ONE ART’s 2020 Pushcart Prize Nominations

Notice Breath

          for Julia

Notice Breath, my yoga teacher says.
It’s the year of Corona and I take her class
in New Jersey from my house across state lines,
and what I notice today is the lovely unspecificity.
Not notice my breath, or hers, just breath itself
moving unhitched, animating each of us.
One friend with the virus describes
a burning like inhaled chemical fumes.
Another, a pressure like a cheetah
chose her ribcage as a place to rest.
So, yes, these days I notice breath
the way you’d notice a bouquet
on your scarred kitchen table, gathered
bursts so bright at first it’s easy to forget
they’ve been clipped from their roots,
their fading not even all that slow.
Mother’s Day, I watched as two teenage girls
sung a hip hop love song to a masked and gloved
woman on her porch. They stayed on the walk
and I on my side of the street,
but when their song ended, the mom, or aunt
or favorite neighbor, crossed the divide,
took those girls in her arms, deciding
the feel of their heat and heartbeats and sweat
was worth daring the beast for once.
Every day, we’re made to weigh it like that,
sucking in our breath, letting it out
against paper or cloth,
noting its warmth as we do.

~ Notice Breath by Ona Gritz ~

*

March 21

First day of spring,
beneath the residue of last year’s leaves
the ghosts of November plants are stirring
their colorless first shoots
quickening into life.

Not everything that dies returns again:
the pansies, catchfly, marigolds
or my brother gone 50 years
and absent on this birthday
sealed in a past untouched by spring.

He lives solely in our minds
those engines that can pull time
only down a one way track
disappearing further each spring
in the rearview mirror.

To be human means to be forgotten,
the way the soil will soon forget
the new life it cradles this year:
the pansies, catchfly, marigolds
and all earth’s psalms that make
our brief lives beautiful.

~ March 21 by Michael Northen ~

*

In Times of Great Darkness

I want to do for you
what the sun does for me—
coax you to come
outside, to breathe in
the golden air.
I want to warm you
and enter you,
fill you with brilliance,
make your muscles melt,
make your mind shush.
I want to prepare for you
luminous paths
that span across deep space,
thaw any part of you
that feels frozen,
find any cracks
and slip shine into them.
I want to intensify
your shadow
so you might better know
your own shape.
I want to encourage you
to open, wider, wider,
want to teach you
to write your name
in light.

~ In Times of Great Darkness by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer ~

*

Miracle Carp Says End Is Near

Says this weather is abysmal, Lake Michigan
near freezing, or already frozen, so the human

animals skid over its surface, go low and
bend their faces narcissus-like into the mirror

glass of ice, their reflection shiny as scales,
as rainbow arpeggios. Miracle Carp says

swim like you want to outlive the Anthropocene,
says buck up chump, bank on no one’s promises.

Miracle Carp says any day now the ice caps.
Any day now the flood. Miracle Carp says dreams

of mud are prophetic. Says embrace the amphibious
more often than not. Says if you want to live, live

in the moment the way Miracle Carp lives in the body
of the water, a miracle no one finds very miraculous,

a fact that has not escaped Miracle Carp. Miracle
Carp says most miracles make fools of us all, says

Mostly we are busy looking the wrong way, making
too much noise. Miracle Carp says anxiety defines

this age but it will be known at the end as the age
of astigmatism, aptly, for all the miracles gone

completely unseen, even though they occur
right in front of our faces, right in front of our eyes,

like this one, the one about Miracle Carp, who knows,
knows better than anyone, what is about to happen.

~ Miracle Carp Says The End Is Near by Alicia Hoffman ~

*

Tending to Living Things

There must be a way
but all I know to do is throw
my white dishes rimmed with blue
orchids across a room
until all that I have is broken.

Except for one self-sufficient succulent,
I don’t know how to make anything live.
There must be a way
but I don’t know how.

I want to bury myself inside the dark. Stand inside
invented light. While the world falls apart,
my husband’s brain swells with lakes.

Pink roses that sprawl across the apartment
building’s metal fence don’t need me. I’m not
their caregiver of blossoming.

Grief does not ask me
to be pretty, does not ask me
to be a corsage pinned to a gown.
It wants me to push up from roots
that scarcely survived, enter
its plain door.

