BULLSHIT'S 2023 PUSHCART NOMINEES
High Impact Donkey
by Adrian Sobol
You purchase a high impact donkey. You’ve never felt safer. You go downhill faster than your race car driving father ever dreamed. The laws of thermodynamics bend to your high impact donkey. At such high speeds, you witness the interstitial music woven between all living things. But you take a turn too fast. You survive. The high impact donkey does, too. You crash through a bakery window and end up covered in yeast, in flour, a trail of broken eggs behind you. The local children laugh. They tease you. They begin to call you Doughboy Dan in their little playground songs, even though your Christian name, the one your father died giving you, is Hot Dog Hank.
Adrian Sobol (he/him) is a Polish immigrant/musician/poet. He is the author of 'The Life of the Party is Harder to Find Until You're the Last One Around' (Malarkey Books) and 'this is not where we parked. this is ohio.' (Ghost City Press). He lives in Chicago. Twitter: @yo_adrianididit; IG: @yoadrianididit.
by Noah David Roberts
Lack is the standard definition of a hole. A great big hole in the street. Pothole, sinkhole, fault lines. Bellybuttons & ear piercings, tiny holes left by needles. Black spot, history of hole symbolism. Black hole I can never photograph. Holes where my eyes should be. Dead & empty holes! Wet slop holes of mud in my backyard, I remember falling when I was younger. Dirty holes! Hole in the wall hole in the ground. Body holes, plot holes, bullet holes, crochet. Tryptophobia, foam bubbles look like holes when they are fine enough. My heart a place I’d love to have a hole. Oh how I witness even with two empty eye-holes, oh how I hear with my ear-holes. Holes in my face allow breath & consumption. Blood comes from more holes than it doesn’t. Put your holes into me, together we are a big dark stinking hole, together we devour; although sometimes I wonder if I can tell you who is devourer/devoured. A long trench is just an elongated hole. Rifles have holes. Targets have holes. Aim for the hole, you know what I mean (golf). Like when I accidentally let loose an arrow & left a hole in your tire. My whole life is a hole. Hole to fall down into. Grave-hole, death-hole. Shovels are not how to dig this hole. You must denigrate & depreciate to enjoy your fullest hole-ness. I leave holes everywhere I go, daily affirmation. I am one of many holes left beyond. Beyond the hole is only more hole. Look within the hole to find the hole, etc. Boy do I love holes. Anything could be down in that hole. Hope for treasure in the hole, not fire. I peer into the hole & see no bones. See, the hole never had a body anyway. The hole never thought I am a hole—I don’t think. Maybe it did. Maybe the hole knows its a hole, & is doing what I am doing, refracted, upside-down, mirrored video, fractured, building, damaging, appreciating, filling. One time I did too much ketamine & had to walk home K-holing in New York night. The hole thinks, wow, you are stupid. Degrading hole which has no master. The hole as hive-mind, as mutating spreading virus. Hole changing with time. I could talk all day about holes. Debt is a hole. Fate is a hole. Morality is a hole. My love is a hole. New York is a hole. A hole in a log grows moss, in my memory, more often than not. for the hole everything is good, so I must try to be more like the hole. Everything has its own hole. Enter me—a holy thing, as it pulls you deeper upon itself.
Noah David Roberts (they/them) is a non-binary poet based in Philadelphia, PA. Roberts is the author of 6 collections: 'Us v. Them,' 'Strips,' 'Slime Thing [and other poems],' 'Final Girl Mythos,' 'What I Do in the Dark,' and 'Mutable Forests.' Since publication of their first book, Roberts has been published in Bullshit Lit, Tribes Magazine, Horror Sleaze Trash, and more. In 2022, Roberts won the Judith Stark poetry contest. Roberts is a reader at Graphic Violence Lit, and loves cats. Their Instagram handle is @the.apocalypse.poet.
by Andrew Walker
I collect teeth—pearly coins
in my hand—& rattle them
to the man selling bananas
at his stand who smiles
a boney smile. The yellow cock
is slightly spotted in my palm—
sugar freckles sewn into its peel—
& I push its insides outward ass-first,
beige shit bursting from its black zit—
I once watched a bear bash the bowels
from a bunny the same way,
like toothpaste from a tube,
saw its bright gumbones biting
through the rabbit’s red rind
bent into bonelessness, could have
mistook it for a slug, a chicken wing,
a skin-suit slung over the back
of a chair by the banana-man
after a long day at the stand,
home to rest his aching innards under
a ceiling skeletoned
by four walls
& 1,4000 bones every month
& all the labor this unpeeled man
puts into tending fruit for fangs
just to pay for another day
under god’s ghastly grin that hangs
like phloem from a phallus in the sky.
