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.

Five Poems by Amy Small-McKinney

Again

I can’t stop thinking that/

I will never swim again
I have unlearned the strokes
that keep my head above water
   you held me above the wave
while you sunk below     knew
I was afraid that I am afraid
of everything      out there

I can’t stop thinking that/

the sycamore you loved
by our window will
smack into the glass that protects
me now that you are gone      that I am
a gold-yellow leaf      a leaf       falling
into the dumpster below      sinking into
guilt and confusion

I can’t stop thinking that/

I will wake tomorrow       not a leaf
but a bear      a bear
wandering into
the wrong world      searching
for a stream
   I crouch over my cub
hold her     she will not drown

NOTE: I can’t stop thinking that/ by Sarah Vap, from “Winter” (Noemi Press, 2019) PRESS

*

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.

*

Breath

Music on the vintage radio
as falling leaves stopped in mid-air.
Air reveals itself for the first time
as a body or a car leaving a driveway.
If this doesn’t make sense look
out the window as air waits for snow.
Air knows what is worth waiting for
and what is not.
I want to be air
wait with brilliant patience unafraid.
I know it as air knows snow.
As a body knows air when it cannot catch its breath.
If able, every day we breathe in at least sixteen kilograms
of it. This is not wisdom.
This is eating boiled eggs buttered toast
food reassuring as snow.
Animals need to eat, true?
Need to breathe the oxygen in air.
Don’t conflate air with oxygen. That’s a mistake.
We also breathe in its poisons—too much kills.
That is the problem with air
and love. I don’t want to live
without either. I mean
it is impossible.
What is beautiful about air
is how it helps to move water from vapor to ice
to sublime again. Holds my love as he tries
to transfer from couch to table and back to couch. Knows
he will be ice and vapor. This is what we all become.

*

Alone

I see him on the red couch
waiting for me.

Unruly papers keep falling
to the floor.

No floral aroma here; only
the odor of goodbye.

*

During The Pandemic You Are Dying At Home

Sparrows nibble at your blanket
dive in and out of the eaves of your mouth.

Wings rimmed with tatting.
Tattooed beaks add color to an otherwise

bland room. The hard-working birds
will not speak to me yet.

This is not the life I planned.
Now the sky closes its doors and trees shrink

into fetal positions. Your body shrinks.
You forget where you are where

you are going. Your hospital bed tries to explain:
You don’t belong anymore.

This is not the life we planned.
We are breezeless our window won’t open.

I wait with the sparrows for a sign
to kiss your confused mouth goodbye.

You say:
   “I’m moving three across three down.”
   “What if my pee is poison?”
   “Get me my shoes.”

*

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 is forthcoming in 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.