2020 Pushcart Prize Nominees



Art by Duy Huynh 

Please join us in congratulating our Pushcart Prize nominees. Here are their poems, published in 2020 in Escape Into Life. You can click each poet’s name to see the work as it first appeared. The poems are also gathered here below for your convenience.

Greg Grummer, “Adam, In Search Of Music October 7, 2020

Jessy Randall, “Wang Zhenyi (1769-1797)” on June 3, 2020 

Karen Craigo, “Ex Doesn’t Answer” on July 15, 2020 

Matthew Murrey, “Private Music” on January 1, 2020

Erica Goss, “Black Hollyhocks in the Old Orchard” on May 13, 2020

Alicia Hoffman, “Industry Is All Around Us” on April 1, 2020 

Greg Grummer

Adam, In Search Of Music

     I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music.

     I see my life in terms of music. —Albert Einstein

Hmm, this bone would make
a nice flute, if only it had holes.

I’d carve some in it
if only I could figure out

how to get it out of my leg.

Jessy Randall

Wang Zhenyi (1769-1797)

Come to the garden with me
and sit in the pavilion.
Imagine the table is the earth;
this crystal lamp the sun;
this round mirror the moon.

No, we’re not doing astrology.
We’re not playing a game.

You will hear my theories
on eclipses, the shape of the earth,
and why we stay on when the planet spins.

Karen Craigo

Ex Doesn’t Answer

And he always answers, 
so I’m left to wonder 
where he is, but also 
how—did he wake today, 
did he fall, did he clutch 
at his sternum and gasp 
for air, or is he just 
at lunch, a rare impulse— 
say a friend dropped in,
or the guy next door 
needed a hand. Wherever 
he is, is he doing OK, 
old dog curled beside him?

Matthew Murrey

Private Music

Though I nestled
his head between my knees,
I didn’t get his name and never will
see him again. He was a few steps
ahead, lost in music only he could hear
as he walked into the crosswalk
not seeing, not hearing Watch Out!
zooming at him on a bicycle
that hit him full on, full speed,
dropped him like a sack to the street.
The cyclist, flipped and scraped,
got up pissed, but swallowed
his curses when he saw the man
flat on his back, not moving,
earbuds knocked right out of his ears.
The crowd around him said Don’t
move him!
 as I knelt and cupped

his head in my hands, leaned in
and told him a ton of lies
like You’ll be fine. It’s okay.
He was breathing, but not speaking.
His left ear was leaking
a little blood—a bad sign.
Soon, paramedics showed up,
slid a backboard under him
and carried him off. Out of the blue,
I’ll think of him and wonder
how he’s doing. Maybe he’s fine,
or maybe he suffers vertigo, or ringing,
or radiance followed by the chuck
of pain clamping its hold on his head.
I wonder if he still walks the city
with music shielding him? 
I could use some of that these days
so I could walk all brisk and confident
the way he did—not consumed
by what might (or might not)
be coming my way.

Erica Goss

Black Hollyhocks in the Old Orchard

The air around them
is charged, electric.

They look so impossibly dark
as if they had absorbed all

of the colors of other flowers,
purple-black like the sheen

of oil in the sun, like blood
beneath the skin.

If I crushed the blossom in
my fist, what obscure place

in me would open its eye?
This is the flower

to hold aloft when
riding into battle.

This is the flower to place
on a soldier’s grave.

Alicia Hoffman

Industry Is All Around Us

The clematis climbing its trellis,
the radish seeds small stretch

before ballooning underground
like an inflatable heart, tender

to the core and sharp as pepper
on the tongue. Sometimes,

the growing works only
to conceal the purpose

of its making. Underneath
what we are accustomed to

is all the love we are creating
in earth’s more indolent spaces.

We give no credit to the dark.
The lazy. Or, maybe, we value

only image. Most poems,
for instance, end on an object

in ambiguous movement. The rule
is never explain too much. Give

the reader a puzzle, a task. But
what is there here to uncover?

One shy girl grown up. The sun
a beacon in her backyard.

Some moments are so perfect
even language cannot destroy them.

More Art by Duy Huynh