Andrew Walker (he/they) lives in Marquette, Michigan where they write poems for grades and take pictures of frozen beaches. Their creative work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Alien Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, Pidgeonholes, HAD, Crack the Spine, and Eckleburg. They also help out the editorial teams for Passages North and Kissing Dynamite. You can find them on Twitter @druwalker94 or on their website, druwalker.com.
365 Days Sober
by Andrea Lawler
Unless you’re counting those few days
in January—and also that time in June.
I want to hold out my hand to everyone
who needs it. I know some good people
who spent so much time in the dark,
they became scared of the light. Holy
are the things we put inside ourselves,
always trying to become something else.
Here’s a story about addiction: I once
knew a guy. Now I don’t.
Andrea Lawler (she/her) is a 3x (now 4x) Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and writer. She holds a degree in English Language & Literature from the University of Mary. Her work has been featured in numerous publications around the world. 'Let Me Take You Out of This Town' is her first poetry collection. She spends her free time working with chronically ill and disabled cats. She currently lives in North Dakota. @andie_lawler
by Greer McAllister
Grace and I are drunk as skunks
on Thompson St.
passing back and forth
an overripe peach
we squat in the heat and
whistle at men who walk past in their
mourning suits you know
I’m glad my dress fits
my tits this well
I’m glad the chrysanthemums
rotted in their vase
I’m glad that when he pulled my hair
he said nothing
I toss the pit and peach juice
runs down our necks
we ask the old man at the Blue Note
to lick it off after he grabs me
by the waist and tells me about his
open marriage but we have to go
we’re offered a ride to a party
by Ari from the bar
though his car was a Mercedes
with tinted windows so
we took off our shoes and ran away
I’m glad my feet got bruised
I’m glad I saw that girl swimming
in the fountain in Washington Square
I’m glad when I looked at my legs this morning wrapped in his bedsheets I was
reminded of the coming day
and not the yellowing strips of my funeral cloth.
Greer McAllister (she/her) holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and is a poetry editor at Variant Literature. She has recently been published in HAD, Fugue, and Pidgeonholes. She lives in Brooklyn and tweets @mcallistergreer.
V. The Sin Bin
by Abigail Swoboda
Two weeks after my sixth birthday party, Uncle Alistair shows up and someone rolls the first 300 in duckpin bowling history. My birthday is real close to Arbor Day, and so all my friends dressed up like trees for my party. I was a dogwood.
Uncle Alistair has a way of showing up when we want him around least, so when I notice I don’t feel like seeing Uncle Alistair, I start watching out for him. And so I am looking out through the stained glass of our first floor windows when Uncle Alistair pulls up in his big yellow Penske 18-wheeler and parks it on the street in front of our house. But I’m looking through stained glass, so the truck isn’t just yellow, it’s orange and green and purplish, too.
All Uncle Alistair says is, “Truck needs fixed.”
So we mostly stay out of his way while he roots through our toolshed and finds what he needs and gets fixing. The truck’s so big that when Uncle Alistair’s under it fixing, only the tips of his boots peek out. I watch his steel toes rock from side to side as he works and I wiggle one of my front teeth that’s started to loosen since my birthday.
Uncle Alistair also has a way of smoking at the worst times. Lighting up right as he ought to get going or when he’s about to go into some place. Just when the smoke is going to make you nauseous.
So I’m holding my nose when Uncle Alistair decides it’s time for a break from fixing and that the two of us should go duckpin bowling.
Before we get going, Uncle Alistair reds himself up, so that when he picks me up and plops my little body in the passenger seat of his big yellow Penske he’s wearing a fake kimono and his head’s freshly shaved and he looks like he’s ready to fight somebody.
“Doesn’t the truck need fixed?” I ask as he’s lighting up in the driver seat.
“Fixed enough to get where we gotta go,” Uncle Alistair says.
