July 19-25, 2010: Brenda Levy Tate, Jim Knowles and Sian Lindsey

This week presenting the judges of the 2010 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest: Brenda Levy Tate, Jim Knowles and Sian Lindsey


Brenda Levy Tate


Bio (auto)

Brenda Levy Tate lives in southwest Nova Scotia just up the road from the Tusket Falls power dam Because she especially loves her camera, motley assortment of books and unwieldy fossil collection, Brenda’s house is slowly collapsing under boxes and shelves crammed with photos, flea-market hardcovers and rocks Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and anthologies, most recently Lilith and Postcards from Eve (Fortunate Childe Publications, 2009 & 2010 respectively) She is a current Pushcart nominee for one of the poems included in Lilith She is also a contributor to online journals, including Soundzine (June 2009) and Contemporary American Voices (August 2009 & June 2010) and was a featured poet with Triggerfish Critical Review (December 2009) Her books include Cleansing (Rising Tide 2003) and the chapbook Beeline (Lopside Press 2007) Brenda may also be heard reading her poetry and singing on YouTube under the username Silharima In her former life, she taught senior high school in Yarmouth, NS
Watch Brenda reading a couple of her poems on YouTube:

The following work is Copyright © 2010, and owned by Brenda Levy Tate and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


I, Raptor

You feed me river rocks, oak bark logged with rain,
a braid of fence wire (grandfather-bone-thin), its barbs
worn to knots For you, I swallow green bottle stems

the sea has thrown up, blond baleen hair, antler points My guts bracket your conglomerate: blood iron, hardwood
ash, pith Keratin dull as barn windows Fish-scale mica
These are the last castings of desire, tossed at night like horns
off some buckdevil A pockled egg rises from stomach to throat I wet it with your laugh, one final drink for you, then hack

a hawk-man pellet Pwckk! Its heavy oval sinks like a cone
into pine needles I fly light, easy You make a rare bolus,
my compacted love What stranger’s hand will break you?


While you dream, I rise from my copper rest
to meet your every need No tile is left
unwashed, no drawer unopened for a whisk

against your crumbs of happy appetite But you, my quiet love, stretch flanneled legs
toward the constant fire I – colder, here

above its heat – must insulate myself
and carefully direct my withered arm
to flick dust till no flameskin ash remains
I am your guardian, of course You’ve ordered me
created at your whim, a perfect shape
to please whatever man is prisoner

behind your ribs, (their slow beat winding down,
a sundial that you carry even now,
when winter locks the river) Still, I cleanse

without complaint, until I am assigned
elsewhere A feather descends, oh my lord,
onto the balance that will measure you
I am incomplete, though you acknowledge
some gratitude for my obedience A cotton comforter curves over me –

March sea of lapis and malachite-edged
with lace brighter than foam I, mummiform,
lie weeping Faience-glazed Never reborn.


They leap on the blade, water droplets
in hot oil The scrub nurse jars them away,
bloody as John the Baptist’s head,
holy and terrifying I imagine wet strands,
skeins and webs of myself, light
poured through knots.

Maroon, gold, black-cells smeared
sticky as a crucifixion Glass without sin Slowly they vangogh into nebulae –
crab children, sired by some clawed angel Stronger than he who created them Colder
than any starry night.

Chanukah, 1943

for Hélène Berr-b Paris 1921; d Bergen-Belsen 1945

Another Chanukah begins-though I,
an ashen ghost for more than sixty years,
must linger on its edge, remembering
the light, always the light, a windowpane
where faces gleam against the winter sky,
my love’s warm hand at nape of my neck,
the cool wineglass stem Mazel tov! he says,
and toasts the room, where we are pretending
that all is calm and bright-an alien song
with little meaning in our festival
The neighbours’ doors are bolted against us –
Samaritans who look the other way

Mazel tov! as if we own our luck,
direct our destinies from these shadows
On high, Orion strides with thoughtless joy;
he does not march for us A thousand shall
fall at thy side, ten thousand at thy right
hand; but it shall not come nigh thee The Lord
has placed us here, we argue with ourselves
His watchfires crown our secret Chanukia

One star-my only star-is burning me
with yellow cloth, rough-fastened to my breast



Jim Knowles



Bio (auto)

Jim Knowles is a poet, engineer, and artist from Andover, Mass His work has appeared places like Mipoesias Best of Cafe Cafe, From East to West, Durable Goods,  and “The Ranfury Review” He was a finalist in the 2008 Poetry Superhighway Contest, first in the 2009 PSH Contest, and won honorable mention (2nd) in the 2010 Inkwell Poetry Competition He likes to explore as a reader, and to be surprised.

