Pushcart Prize Nominations
for poems published in 2015
Rob Carney, “The Story of the Seahorse and the Wave”
Published February 4, 2015
Susan Elbe, “Perhaps”
Published July 22, 2015
Susanna Lang, “Cooling Off in the Pavilion of Being Stripped Naked”
Published November 11, 2015
Matthew Murrey, “The Evening of the Day Johnny Carson Died”
Published July 22, 2015
Mark Neely, “Mars One”
Published August 5, 2015
Nance Van Winckel, “Dispersals”
Published May 6, 2015
The Story of the Seahorse and the Wave
Always he’d been there, at home in the ocean,
anchored to the sea grass by his tail,
but his thoughts kept drifting ’til one day he let go
and was carried away by Beauty.
He didn’t know she’d been watching him,
approaching in the shape of a wave,
and now he was spinning with her inland
over trees, up foothills, a mile beyond the shoreline.
The sky above was like new blue water,
and the stones below a new reef,
and his body grew
to fit the sudden size of his heart—
full of loss
as he saw her receding. . . .
He waited on a lookout rock,
but she didn’t return.
To be at home in this strange terrain he’d need legs,
hard hooves, and the wind’s own balance,
and so he became the first horse
and galloped away.
The dog hears
some pitched harp
of sound that we can’t hear,
her head cocked toward some bright apse
up there, some star shape
the bent light of her eyes can’t parse.
Who knows what her ears
catch in the spear
of light that raps
against late evening trees. A wide-eyed hare
of heaven? The whispered close of a feathered hasp?
Cooling Off in the Pavilion of Being Stripped Naked
Ghost Painting, Yao Luan, Qing dynasty
Beside the stream, three leafless
trees hold out their branches
like witches’ fingers. It’s always
November in this other world,
even the trees stripped to the bark,
the bark smoothed, light failing,
winter eternally ahead of us.
Three angular ghosts climb out
of the water, straining toward the bank
where others wait their turn to cool off.
There is so little left to be removed
from these beings, none of them
clothed, their features and sex
left blank, their gestures
half-hearted. Perhaps only the desire
to return must still be rinsed off
so they can accept the end as an end,
a stillness, a look into empty glass
or a canyon so deep the floor
cannot be seen. The gallery is closing;
I go out into the snow that falls
through bare branches, erasing
distances, but still cold on my face
and the skin between sleeve and glove.
The Evening of the Day Johnny Carson Died
We were watching clips of old Tonight Shows
and there was Jimmy Stewart, an old man
reading an awful poem he’d written
about his dog that had died,
a dog named Beau. We howled,
“Beau!” “Ha!” What a hoot. His poem
was jammed with rhymes, but buried
in it was a description of his dog at night
lying in the bed between Jimmy and his wife—
both of them old and asleep, until he woke up
to find Beau awake and staring, caught in
“this fear of the dark, of life, of lots of things.”
His voice broke as he read that line.
Staring at our TV—where two dead men
were sitting near each other, one reading
and one listening—we got quiet, like a couple
of dogs in the night that hear something
and look up, cock their heads and listen.
The talk at the office party is of the man
who signed up to take a one-way trip to Mars,
leaving his wife and kids behind.
Bruce cowers with a sweaty drink
as a vice-president glides by
in her green dress. He’s thinking
of the old explorers—Odysseus
blinking awake in Circe’s bed,
James Cook beaten
to death at Kealakekua Bay.
He imagines Earth receding in a porthole,
or watching through a long scope
as its shrouded landmasses
bloom with mushroom clouds.
He’d never have the nerve.
He clutches his soggy plate
as a group of gossiping computer techs
veers closer. Hell is other people.
Nance Van Winckel
His mother, and mine too, want us with them in the afterlife. Their end-of-life worry reflects an eternity of missing us. When we say, Guess you’ll have to come find us in the inferno then, we get the deeply steeped frowns under the double set of raised eyebrows.
The past burns off first and fast, next the husks we’d grown—bright, brittle, loudly sparking. Then the serious heat drills in . . . just before the serious smoke of us rises over the city we loved clear to the bitter end.