And I’m only six so what the fuck am I supposed to say back. And so I say nothing and buckle myself in and think that it’s a good thing that Dundalk Duckpin Lanes isn’t too far away. So we make our big old 18-wheeler way through God’s country, where the sides of barns tell us to REPENT! and CONFESS YOUR SINS AND THE LORD WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON. And Uncle Alistair laughs at the liberal pick-up truck apologetica along the way—the bumper stickers that say IMPEACH THE ASSHOLES and COEXIST. And I try and find all the eyes along the side of the road, and by the end I think there were 36 or 37 eyes, but I’m not sure, because I’m still getting good at counting.
Inside of Dundalk Duckpin Lanes, everything is caught in the anxiety of intersecting brown flickering fluorescents and buzzing neons and the Dundalk Duckpin League is practicing. Duckpin bowling balls weigh about three pounds, and so it is a more accessible form of bowling than ten-pin and so the Dundalk Duckpin League’s youngest player is two and oldest 95. I like that I am never the youngest when I go duckpin bowling and also never the worst, because duckpin bowling is very hard for everyone, even though you get three rolls.
And so I’m just slinging balls into the gutter over and over again because I mostly just like to watch the automatic pinsetters pick up the little pins and put them back down again. Duckpin pinsetters have more than 1000 moving parts that haven’t been manufactured since 1973, so that when it breaks, that’s it that’s the end. Thinking about this makes my head feel how my mouth feels when I wiggle my loose tooth and I like that.
After a few frames of gutterballs, Uncle Alistair decides it’s time for a smoke. So he takes my hand and pulls me with him into the Sin Bin, which is a big plexiglass box in the corner of the bowling alley where you can smoke without having to go outside. There are thick, velvet curtains attached to the door, but only the door, so you can see right through the walls just not through the door.
Uncle Alistair sits me down next to him in the Sin Bin and puts the butt end of a cigarette in my mouth and it pokes my loose tooth and so I wince.
“Life’s all about experiences,” he says as he lights his own cigarette and then mine.
And I already know how to smoke it, because that kind of knowledge is innate at this point in my life. I still haven’t shed all the skin of my past lives.
And the ventilation in here is pretty shit and so Uncle Alistair and I are hotboxing cigs in the Sin Bin. After a couple minutes, the smoke is thick enough that we can no longer see the Dundalk Duckpin League practicing out on the lanes. There is only opaque plexiglass and the heavy velvet curtains on the door and a thick lattice of smoke between the two of us.
Then Uncle Alistair says, “Alright, I figure I oughtta go first.”
I have no idea what he means, but the words are already tumbling out of his mouth, and he’s telling me that he made a mistake a long time ago and that he should have been around more and that he means to stick around this time and that he always thought I would look like him and that my mom shouldn’t know he told me any of this and that this is just between a father and his son.
And all of that would be pretty confusing if I could hear any of it, but my head is swimming in nicotine and secondhand smoke and so even if I could hear Uncle Alistair through the ringing in my ears, I don’t think it would make much sense anyhow.
“Okay, your turn now,” Uncle Alistair says. “Confess.”
And I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to confess because I’m only six and I don’t have any siblings.
“Can it be something from before?” I ask.
“No,” Uncle Alistair says, “this life.”
And I’m just focusing on staying conscious so suddenly my mouth is saying “I shouldn’t have been a dogwood for my birthday party because I’m not a dogwood kid, I’m a ginkgo kid” and the world outside the Sin Bin erupts in wild cheers because some Dundalk Duckpin Leaguer has just scored the first 300 in duckpin bowling history but I won’t know that until later because right now I’m throwing up so much all over the Sin Bin floor and it just keeps coming out of me until finally it stops and I’m on my little six-year-old hands and knees in the middle of it all.
And there, beside me, is the little white Chiclet of my loose tooth.
Abigail Swoboda (they/them) is a pre-K teacher, quilter, and Catholic who lives in West Philly. Their work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in bedfellows magazine, Philly Healing Verse Poetry Line, Prolit Magazine, The Shoutflower, and Voicemail Poems, among others. Their collection 'VISCERA AMERICANA' is available from Thirty West Publishing House. Visit their website abigailswoboda.com or find them on Instagram @beetrootstock.