2017 Pushcart Prize Nominees

The True North strong and free! (1)

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.

A Kind of Ritual By Jasmine Cui

A LEPER BEGS THE SON OF GOD By Brianna Albers

Prayer in Taino War Paint By Juniper Cruz

Oil Painting By Nikita Gill 

Alternative Facts By Athena Dixon 

MEDUSA WRITES FOR TEEN VOGUE By Dorothy McGinnis

Lunch at Elementary School By Albert Zhang

Lunch at Elementary School

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,
Neat hair,
Bright polos
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.

Suddenly, I’m
All alone, helpless
About to be devoured.

By Albert Zhang

Biography:

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.

Oil Painting By Nikita Gill

Oil Painting

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

Biography:

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.

Great Red Spot By Jay Douglas

Great Red Spot

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
cousins

but still, we all come from
an explosion. Some of us just detonate
a little bit faster.

By Jay Douglas

Biography:

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.

Dusk to Dawn By Jeffrey Liao

Dusk to Dawn

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

Biography:

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).

Before the Morning-After Pill By Rachel Evelyn Sucher

Before the Morning-After Pill

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

Biography:

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.