From the moment my heart skipped a beat,
we were doomed.
When your smile caught the space light,
The turn of your head, when I followed your laugh
with my mouth, we were doomed.
Every line that you traced in my palm was an end,
Every murmured exchange a self-sabotage.
For each lift of my spirits and each daybreak I
will pay misery in direct proportion. We continue,
for what can we do? This yearning persists, allowed or not,
worth it or not.
Now I am here, our love racked for tragedy,
my heart scripted hollow.
That jackrabbit anxiety, or another name, hope,
which they must keep alive if the snatching is to hurt.
Have we come far enough for them? Is this enough?
Our last kiss was everything inevitable.
I step away and close my eyes; you
and then darkness. I wait for it.
By Lorna Martin
I am a recent Creative Writing graduate living in North London. My poems have been published in A Quiet Courage, Roulade Magazine, Foxglove Journal, and Crush Anthology (Brunel University Press). I was shortlisted for the Mslexia poetry prize in 2014 and created the Lights in the Sky poetry event for Artwave Festival in 2015.
We smile at the artifice
and the artificial flavors
without a real-life dinner
and a kiss of cancer
I never feel the need to catalog
because Whitman did it for me.
Grab the hilt and walk with me,
And don’t apologize,
You’re dying too.
Everything has been through me,
Fucked up and contrived into me.
And exhaled from me,
aspirated off me.
I don’t deal in absolutes
but I advise you to stay off
It is not Whitmanian,
it does not breathe our air.
The plush isn’t authentic,
But it is so enticing,
and smells like deceit.
By Josh Dale
Josh Dale holds a BA in English from Temple University and has been previously published or forthcoming in 48th Street Press, April Gloaming Publishing, Black Elephant Literary Magazine, SickLit, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Your One Phone Call, and others. If he’s not petting his rescue Bengal, Daisy, he is perfecting his stir-fry recipe, hunched over in the dark like an alchemist. He is the founder and current editor-in-chief of Thirty West Publishing House and Tilde: A Literary Journal.
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We are elated to announce our nominees for the 2017 Pushcart Prize Anthology! Congratulations to all of these phenomenal poets for the work they are doing and the light they are bringing to the world. Their words are good medicine and they helped heal us during this past year. We hope they did the same for you as well. Read the full text of their poems by following the links below.
The lunch line, swirling
Full of anxious adolescents
Waiting to feed in a frenzy
Of hotdogs and burgers
Like a rambunctious dragon
Upon discovery of its prey:
A lone rabbit, helpless
Like me, sitting at the end
Of the long, plastic table
My black lunch box on it
Containing baozi and noodles
Wearing a red tee from
the Chinese New Year’s Festival
Trying to hide from my predators.
Light blue trays,
The surplus of ketchup on their hotdogs and burgers,
Mark them as a different species.
I try to camouflage myself
Inching closer to the group
Pretending that I belong
In order to avoid detection
But the baozi gives me off.
Once I take a bite of it
Its luscious contents and savory flavor
Creamier and less sweet than ketchup
Waft out from the meatball inside
Into the noses of the predators.
All eyes turn to me
Like a tiger stares its prey
Before it pounces
Catching me mid-bite into my second baozi.
All alone, helpless
About to be devoured.
By Albert Zhang
Albert Zhang is Head Editor for The Westminster Schools Bi-Line, the school newspaper and oversees as Sports Section Editor as well. He is also Co-Editor-in-Chief of Evolutions Magazine, The Westminster Schools’s annual creative writing magazine. Albert attended The Kenyon Review workshop, was a SCAD Silver Scholar, and has been published in Celebrating Art Magazine and exhibited at Atlanta’s High Museum, Capitol Building, and National Fair.
The day before the rape, I spend an ancient afternoon
in a kitchen clammy with childhood, A dark hand covering the sky-monsoon.
Mother’s voice hollow hummed like a half bewitched beckoning
her arthritic fingers turning limes in coriander with unease, tensing.
This disease is new to her still a drought settled deep within her bones
corrupting the fiber of her movements pain drowning her deftness to stone.
Outside the storm assaults the earth as though at war with a holy land
the dry thirst ends with dust fleeing water takes over and floods sand
A clatter, a movement, a murmur of apology to the room instead of me tonight
the chutney will curdle later for the first time but she does not know that yet; hindsight.
The past is time travel with prejudice, mother will remember this moment differently,
such is the result of memorising specters. Even the haunting is diagnosed individually.
