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  • Skylar Hamilton Burris

Ancient Paths 2018 Pushcart Prize Nominees!

Every year, hundreds of presses nominate poems, short stories, and novel excerpts for the Pushcart Prize. Pushcart Press has been judging and publishing the winning selections in its annual collection, Best of the Small Presses, since 1976. "The Pushcart Prize," writes the editor, "has been a labor of love and independent spirits since its founding. It is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60's."

Ancient Paths is pleased to announce the nomination of six poems for the Pushcart Prize:

AQUACATE by Douglas Brandow

GOD'S NEW CLOTHES by Edward Ahern

CARRYING BOOKS by Damian Jay Clay

A GARDEN OF EDEN by Yevgeniya Przhebelskaya

AMALA by Andy Conner


All six of these poems were published in Ancient Paths Online in 2018.

Ancient Paths has been publishing quality literature on subtle religious themes for two decades. Seventeen issues of the magazine were published in print from 1998 to 2012, when Ancient Paths became an online publication. The magazine was a 2000 Writer's Digest National ‘Zine Publishing Awards Merit Winner. To follow Ancient Paths online, visit the Facebook page and like the page. You can read the full text of the nominated poems below. Best of luck to the Ancient Paths nominees!

AQUACATE by Douglas Brandow

The wound was superficial but we dressed it anyway, the peroxide dripping off his wrist onto his pants and then the floor: the pickup had careened off the road, dropping into a ditch. Ephraim smiled, "Muchas gracias!"

It rained hard, thundering. The voices of the seminarians singing Vespers could be heard above the storm.

Later, they filled balloons and prepared tortillas for the coming feast: the parish priest was returning from a distant city on a distant mountain and they missed him. While he was present darkness was far away and memories of the guns faded, merging into sounds of Winter rain.

The cross on the church was still there after all those years.

GOD'S NEW CLOTHES by Edward Ahern

So little left of the old garments. The fewer and older priests face us robed in apologies. Shrill tailors of God's message. Costumed nuns have died away replaced by off the rack laity.

The churning suits and dresses That draped across the pews have worn thin and sparse. And churches are cast off Like Good Will overcoats. And strictures are raggedly observed.

Yet some of us still wear faith, Displaying hand-me-downs in a church no longer fashionable. We're not dressed as we were, and unsure of holy style, but hopeful of our future ensemble.

CARRYING BOOKS (for Alistair Wisker) by Damian Jay Clay

A month after you died we emptied your study.

Your wife said, Take this down then handed me a bin bag full of clothes.

Your piebald jumper was at the top.

For Simon, it was your black sandals, thrown carelessly in the bin, looking like bits of bats or broken umbrellas.

We filled the boxes. Still, we needed more – each tome and folder expanded as we packed.

On a shelf, books are light and ordered.

Packed into boxes – backbreaking and lost.

When the room was empty I remembered a day in February:

I watched the snow fall as you talked about Eliot and Hemingway, the joyful specificity of violence within my prose, the use of dashes –

A GARDEN OF EDEN by Yevgeniya Przhebelskaya

After undressing,

I got cut in line to the shower

by my incontinent father-in-law.

In the summer heat,

our household is reverting into Eden

with an overgrown adult in diapers,

and two caregivers

blissfully splitting chores.

At night,

my father-in-law

walks, like a metronome,

back and forth

to the bathroom.

He knows pain,

but he does not remember it.

He remembers love:

It is like this poem -

tired, but not ashamed.

AMALA by Andy Conner

5AM Ahmedabad Airport Airside

Amala Spotless Bird Toilet cleaner

Hands a small, white flannel To a woman

Accessorised With two small boys In socks and shoes

A woman Who’s wearing More Than she makes in a year

Amala wonders how One so meticulous In dress Washes her hands Of good manners So casually

Amala In her sterile airport uniform Peeks Through the plate glass expanse At the big birds Nesting On the tarmac

Amala peeks at the big birds Preparing to migrate To climes She’s never heard of In the other universe

Amala hums a film song Peeks at the non-regulation colours Daubed On her toenails Beneath her sterile airline uniform

Then With no customer to hand Takes a small White flannel

Wipes the taps With a silent smile With a silent prayer

Wipes the taps Kisses the flannel

Then wipes again For the extra shine

That just might Convince God

To laugh At His own reflection

To smile At her shoeless fledglings

To smile

And grant them flight

[Footnote: Amala means ‘hope’ in Arabic and ‘pure’ in Hindi.]


The boy who pried my wife from the sea's

sea snake jowls when she was eight years

old must be what, eighty now? If he's

battled through its tug and suck to here.

She never learned who he was: some kid

swimming thereabouts who saw her flail.

Whose hands winkled her up high then slid

shed of her, safe out of the sea's swell.

She sat, hard, in the shallows. She shook

off a sputter of surf and blinked clean.

She saw his two spindly knees crook

and pivot; his pink heels kick and drain.

No one noticed. She never told. I'm

not sure, really, gratitude's the word

for that glazed churn of the heart, sometimes,

when disaster hasn't quite occurred;

doesn't seem real enough to have done;

world in its sky again. We should write

a note, to thank something, thank someone.

But it's just the old miracles. Breath. Light.

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