The following work is Copyright © 2010, and owned by Jim Knowles and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.



It’s darker every day,
outside my window.

When will the first lasting snow come,
cover drab duns and grays, wipe the canvas
white for another new year?

When will the air swing a razor,
slice the scent of home from clothes,
cut shimmer and haze from the sky,
so the stars are steady overhead,
so the moon makes your face a statue?

When will the midnight birches glow,
like legs reaching up from the earth,
where two tracks meet
in the middle of the forest?

When will the steam from our mouths
stop, and swirl down from our noses,
lungs like bellows, blowing fire
on lips and bodies?

Red will be the first color
on the gesso.

(Appeared in Mipoesia’s
“Best of Cafe Cafe”, 2007)


I wish I made you
that flustered.

It was the way you
the stoner poet’s name
when you dedicated
your video,

the way you miscued
twice on the singer’s voice
on your record player,
the way you rolled your eyes
in embarassment How stricken you were.

I wish you were on
a secret windowshade,
a picture I could
pull down at night,
to look into those eyes
looking into me,
so I could feel the vertigo
of their rolling and batting.

That act’s gone now,
but it’s not all gone You closed the fruit stand,
but I snuck away with a seed
in the undeserving dirt
of my memory.

Sometimes I can close my eyes
and watch yours open.


Sian Lindsey


Bio (auto)

Sian Lindsey is a poet who recently retired from the US Air Force and is now in the final course of her MFA in Creative Writing She has three children (two grown and a nine-year-old at home), two cats, and a husband who deploys to Afghanistan every other year In those years Sian and her youngest son spend their time at home in County Donegal, Ireland, where life is beautiful, slow, and happy In the intervening years she is captive in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she remains a slave to the air conditioner between April and October Sian finds inspiration for her poetry in the wild green of Ireland, in the separation from her husband every other year, and in the constant chaos of moving from place to place, trying to bring and keep her family together She is 44 years old and loves gadgets, technology, travelling, reading, writing, and being outdoors (when it’s 70F or less)

The following work is Copyright © 2010, and owned by Sian Lindsey and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.



Cerridwen’s Secret

She hushes a thin finger over his chin, slides one sharp nail
down the line of his neck and opens a collar of delicate skin,
exposing the buttery flesh beneath He barely notices the slices
or the way she holds her breath as the curve of her thumb
entices, slides under the perfect, round chestnut pit Gently she pushes, releases it, leaving a brown-tinged velvet void
to mark the spot She turns away, cups the prize in her hands
and swallows it quickly, fingernails click-click-clicking
in the rush to get it down It gestates
while she waits and keeps her secrets
When it is time she whispers to it, soft and low,
then chokes it on the cold, black stone.

She squats, leaning back on her haunches and pokes like an old Norse witch
at the smouldering bones The flames in her glass eyes hint at others—
tiny rune-bones of the dead one’s brothers The mother-witch rocks
on her haunches and runs all ten fingers through her wild, brown hair She kneels at the fire and asks nothing, nor offers The bones pop and split,
charred delicate things She makes little mounds of them, bone pyramids
aligned north to south on the grate When the fire has cooled she scoops the ash and the bits
with her hands, and she stands not wanting to hear
what the rune-bones say
They whisper in a voice she knows She drops them on the cold black stone.

Killing Men

When you lay light on your little cot, breathless
beneath your dark star-cloak and close your eyes
against the icy, sunlit solitude of eastern skies
do you hear what cries from the arms of death less?

And if, when you wake in your dusty hut
and choke on the morning with lesser grace
than befits an old god with a new god’s face,
you set your swollen feet on the tattered rug

is it justified to dream of tenderness again?
Do you brush aside delicate silver webs
left by hopeful weavers on spindly legs
to seek your fortune with those killing men?

When you lay light on your little cot, hushed
amid the whorl of mountains beyond the sea
that keep you subjugated and away from me,
do you sail into your dreams, or are you pushed?

You Came To My Garden That Morning Prepared

You came to my garden that morning prepared,
with a rowan sapling, three feet tall I held an umbrella over your head
while you pushed with your shoe
on the edge of the spade When that broke
I gave you mine When you’d deemed the hole deep enough
you picked up the sapling, ever so gently
turned it in your hands, tugged it free
from its little wet pot, and set it
like a newborn in the soft, cool earth You patted the fresh soil down with your foot,
and we ran back inside for some piping tea My little silver pot spilled over
to fill your cup.