Later as fabric still rips violently outside in a thunderous, powerful composition,
we sit in candlelight, watching the curtains. Mother calls the lightning dark-lit premonitions
A decade has passed like a stranger through a decrepit, elapsed town
yet this soft oil painting of a memory lingers like the last jewel in a fallen sky’s crown.
By Nikita Gill
Nikita Gill has been published in Literary Orphans, Agave Magazine, Monkeybicycle, Dying Dahlia Review and is soon to be published in Eunoia Review. Her poetry anthology Wild Embers has been published by Hatchette Books.
Twenty-two degrees south of Jupiter’s equator
is a storm three times the size of the earth
that has kept up its torrent
for over one hundred and eighty earth years
it swirls on the surface
like an impressionistic painting
longing to flay the skin
from the artist’s bones
Jupiter is not a friendly planet, it has always been
the schoolyard bully, the bar fight, the heavy-muscled
biker, the biggest guy on the block
but who can blame it?
Being born of storms and named
of thunder, would any child have a chance
to not be deadly? To not, furiously
acquire a great red spot and swirl
with atmospheric war cries
a howl across the sky?
I sound like my grandmother – I know – talking
of bad blood, of playground fistfights, of incarcerated
but still, we all come from
an explosion. Some of us just detonate
a little bit faster.
By Jay Douglas
Jay Douglas is a recent graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with an undergraduate dual degree in English and Religious Studies. Jay enjoys cats, not going outside, collecting yo-yos, and being unapologetically queer.
The sun, a ribbon of honey, spools
off the back porch where the cicadas buzz.
Summer’s last breaths drag themselves
hot and weary over the ayate fibers of my
grandmother’s cloak — hand-stitched from
sand-pruned palms, wrinkled with time.
A white-winged warbler shrieks into
the vast, empty horizon, its cries piercing
every orifice of canyon and cactus and smoke.
I blink — the slow indigenous clouds start to
crawl across a melting night sky. My mother,
a root tethered to this dry, hot valley, praying still
and silent over terracotta tile, in a language buried
under the graves of our ancestors, their voices
colonized by harsh desert winds and
white fists. I imagine my grandmother as
a girl, her mother and the mother before hers:
heels calloused from trudging onward,
miles and miles of dirt uprooted from their tears,
their memories, their hollowed homes. Livelihood
suppressed like our names in the history textbooks.
I imagine what it feels like to lie supine
at the sound of Spanish demands, survival
superseding instinct. Tongue bleeding with
silence, knuckles split open like the pounds
of indigo we harvested for white profit. From
dusk to dawn, searching for a mirage
of hope among blurred canyons, backs pinned
to the swords of conquistadors: soon, the land
bleeds with us. Now, my grandmother sits
quiet, as she has for almost a century, staring out
into smoky night, her wrists stiff as sourdough.
And I wonder, since when did we
become foreigners to the earth we bore,
nothing more than ghosts
rope-tied to stolen lands.
By Jeffrey Liao
Jeffrey Liao is a student at Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey. He enjoys procrastination more than is healthy and is currently daydreaming about writing or eating (probably both).
Mother takes me back from the house of a boy
I gave my body to. Her lips are opening
and closing about Tuesday’s dreadful forecast,
and Margaret, whose surgery had gone well.
Half-listening, I give Mother affirmations, shy
and shift in jeans the boy pulled down my thighs.
White noise scenarios invite themselves to stay
like distant cousins–peeing on sticks, abortion
clinic waiting rooms, signs that scream “life
begins at conception.” It is dawn
when I slip out of the jeans whose stains did not go away
while I was sleeping. Neighbors search for shoes
and kick each other out of bathrooms,
Mother’s alarm clock rings upstairs.
She will call me thoughtless
when I am not on time for breakfast.
By Rachel Evelyn Sucher
Rachel Evelyn Sucher is a queer-identified Vermont writer, activist, performer, horsewoman, and intersectional feminist. Rachel is the founder & Editor-in-Chief of COUNTERCLOCK literary & art journal. Her poems have been shortlisted for the International Literary Award (Rita Dove Award in Poetry) and the Dan Veach Prize for Younger Poets, and longlisted for the Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize. A mentee in the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program and the Glass Kite Anthology Summer Writing Studio, she has also attended the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf and the Champlain College Young Writers’ Conference. Her work is forthcoming in Tinderbox. When she isn’t wrestling writer’s block or the patriarchy, Rachel can be found snuggling puppies, making music, and overthinking in her nerdy poet’s notebook.