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IPA's Pushcart Prize Nominations for 2021

Allison Berryhill


Come in and make a mess with all your thoughts.
Here shake them loose and spill them on the page.
Then push them, pull them, tie them into knots.
Your words are laughter, questions, hopes, and rage.
The writing in this room will echo, pound
against our heads and hearts: cacophony.
Then, crash of who we are creates a sound
From which our hearts rise up: a symphony.
For mess and noise and joyful chaos reign
In space where all experiment and try.
To set you free, I loose you from the chains,
Release you to explore your inner eye.
So, welcome. I invite you to a year
Of messy, joyful learning without fear.

Heather Ann Clark


My therapist asks what else is on my mind.

A pithy incident, too long ago to recount
without exposing more than I wish today.

Instead, I tell her it's turtles.
Turtle shells, actually.
And how a wildlife refuge
put out a call to women
asking for the hook and loop pieces
from discarded bras. How these

garbage items are being attached
to broken turtle shells. The victims
of menacing cars barreling down the road,
but saved by the strength of their shells

and a kindly person to take them to shelter,
where wire and patience guide
the broken shell back together,

until it fuses shut again on its own.

Jared Pearce


It's like waiting for the elevator
doors to release me, letting this
virus run its course. Nothing
will rub it out or bribe it, just
the clicking of days; like sitting

through meetings or finding
the next politician, so many
minutes have to expire, then
life can resume its function
toward beauty, rather then

waiting for the clothes to dry
or the shower to open or food
to cook or cool or be available
or the child to walk to stop walking
or the girl to love and keep loving.

Shelly Reed Thieman


Tongue-tied with suet and peanut
butter, a quartet of nuthatches nimble
as eighth notes commune at the feeder.

Owl calls my secret name as dusk
raps his chapped knuckles
on the kitchen window.

Dog and I allow him in unshaven,
his face creased deeply
as an ancient blueprint.

A mirage of deer disappears
toward the pond while snow brushes
layers of white over lashes

of the pine bough. Tranquility
lands, light as a moth. I invite
it in for a snifter of brandy

and like the moon, learn
to harmonize with darkness.

Erik Trilk


It won't be long until I'm with the moon
this summer. Bare feet whisper on midnight
grass. Drenched dazed and confused afternoons soon.
Flags furled high on the fourth. Ball caps slightly

Off-balance. Out of order. Life shut down.
Pebbles sprinkle high school bedrooms at night.
"I'll be right down," she smiles, fearful of sound.
Hands entwined; fingers sweat. Teenage forthright.

Midnight memories turn into dawning
suns. Iowa yawns her dawn's early sign.
Small towns reveal their majestic awnings.
Morning tiptoes through tall beams of sunshine.

A girl kisses a boy. Lips stay disposed,
smiling... until eyes are no longer closed.

To read poems of previous IPA Pushcart Prize Nominees:

IPA Nominees for the 2022 Pushcart Prize

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