October 24-30, 2005: Dawn O’Leary, Todd Heldt and Linda Benninghoff

week of October 24-30, 2005

This week presenting the winners of the
2005 (eighth annual) Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest:

see the complete contest details here

Dawn O’Leary
Todd Heldt
Linda Benninghoff

click here for submission guidelines

Dawn O‘Leary

Bio (auto)

Dawn O’Leary lives in Santa Monica, California She is a writer-poet, playwright and screenwriter She is originally from New Jersey and is the mother of three
She won first place in this year’s contest with her poem “A Get-Well Note to Juan from the Governor”.

The following work is Copyright © 2005, and owned by Dawn O’Leary and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

A Get-Well Note to Juan from the Governor

“Heart Attack May Delay the Execution of a Murderer”

For your recovery, I make no promises,
in particular, no phone calls at dawn I’ve refused such before, and on the
of execution I made a point of rising
before daybreak, avoiding nothing By
.breakfast’s end,
a cock crowed across the indigo hills
of this deep state, and I warmed
to think of its people waking sleepy
and safe in farmhouses, cities and
where the South is still the South,
and protects its own No, I make no

save one: That if indeed
you slip over the high walls of justice,
an abyss awaits you on the other side
For in some room above a storefront
a young man simmers, memorizing dents
in ashcans below his window And along some searing August beach
a man like yourself wanders, fists
within his trouser pockets, waiting for
.the sky
to crack Dimly in the background
of their capabilities, a radio plays,
.and they hear
of you, your subterfuge They need
a certain kind of detail: Stripes of
.pink light
along the prison floor Your last piece
of toast The telephone silent as the
of God I could go on Juan,
the triple bypass you refused
was deprivation to us all Heartbeeps on a screen that suddenly
and skid into oblivion will impress no
Perhaps while you recover
you will read the book I have enclosed Camus writes of the simple Meursault,
who murders a man in Algiers Please
that in the end he wishes only for a
of onlookers at his execution I
.guarantee you
more: Pickets Reporters Your mother Satellites that hum your name in space The priest we assign you will stay
all night, till the first light appears
thin as a wire along God’s hills Be

Todd Heldt


Todd Heldt is a librarian living in Chicago He has published poems and short stories in dozens of journals He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize last year, and his first novel, Before You Were a Prophet, is being serialized at Hiss Quarterly (http://hissquarterly.thehiss.net/index.html) He is presently looking for a publisher for his second novel, Jukebox Loser
Todd’s poem “Saying Grace among the Rocks” won second place in this year’s poetry contest.

The following work is Copyright © 2005, and owned by Todd Heldt and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Saying Grace among the Rocks

Like trying to polish stone with words,
or so I thought upon returning
to the Old Liberty Cemetery Grandmother and I once parted those weeds,
scraped lichen from rain-crumbled stones,
deciphered epitaphs aloud:
With Sweet Jesus, and Rest in Peace The poem I wrote that day was bad,
and she told me hush up,
because I’d said what she figured I would say She never explained herself before she died,
left me the everyday she’d sprung from her tongue:
scuppernong jelly, watermelon wine,
ice-box chocolate pie How disappointed I was at her funeral
when they talked about God instead of her Those old stories are gardening with a rusted rake
how voices fail as they rummage the underbrush,
find fine clichés among the ruin I still can’t straighten these stones,
though I’ve kept the poem for half of my life
and return to it often–always forcing it
into the wrong words Like Grandfather
and the old farmers at the church,
who can’t unlearn what they’ve heard So once during prayer concerns
when Grandmother asked,
Why don’t we invite the new negro church
for a potluck? she was met
by silence at Antioch Southern Baptist Shut up Sometimes you shouldn’t say a thing At the grocery store that day
Grandfather, deaf, and so dumb
of how loud he was talking,
shouted out one I had never heard Two big boys from the football team
strutted the lot in front of us, and he bellowed:
Look at the size of them coons!
Traffic stalled Birds fell out of the sky Silence They didn’t beat me,
though sometimes I wish that they had,
so I could carry around a piece of truth,
heavier even than words carved in marble But I pray for my dead, pray for weeds
to overtake these mottled plots, pray rain
will hammer these markers to dust
the unliving things I’ve inherited,
a lump on my tongue like stones,
the opposite of struggling for a word I know
but can’t find I want to say something big:
a log truck rumbling the curve,
a cardinal startled to flight,
oak tree, mosquito hum,
sweet Jesus, hush up.

Linda Benninghoff


Linda Benninghoff has lived most of her life on Long Island except for five years during which she lived in Baltimore In college she was an English major, and she has a MA in English She is interested in animal rights Linda volunteered in a no-kill cat shelter and she writes letters on behalf of the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society about animals She is also interested in environmentalism and writes letters on behalf of the National Resources Defence Council When she is not writing poetry, she relaxes by taking photographs of wildlife–usually of sparrows and geese
Linda writes a lot about her father, and her childhood, and about animals Her chapbooks are “The Street Where I Was A Child” and “Departures “

Her poem “Canada Geese” won third place in this year’s contest.

The following work is Copyright © 2005, and owned by Linda Benninghoff and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Canada Geese

rested on the incline
of the far field,
immobile, blending
in with the undergrowth
and thin snow
I had forgotten
if I had followed the north trail
that led back to my home
or had made some wrong turn
into the center of the park
Only the geese
stopped there,
resting in rows,
hungry and cold
They made jittery motions
flapped wings,
stood up in the air
stretched their long necks,
exposed their pale under-wings,
flew skywards,
then bore east They made a sound as accurate and powerful
as a child’s cries
The white hill was empty,
narrow brown spaces left
where the thinnest layer of snow
had melted from the heat of their heavy bodies

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