide, cresting the scenic route. There’s

no place like home! cries a cousin, half-amazed.
We finger landmarks from her tinted windows.
Almost a pleasure trip, this funeral: what’s left
to the middle-aged. Another death, yet we go on

like the Donner Party, sucking marrow from dry bones.
Does it matter who remains among the living?
This land pressed flat in our broken View-Master.
Bovine doublewides grazing the old farms. Lusting

for nothing, we laugh to break the stitches in our sides.