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 Pushcart Nominations 

& Readers' Awards 2020

In October, 2019, readers of Black Bough editions were asked to nominate their 6 favourite poems for a Pushcart Prize nomination. Here are the six favourite poems and runners-up. Thanks to Rae Howells for assisting with putting this together.

 Pushcart Nominations 



am I ever really alone? 

                 I see your body in the underwater

gold light of a dream, you look

                 like me, only braver. Your curls

the thick mane of a lion, your smell 

                 of hot earth it lingers on my pillow

The medium tells my mother 

                 she has three children, we bloom

across worlds. My brother and I, guilty

                 of life, hold her while she weeps


Taylor Edmonds

Telling the Bees


Tonight we’ll search the sky for 

Caer Gwydion, Arianrod’s 

pathway to heaven and for the 

brightest of the seven sister stars.  

Now the bottom of the garden

feels a galaxy away, as we tread

weightlessly in white suits and 

whisper to the honeyed hives 

mae ‘di mynd*, turning them 

half circle away from the sun.


*she’s gone (Welsh)


Ness Owen

Southern Cross(ing)


To our bones, we’re sailors

your castoff ancestors and mine

greedy for the long horizons


Black water licks the hull, paua-tongue velvet

Sacks fill, the shucking knife flashes an arc, the sky stabbed

to welling jewels of broken nacre


And up there, the crux of it all, those four bullroaring stars

Haere mai, their pointer song a hook

tugging south the waka, laden with stories

of silver fish, and earth so rich for growing


Ankh Spice



how carefully he cradles it - cupped in a palm

small sun captured in a jam-jar, or net,

a magnifying glass held to his painterly eye


searching for the membrane – a surface tension


whole and perfect, he picks up the quivering

with delicate fingers - takes a pin, pierces it,

shock of raw yellowness: spilt sunlight.


Eliot North



Every petal on their skin a mouth

for the light, digesting the sun

to make it sweet, make it edible.  


Alchemy at work in the slender bones

slipping from dresses, print by print;

lawns showered by the tattering silks,  


the scatter of magnolia feathers.

The trial of the bloom begins.

Reward us for the rains, for the heat.

Mark Antony Owen



Oh I dream, and send my wish

inside this light-gleamed sphere

to lift away from all that's dark,

to float on the sun-beamed air. Yes, yes,

the bubble pops, lands on a

branch or thorn or falls to ground.

But what I put inside goes on

to the wish-granting realm beyond,

beyond. And I have other dreams to send:

 a string of pearls. One day, I'll follow on.


Kyla Houbolt

Black Bough Readers' Awards 2020

Brother’s Moon Landing


The rest of us knelt close to the screen as 

Lazarus stepped out, no longer entombed.

But you ran outside with your Instamatic, 

priest-like you raised it to the distant moon.


I’ve looked it up: it was a crescent, waxing 

though in my memory it is always full –  

full of your belief, despite our teasing –  

your camera had witnessed a miracle.


Anything could happen… and then it did.  

You would have been 60 this year, had you lived.


Ellie Rees



She wanted tattoos to fit in the small places. 

A daisy in the supra-sternal notch, perhaps 

and a ladybird or two for her popliteal spaces. 

In the ante-cubital fossa she asked for a dragon-fly

blue, with its wings stretched wide, and at the top

of her natal cleft, a crescent moon, with Venus rising.

Sarah J. Bryson

Daguerreotype of a Streak of Lightning


No flash of brilliance, light bulb or bolt.

Missouri June, timpani drum

roll of copper cloud, and the surfaced plate

keyed with scribbles of soaked lightning:

a few hair-lines, cracks 

that came before and will again 

(the pendulous wasps can smell rain)

but not as this. 

This quiet storm.  


Laura Wainwright


Note: On June 18 1847, Thomas Easterly of St Louis, Missouri made what is believed to be the first photograph of a streak of lightning on a daguerreotype plate.



Tonight, I watched the moon draw shadow like a dress, 

shrinking to a rib and pelvic curl – below, we starved 

a little in darkness.




Tonight, I watched the moon peel shadow from her face, 

a dancing cabbage rose centre-stage - she kissed our 

forearms, set our hairs alight.

