July 18-24, 2016: poetry from M. Brett Gaffney, Helen Townsend and Trish Hopkinson

M. Brett Gaffney, Helen Townsend and Trish Hopkinson

(the judges of the 2016 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest)

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M. Brett Gaffney

Bio (auto)

M. Brett Gaffney, originally from Houston, Texas, holds an MFA in Poetry from Southern Illinois University and edits art and poetry for Gingerbread House. Her poems have appeared in Exit 7, Penduline, Permafrost, Devilfish Review, Still: the Journal, Fruita Pulp, museum of americana, BlazeVOX, and Zone 3, among others. Her chapbook, Feeding the Dead, is forthcoming in 2016 from Porkbelly Press. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her partner and their dog, Ava, and works across the river in northern Kentucky as a library associate, promoting poetry whenever she can.

The following work is Copyright © 2016, and owned by M. Brett Gaffney and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Hellhound, Lost

Wandering pup—devil dog, heart full of smoke,
digs up gardens, little graves,
…………sheds a coat of gunpowder across this city.
Shreds of souls hang from his jowls like tired trash.

Beast of reckoning, of judgment, rests at the crossroads
of alleyway and back road, cries to a moon
………………………………that has forgotten his name.

Red-eyed stray trots in the rain, looks into houses,
through cracked doors, windowsills, these barriers
between light and dark, watches families
with warm laughs, sitting around the fireplace.

He whines,
…………soaked with longing,
and a Labrador lifts her head, barks, as if to say
…………………………………………………there is death. I see him
………………………………………………………and he is like me.

Some day he hopes a pair of hands
like this mother’s with her soft crochet,
will fold over his face, smooth past
…………the licks of flame and flea to find
…………the hound with cracked paws,
………………………………………..sleepy teeth.

One day, he thinks, they will wash the blood
from my bones, bring me a bed full of raven feathers,
feed me animals I have not killed,
…………………………………………chickens maybe,
……………………whose wings were never made for flight.

…………(previously published by BlazeVOC)


Six Flags

The steel and wooden
monsters lie in scraps,
limbs and teeth, tiny screws
scattered at the bottom of a dumpster,
termites burrowing into grains,
marrow of rollercoaster bones.

The ground remembers
the sweat and spit and beer
that seeped through concrete,
the screams to clockwork clicks,
the hurried breath
and before the spiraling
down, a chance encounter
of your hand between her legs.

Our knuckles worn white on rusty
handlebars, legs dangled,
grackles on curved flight,
cotton candy like static hair,
fingers in the mouth.

This field seems too small
for all our summers,
when we pressed each
other into the jaws
of mechanized youth
and came out blushing
with hair in our face,
soda cans dripping sugar
from our sun burnt lips.

After you left in October
someone died here.
His belt slithered loose and he fell.
There was yellow tape for weeks.

Afterwards the lights
still pulsed over
the highway at night—
the moon was at my feet,
her scream was in the wind,
and we were weightless without you.

…………(previously published by Zone 3)







Helen Townsend

Bio (auto)

Helen Townsend grew up in Fort Scott, Kansas, has lived in different spots around the world, and now finds herself in Indianapolis. If she were independently wealthy, she would spend her days hopping planes, practicing yoga, writing poetry, going for runs, and saving all the animals in the world. Because she is not independently wealthy, and has a short attention span, Helen has done many things over the years—taught English to speakers of other languages, taught high school English, taught yoga, coordinated the Indiana State Refugee Health Program, to name a few. Currently, she is a TB Nurse Case Manager.

The following work is Copyright © 2016, and owned by Helen Townsend and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


Forgiving the Enemy

The walnut must have just fallen
unseen until the center of her foot
landed on it, then rolled off
along with a ligament and a piece of bone.
A year of runs full stopped.
If only she were a superhero, she could fix it
spin time back and miss the thing
now lying with its outer softness cracked
or a yogi and go further still
to want to patch it, reattach it
hang it, green and perfect, back in its tree.


