October 9-15, 2017: Poetry from Lisette Alonso, Matilda Berke, and Eric Steineger

This week presenting the winners of the 2017 (20th annual)
Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest:

Lisette Alonso, Matilda Berke and Eric Steineger

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Lisette Alonso

Bio (auto)

Lisette Alonso won first place in the 2017 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest.

Lisette Alonso is an award-winning poet, Florida native, mother of three, procrastinator, reluctant teacher, heavy sleeper, joyful eater, and uncommon dreamer. Her work has appeared in The Nashville Review, The Tishman Review, and a variety of online journals. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Miami.

The following work is Copyright © 2017, and owned by Lisette Alonso and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Rio Grande

Onscreen the horses gallop John Wayne
across a valley. The soldiers use the wagon
train as cover against the hooting Apaches
who are shooting rifles instead of arrows.
You and I are stretched on opposite ends
of the bed, the old west in monochrome
on our tube TV that I’m only half watching,
though I don’t mind the Duke’s twang or
O’Hara’s grit and penetrating gaze. I’m trying
to think of metaphors for the space between us.
Two doors down we worry someone has died.
We know because of where the flashing lights stop
that it’s the elderly couple in the shuttered house
pasted with signs meant to scare off religious
canvassers, though every Halloween they welcome
the trick-or-treaters, hand out starlight mints
and circus peanuts, and we understand all they have
is each other. And thinking one of them may be gone
makes me feel a bone sorrow I can’t articulate.
You’re thinking instead how we haven’t had sex
in weeks and how lonely you’ve felt, but your ache
is a geography I can’t navigate, and maybe the problem
is that we stand on different sides of a river bed,
one of us trying to find a way to cross the current,
the other daunted by the vastness of the sky.


Matilda Berke

Bio (auto)

Matilda Berke won second place in the 2017 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest.

Matilda Berke started writing poetry in her junior year at Polytechnic School in Los Angeles and has since been recognized by YoungArts, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the L.A. Tomorrow Prize, & the L.A. Youth Poet Laureate competition. She is double majoring in English and Economics at Wellesley College; in her free time, she hopes to take up sailing, start a punk band, and see more of the world.

The following work is Copyright © 2017, and owned by Matilda Berke and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


During the Cultural Revolution, Madame Mao took control of the National Ballet of China.
Government officials scoured the nation for children who showed physical promise, plucking
them from their homes and placing them in state-sanctioned training camps.

The dream where the moon
filters through onto the dust

& I find myself in my mother’s
old studio. No longer bomb shelter, more flesh
than cocked gun. The snow comes in veils.

It is winter but the wood is warm.
Imagine Mao Tse-tung sinking in every floorboard,
stripped of his title years before Nixon.

The tears unsprung, undried
bloodspots smutted from rosy silk. Nylon
gone transparent over tenements

of skin. Clear & pale, with a phantom waltz
to glass each windowpane. There is a body on the roof
that doesn’t catch light anymore.

A line of dancers spiral back & back: the path
I trace with crumpled toes & hope, if I am allowed
that given long enough, these blistered walls

will echo themselves into inlay. The banners
dropped in mud. All mirrors robbed of likeness.


Eric Steineger

Bio (auto)

Eric Steineger won third place in the 2017 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest.

Eric Steineger is the Senior Poetry Editor for The Citron Review. He teaches full time at Mars Hill University and periodically in UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program. His work has been featured in The Los Angeles Review, Tinderbox, Asheville Poetry Review, and elsewhere. As a poetry organizer for Black Mountain College Museum, he enjoys coming up with themed events, which have included the South, Surrealism, and Carl Sandburg. Part of his mission as an educator is to promote North Carolina’s literary heritage, hence his involvement with BMCM and The Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara.

The following work is Copyright © 2017, and owned by Eric Steineger and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

The Hypnagogic Wanderings of Fernando Pessoa

 ~a response to themes from The Book of Disquiet

I. Population Density

O Pessoa. Still roaming the grand squares of Lisbon expression-
less in your tatty tan overcoat; even the paper cup of cherry brandy 
does not warm the insides for your “halo of ice” is rebarbative 
to others, a projection of you like placards along the Rua 
dos Douradores & other avenidas listing your service:
Fernando Pessoa worked here as a typist between the years 
1912–1914. A heteronym starts with mispronunciation, then 
morphs into another person—as distinct from its source as 
strangers on separate continents. Soon the streetcar cannot
climb the hill. Best to view it from a cobblestone side street 
where the angle of humanity rising cleaves the mind’s desire 
to remain grounded: here imagining a seamstress from that vantage 
imagining you imagining someone else, another gorgeous mutation 
dimly created with hands shaking & impeccable penmanship. 


II. Some Ports        

To consider port and port. One: a capacious dock for ships and their cargo—
Sometimes sleepy, always hulking in arrival/departure, like the weight 
of an idea deferred. Most of us take for granite the presence of a city 
block like it was erected for the stage, a cut-out pushed upright that 
one can swap for another scene, but raw materials take handling. 
For we can telephone internationally but we cannot mail a statue 
to anchor the square. And the dated side of the coin, port as wine 
because decadence is necessary with little daylight left to enjoy 
the weather outside. Antidote or anecdote, we conveniently forget 
dessert and focus on the eyes before us. Because pairings are a luxury; 
it’s the interchangeability of the jacket, the word as an adult, which 
forms the o in port and the star. Who’s to know what is coming 
silently as the architecture moves? The Atlantic is a schedule 
of hard lines with interstices of violets. 


III. Bosses

The bosses of Lisbon eat sardines and smoke cigars. Like you they ride 
trolleys but are not you; they are descendants of bosses responsible for 
Sintra and the Seven Wonders. Their DNA is a horrid, beautiful hybrid 
of flaws & benevolence. And beneath the sweep of red tiled roofs, you 
who dream monuments can never be bosses. To be the boss. Stentorian 
in action while the gaze considers a request.

Ruthless men build ornate castles that serve tourists ice cream. 


IV. A Tedium 

If desire, there are places to go. Nothing is stopping you from 
seeing the beaches and losing a day. But to go is to return, and 
who handles requests in a foreign environment but strangers? 
Strangers live here, so why travel to meet them? Best to stay near 
the city esplanade, where flowers remain a curious spectacle. 
Their brightness contrasts with the cold, overcast sky. In their 
well-maintained plot. Surely someone oversees the flowers 
besides weather? If desire, decisions assume a resonance.
You marvel the citizens’ preparedness, umbrellas by their sides.
Ready for Thursday’s ice, when those same flowers will perish.
Next year they return, yet you do not replace the overcoat
you’re wearing due to a nostalgia that ran away. Wherever you go,
flowers appear lifelike.


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