Mari Ellis Dunning

Lux Aeterna / nitya jyoti 

in the death-churn    kanti    kayapushti

her left hand    melts fear    vagdanam    dwipam 

the moon softens its tug    the ocean relents 

and breaks into song    shanti:    shanti:    shanti: 


from Bhumi’s girandoles    stars leap    and lance the gloom.     As Varaha lifts a conch to his lips                                           

                 velliccam:    velliccam:    velliccam:   


Jess Thayil


Inspired by (but also stays independent of) a Hindu myth in which goddess Bhumi – the personification of earth – was rescued from the ocean by her husband Varaha, a form of Vishnu, the cosmic preserver.   In some sculptures, Bhumi is depicted with her left hand in abhaya mudra (the gesture of fearlessness). Words transliterated from Malayalam: nitya jyoti – eternal light; kanti – brilliance; kayapushti – (physical) strength; vagdanam – promise; dwipam – lamp; shanti – peace; velliccam – light.



inhabit the edges, bound

by sky, by rock, by moon-turned sea,

lives lived in the salt round

that inhabits the edges, bound

to nothing, journeyed days crowned

in constellations, the drift of infinity

inhabiting all edges, bound

as sky, as rock, as moon-turned sea.


Angela T Carr

Like your love, snow 


is light, each flake made from a breath;

is porous, swallowing my voice;  is

hard, a fist, a wedding-white death;  is

heavy, pressing, stressing joists;


tells secrets, the heart-prints you left;

lies for you, too, covers your tracks;

 loves, its cold an angel’s caress; 

thaws, its memory soft as wax.


Rae Howells

Above the city


It's cold up here, icy air filling lungs with

emptiness, a taste of moonlight -  

stars close enough to switch off or 

blot with one thumb. The sky; 

suspended spirals of light, of dark – 

I reach to touch the shapes of the universe.  The goosebumps on my skin are

constellations, their own galaxies.


Elizabeth Kemball

Evolution 1. Blind to All Before Birth


The light broke while her waters fell, tears flowing 

from a hold that couldn’t be held; religion didn’t welcome

wants before wedlock, tell a bucket it’s broken

and it will not be able to bear its burden. Ties snapped 

and time slipped in, between us, to drown out connection. 

I was born and you; left to bury the burden in your belly

and I wonder if you still caress the scars from the cord 

that was cut and the kid you couldn’t continue to cradle? 

The light broke and I was born, blind to all that bore me.


Damien B. Donnelly

In a Sentimental Mood


I will not pluck a repetition of these notes 

from your rising and falling 


chest, slick from a sultry summer

fever. There’s the kick 


drum and timpani. Languid brass sets in 

your sheet creases. Brine. Clavicle-click. Bell. 


O tap each knuckle on fine, extended 

hand. My heart is your skin. Panting 

and sizzling as we start back over.


Kari A. Flickinger

Apocalypse Now


Carving up marble floors & segmenting stone

cathedrals; gods seek out civilisation by ear-

marking apocalypses. You’re alone now. 

Metallic crust stiffens fingernails, pupils radiate

a golden tincture, foreheads plucked fused 

emerald pendants. Woefully there are no trees

where I live yet I am rooted. Adam & Eve atop 

a throne biding time, gazing over chaos.


Neha Maqsood

what my body remembered, 

floating in the pool under the olive trees


Heat has insisted I surrender.

Green-silver olives temper light.

Breeze nudges, soft and warm and tender.

Heat has insisted I surrender.

All falls away, and I remember

peace in this sweet, slow, floating flight.

Heat has insisted I surrender.

Green-silver olives temper light.


Lucy Crispin

How to Grate the Moon


Take this shining truckle into your hands.

Peel back the waxy rind. Let each flake be

perfect, and dazzle the earth as it lands.

Let its curd lie like a yellowbrick road

on the sea. Sing its ancient psalmody.

Grate with care. The fickle bright will dote you,

your heart be snagged by astonishing light.



Kathy Miles



under lamplight

the bronze age

of their faces

and knuckles


at the surface

they share 

cigarette butts

and saliva

Mark Gilbert

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