I want to push my husband in his wheelchair along our rutted
road as though Travelers Joy— Clematis vitalba
scrambling a lattice fence to flower next year.

~ Tending to Living Things by Amy Small-McKinney ~

*

Orange Pekoe

My brother offers us tea when we visit,
orange pekoe, our mother’s favorite brew,
and I’m surprised he’s held onto the old ways
for wasn’t he a dare-devil jumping from planes
loaded with his heavy gear, his night-vision goggles
and guns, a warrior and not one to set out the tea things:
a pitcher of milk, a sugar bowl, teaspoons.
And wasn’t he the soldier home from the war
who dared bring beer into the house
where our father forbade alcohol,
our two uncles, two drunks, stewed in degradation.
So I’m amused when he serves us tea,
proudly relating how he saves his squinched teabag
to make a second cup.
Here: a poem I’ve written about you.

A confused squinch
and he says,
            I didn’t think you thought about me.

Not a lot, I fail to say, but after this,
he likes me so much he sends me a sturdy fruit cake
each Christmas because I said I liked it,
once.

~ Orange Pekoe by Claire Keyes ~

*

Ona Gritz’s books include the poetry collections, Geode, a finalist for the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems, written with her husband Daniel Simpson. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Catamaran Literary Reader, The Bellevue Literary Review, Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, and elsewhere. She and Daniel served as poetry editors for Referential Magazine and co-edited More Challenges For the Delusional, a writing guide and anthology featuring prompts by Peter Murphy. Ona is also a children’s author and essayist. Her nonfiction is listed among Notables in Best American Essays and Best Life Stories in Salon.

Michael Northen is the past editor of Wordgathering, A Journal of Disability and Poetry. He is co-editor of the anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability and the disability short fiction anthology, The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked. He is a founding member of the Disability Literature Consortium. An educator for more than 40 years, Northen has taught adults with physical disabilities, women on public assistance, prisoners, and rural and inner city children.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form, a podcast on creative process. She also co-hosts Telluride’s Talking Gourds Poetry Club and is co-founder of Secret Agents of Change. She teaches poetry for mindfulness retreats, women’s retreats, scientists, hospice and more. Her poetry has appeared in O Magazine, on A Prairie Home Companion, in Rattle.com and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Her most recent collection, Hush, won the Halcyon Prize. She is often found in the kitchen baking with her teenage children. One word mantra: Adjust. https://wordwoman.com/

Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman now lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. Author of two collections, her recent poems can be found at Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Penn Review, Typishly, Radar Poetry, The Shore, and elsewhere. Find out more at: http://www.aliciamariehoffman.com

Amy Small-McKinney’s poetry has been published in numerous journals, for example, Connotation Press, Construction, American Poetry Review, The Indianapolis Review, Tiferet, Anomaly, Ilanot Review, Pedestal Magazine, and The Baltimore Review. Her poem “Birthplace” received Special Merits recognition by The Comstock Review for their 2019 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Contest. Her second full-length book of poems, Walking Toward Cranes, won the Kithara Book Prize 2016 (Glass Lyre Press). Small-McKinney’s reviews of poetry books have appeared in several journals, for example, Prairie Schooner. Her poems have also been translated into Romanian and Korean. She resides in Philadelphia where she teaches community poetry workshops and private students.

Claire Keyes is the author of two books of poetry, The Question of Rapture and What Diamonds Can Do. Her poems and reviews have appeared recently in Redheaded Stepchild, Mom Egg Review, Two Hawks Quarterly, and Persimmon Tree, among others. Her chapbook, Rising and Falling, won the Foothills Poetry Competition. Professor Emerita at Salem State University, she lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts where she conducts a monthly poetry salon.

Four Poems by Alicia Hoffman

Our Difficult Sunset

At least from a distance we can still believe
in each streak of amber, the red flare of another

distant explosion. In the past, we walked through
our lives the way we walked through the hallways

of our office jobs, our university appointments,
narrow-minded and oblivious to the tapestry

of the architecture, ignorant of the gift of brick
and cement that for so long attempted its hold

on us. This evening, the sky is the hue of heart-
break and peppermint gum, of the irretrievable

turmeric stain on my ringed finger, a leftover
from that afternoon I stood for hours over

a cooking site on the internet, mixed the tinctures
and powders, sliced the onions, chopped the carrots,

added it all to a broth boiling on the stove. If only
food could save us now that the world’s hard lines

are blurring and the continents slip like oil cloth
off the table. Sure. We were aware this could happen.