The Wake

At fifty three they laid her out
on the bed in her little whitewashed
house One window at the front,
web-covered milk eye blind
to the greying sky, propped shut
with a rotting two-by-four,
the other buck-toothed, cracked
enough to let the drizzly shiver in By ten they’d brought the whiskey,
passed around the cigarettes;
the garden was a parking lot
of mud and muffled tones At midnight someone lit a fire
and tossed a scrawny piece of turf
into the wake-house flames When morning broke the company
departed; milk eye turned away,
the other kept watch faithfully
beside the ashes, breathing open-mouthed At fifty three they buried her
between McNelis and O’Garra
in the Catholic churchyard
at the centre of the glen The men stayed out all night
to toast her fifty three good years
and drink to not being found face down,
stone cold beside a barren hearth


If I opened my eyes I would see you, priest,
long hair flying to meet the sea, arms raised
to draw the rain from the sky I am clean,
clean as the picked-over, river-washed bones
and I want you, priest, high on the altar
stones, wild in the rain, naked with need
Mine is the lust that answers your greed,
the tongue you deny, the temple you worship
behind the lie I crawl in the shadows along
the cracked stone like a whimpering dog
to a holy bone Say what you will, priest –
I’ve heard you moan.

In Cavan Upper

Tentative spring trees sigh over the melting river,
concealing in their silence the most benevolent
of gifts In the warming winter earth I keep
my stony eyes tight shut against the strains
of bud-birth in this sunless, sodden cradle
Nothing in the waxing world looks down

I looked back, once, into the dazzling bright
to see you walking in the purple heather,
long hair wild behind you framed against
the patchwork glen In our bed that night
we hardly slept, the moon lit up each corner,
chasing shadows of its own.

The snowdrops must be everywhere in Ireland
by now, the daffodils and crocus peeping through
the vibrant green In Cavan Upper starry saxifrage
will bloom this June without us.

Eating Mussels in Killybegs

My eight-year-old digs through a graveyard
of mussels, pries open each yawning casket
in turn, turns over the dark, empty ovals
and stacks them, a crowded black fleet
in his gleaming white bowl
From the shadow of each recess shines
a slack peg, a fleshy white tooth,
tiny cigarette end of a gravestone
Over the road along four long quays
eight rows of ships berthed beam to beam
fill their ballast tanks to increase their draught
before sailing away from the glistening crèches
of tightly shut shells on the wharf.

The Game

The hockey game was wild at first, the poor puck
violently slapped across the unforgiving ice
by any stick that wished a turn Some small respite
it found cupped lightly in the goalie’s glove,
less often in the net, a symbol of his shame
Sometimes the players fought, threw pads and helmets
and right hooks and uppercuts and then sat sulking
in the perspex timeout box I grew quite bored
until I turned and saw the goalie, also bored,
balls to the ice, dog facing up, and then a perfect split

Ice Queen

The frost has gone, and all the jagged ice receded
that the burly coast guard cutters moved about
to clear the way for freighters plying in and out,
yet spring was not the warming sentiment I needed In the tepid, sunlit, blue-blushed morning skies
clouds reel across the open and unhurried glass
uncluttered, and unfettered in their silence pass
beyond the pane of notice and my shuttered eyes Despite the greening world and loud flirtatious birds
who find delight in shouting out the morning worms
I pull the covers thickly overhead and dream of storms
that thunder their cacophony of dark, expressive words The frost has gone, but wily winter drives a bargain
holding onto nooks and crannies in a desperate bid–
or maybe it’s my heart that clings for life to it
to keep the thaw at bay until you’re home again.


I flipped it over my shoulder, wore it, white feathers draped
down the small of my back against my skin ’til it was me In time they stopped staring, sailed over the high tide of
dying-to-ask and were comfortable with my second skin
It gave me great power, defences against the dark arts,
lapidescence I needed in battle and war I wore it commando
eventually, foregoing extraneous accoutrements,
it’s silky light bond a cocoon of impenetrability The chink in the armour I found, so to speak, was the only
square inch you exploited with such a spectacular stroke
of finesse that I didn’t quite notice its absence until
it had flown and you’d draped yourself over my shoulder
and settled down into the small of my back.



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