Your First Red Carpet Gig

He is beautiful.
He is articulate.
He compares the wrinkles
on his character’s face
to the Nazca lines of Peru.
What put them there
he never gets to as you
prod his smile, his eyes
his ab swag, his chest hair.

He says archeologists use
brooms not shovels “like so”
and begins his impression
of Emmett Kelly sweeping
the spotlight onto your toe
Then he smiles like your big
brother’s best friend you chased
and kissed once on the elbow.


The Decay of Before

Analog tape can only hold onto sound for so long.
Music rolls from reel to reel until the glued on notes
start falling off in little flakes of iron oxide.
It takes twenty or thirty years
but eventually the tape fades
from brown to clear
as surprising as if with each press
of my fingers playing Hanon piano scales
the notations fall off the page
and lay in a pile on the keyboard.

We become instructionless.

Then it’s like a tennis game
we can play with words like love.
Each volley—you.
Seen for the first time.
Brand new spin and the perfect place
to land in the net of my hands, a place
I didn’t even know existed until just this now.





Trish Hopkinson

Bio (auto)

Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. She has two chapbooks Emissions and Pieced Into Treetops and has been published in several anthologies and journals, including Stirring, Chagrin River Review, and The Found Poetry Review. Hopkinson is co-founder of a local poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow her poetry adventures at http://trishhopkinson.com/.

The following work is Copyright © 2016, and owned by Trish Hopkinson and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


Wouldn’t a flyswatter be easier

Bare legs stuck to the vinyl seats
like flies on flypaper,
windows rolled down,
hands swooping in the wind,
barely grown-in buck teeth
beneath summer grins

on our way to Pioneer Drive-in.
Mom paid five dollars for the whole
station wagon load, tires grinding
their way across gravel
to a dusky spot near the screen.
Moths had already started to school

like silver fish in projector light
and a familiar cotton candy and
popcorn butter breath radiated
from the rickety refreshments stand.
We climbed atop the oxidized roof,
tossing up a few old quilts

and stained pillows to cushion our ribs
from the luggage rack rails.
My best friend and I had said goodbye
to 6th grade and helllooo to Ralph Macchio.
Hormones swooned into high-pitched
palpitations as he appeared

on the whitewashed boards—
all awkward and Karate-Kid-like.
Mr. Miyagi meant to make him a man.
We meant for him to make us women,
to capture us in his arms—gently,
like a fly in chopsticks.

We dreamt of maturity and sophistication,
the kind that would know
just what to say when we met . . .
The crackle of sun-scorched speaker,
a tinny soundtrack revelation,
and a little brother moonboot

thumping the ceiling from inside
shouting to share the Red Vines
abruptly brought us back—alarm clock style.
We hit snooze and wondered into a world
of Hollywood infamy and young love
where boys and girls held hands

and teens danced in the moonlight.
A world soon rushed away by
windshield wipers in Autumn rain.

originally published in Drunk Monkeys
August 2015

South Side

Suburban, but where
100 year-old homes creak
poor kids from their seams,

flaky paint facades and weedy
yards wait for stapled food stamps
to drop into the mailbox.

There should be religion here—
with a steeple on every corner
alongside a dime bag or a beggar.

Gospel is a thick fog, but only
spawns boredom in young people,
no matter how loud the sermon,

no matter how low parents set
the thermostat or how long they make
the bread and milk last,

it won’t be enough to keep
a teen from looking elsewhere
for something that feels

whiskey in your belly good,
warm hand on your thigh good.
Something to squelch envy,

to take notice, to be different.
It’s easy to sneak out
like lean gray mice

squeezing through a crevice,
pressing against the night—
go car-hopping, steal beer

and cigarettes from C-stores,
find glue or paint thinner or
gasoline to huff,

easy to coax a ride from
a mullet on a bullet bike,
easy to wrap legs around

a boy in the vacant lot,
easy enough that no other body
flinches when the kid

who lived in the mint-green
house on the south side
chokes on his tongue

and dies in his attic room
from a brain tumor.
Most of us knew him.

Some of us expect
to go the same way.


…………originally published in Stirring:A Literary Collection
…………Volume 18, Edition 4:April 2016





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