Even so, we stand now attentive and numb, shocked
to a stand-still, frozen to view what can only be described

miserably, as embers smoldering in the last light of the fire,
or like the planet shifting sure as a slipped disc, as if after

dinner it tidied up before entering a new room altogether,
the sort of company with the secret wish they’ve already left.

 

The Song and the Document

What is written in my possible future I have no way of knowing.
A body blanketed with tense script, a pensive eye for scrutiny.

I already revisit the choices I’ve made, ashamed at the fool I was,
young girl so eager for love she loosened its rope, flung herself

from its balconies. I forgive her not because I know who she became,
but because she was delirious, out of her mind, unaware each slip

in the knot hitched her to another consequence, a cinched conclusion.
I may be that same girl now, middle-aged and believing. Maybe I am

only a stand-in for next decade, when the real woman shows herself
in the mirror, casts the final net. Maybe she will bring in a catch

we have all three desired, glistening with shine, a jeweled treasure
by any measure. Who am I but the rise in the story, the part where

not much happens but the language of it, lending some allowance
to a patient reader. Meanwhile, the mast is being made underdeck,

the hoists are somewhere slathering themselves with oil. I can only
hope when the time comes, I can hear it, my own self a song set sailing.

 

Miracle Carp Says End Is Near

Says this weather is abysmal, Lake Michigan
near freezing, or already frozen, so the human

animals skid over its surface, go low and
bend their faces narcissus-like into the mirror

glass of ice, their reflection shiny as scales,
as rainbow arpeggios. Miracle Carp says

swim like you want to outlive the Anthropocene,
says buck up chump, bank on no one’s promises.

Miracle Carp says any day now the ice caps.
Any day now the flood. Miracle Carp says dreams

of mud are prophetic. Says embrace the amphibious
more often than not. Says if you want to live, live

in the moment the way Miracle Carp lives in the body
of the water, a miracle no one finds very miraculous,

a fact that has not escaped Miracle Carp. Miracle
Carp says most miracles make fools of us all, says

Mostly we are busy looking the wrong way, making
too much noise. Miracle Carp says anxiety defines

this age but it will be known at the end as the age
of astigmatism, aptly, for all the miracles gone

completely unseen, even though they occur
right in front of our faces, right in front of our eyes,

like this one, the one about Miracle Carp, who knows,
knows better than anyone, what is about to happen.

 

Deliver Me

From the scythe-blade, the tulip’s sharp tip.
From sword and petal. The gun-metal blue

of dawn’s last arrival. Or, rather, deliver me
from the realization of it, the flashpoint neuron

firing that blank ammunition. Deliver me from
the target, the vision board, from any interpretation

of the galaxy. Deliver me from anthropomorphizing
my cats, those four-legged little tigers. They do not

speak to me, or if they do, it is from some wild
beginning, pre-cortex, post-amnesia, peripatetic

and insatiable from hunger, desire, a dire need
to dig in, hunt prey, howl. Deliver me from now,

from these tinseled batons twirling a mess of glitter
into my chest, the knee-deep absolutions and ablutions

of my brain, that cinematic fireworks display,
Catherine wheel spinning sparks till darkness

fades (as light comes from light) and these lungs
balloon like they remember air after a long distance

relationship reunited. And so I check the inventories,
calendar-driven and counting, crossing off and crossing

into, and onto, the blank page of my body, as I enter
the day’s new mansion, and the architecture of later

becomes this moment’s room, and it, too, is agony
and melody, ode and dirge. If a life can be measured

in minutes, deliver me then from overanalyzing this line,
this deep bow, imperfectly metered and ending now no matter.

 

Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman now lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. Author of two collections, her recent poems can be found at Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Penn Review, Typishly, Radar Poetry, The Shore, and elsewhere. Find out more at: www.aliciamariehoffman.com