Disarm: A Themed issue Responding to Mass Shooting in America

One of our goals this year is to create more themed issues to facilitate the creation of poetry addressing specific social issues. Our first theme is a call for poems responding to mass shootings in America.

We are seeking poetry that responds to the growing frequency of mass shootings in America. What would our country look like if leading decision makers stopped privileging unlimited gun rights over the lives of the people we love? Show us that world. If you have been effected by gun violence, please also feel free to use this space to share your thoughts about your experience. Our platform is yours to express what you need to say. We want a world where the lives of our friends and loved ones are not cut short by the finality of a bullet. We want our children to grow old and live to build beautiful things. Melt down the guns and ammunition. Disarm the tools of violence.

We ask all of our past contributors and friends of Rising Phoenix Review to consider contributing to this issue and spreading the news about this call.

Submit Your Poetry Here

Disarm (1)

Nest By Emma Bleker

Nest

the dead bird comes home
to its mother to say,
“I did try.”

hollow things can
only try, it says.

and were it not for the emptiness
they are born with,
that persisting fate of a one-day jump,
they might never have
seen an edge to fly from.
were they born full,
‘jump’ would only have been
a story.

it is odd:
only the thing born empty
is given the biological makeup
to climb without clinging
to some limb. it holds
onto its own. it has wings
which work
or do not work
and that is the end of it.

what gift of echoed bones
gives flight and no fear of helpless
spiral, but curses the body
with the knowledge that those things
they lack
may let them jump
with no care.

should we fall,
whose bones are not worth
the weight they sacrificed
but bore
and bore
and bore.
it was not the wings,
it says. I did try.
By Emma Bleker

Biography:

Emma Bleker is a 22 year old writer based out of Virginia. She has previously been published or is forthcoming in Philosophical Idiot, Persephone’s Daughters, Cahoodaloodaling, Yellow Chair Review, Thought Catalog, Rising Phoenix Review, and Skylark Review, among others. She probably wants to be your friend.

What We Found In The Attic By Emma Bleker

What We Found In The Attic

The woman you once loved
does not sleep between us in bed.
She is always awake
in my palms
when I move to touch your face
too quickly;
when I mistake your shaking
as something
born of the cold.

We have spoken at length, you and I,
about being inhabited by the body
of a flinch. About what turns us
into bird’s bones. Its fingers
growing longer and longer
the more we think of them.
He says, “it is not because of you,”
I say, “I see another face sometimes, too.”

She sends you once-in-a-while love notes,
still. You let me read them;
they do not come to you like poems
or musings
of some long-soured ‘I miss you.’
It is something else entirely to me that
some past love must look like
blood to you.
I have my own memories
of similar blood, too.

In the attic of a home that is new to us,
we find a box of wedding photographs
marked “garbage.”
We still try to believe that
gone love
was still love.

But we know, with these promises
on our skin, some love cannot be
forgotten. Some love
leaves marks.
Not all true things
were good to us.
By Emma Bleker

Biography:

Emma Bleker is a 22 year old writer based out of Virginia. She has previously been published or is forthcoming in Philosophical Idiot, Persephone’s Daughters, Cahoodaloodaling, Yellow Chair Review, Thought Catalog, Rising Phoenix Review, and Skylark Review, among others. She probably wants to be your friend.

Father By Emma Bleker

Father

On the worst days, I forget my father has died.
I make him a very ugly martyr, he looks
exactly like me.
I find shadows of him in me so big
he could walk out and be, again, a full person.
On the best days, I remind myself that disease
is a family heirloom, tricky to keep safe.
My sister asks how much I am drinking and I say
it is all in good fun.
On my worst days I ask myself if I am impossible
to love sober. I find out for myself that I am. My father could not,
could not,
could not
find me now if he tried.
I am afraid every new person I love
will one day choose death over me,
though, I hold the same sickness. Though, I know
there is no choice, only disease.
I have contorted from what he left behind to grow, but
with this need to drown, or starve, a thing cannot
reasonably feed itself.
Since I was a child, I have had a problem with portioning.
I do not eat for days on end, and after, I try
to swallow the ocean
with my hands behind my back.
The pain of a full belly mirrors the ache
of a desolate one— they are sisters I cannot find
the father of.
Why do I call it father?
As if everything I cannot find
is “father.”
I must have murdered myself, too.
On the worst days, I promise him
I am coming home.
No, on my worst days,
the soft confusion that answers
the prayer to die, only ever like he did,
is the only god that has ever shown me
it is real.
By Emma Bleker

Biography:

Emma Bleker is a 22 year old writer based out of Virginia. She has previously been published or is forthcoming in Philosophical Idiot, Persephone’s Daughters, Cahoodaloodaling, Yellow Chair Review, Thought Catalog, Rising Phoenix Review, and Skylark Review, among others. She probably wants to be your friend.

On Childhood By Emma Bleker

On Childhood

I remember a puzzle mat
I could not possibly remember
but of which there are no photographs.

I remember a spiral staircase.
Sleepwalking to the bottom and
pissing myself.
The most miraculous thing
about surviving a climb
you do not remember
is that you did not fall.
The body’s instinct, I am told,
is to survive.

I remember the dog we found
near my father’s house.
My sister and I laughed, and loved it,
until we ran too fast
and it mistook play chasing
for something more
and, what began as a gargle,
soon bore teeth.
We did not look it in the eye after that.
We no longer ran down the street.

I remember running away
and sleeping in the tunnel slide
down the street.
I am told it was because
I am stubborn. I am told
there was no fight, and how could I
know? There are no
photographs.

I remember praying
that I could believe in a god.

I remember being told
it was not so bad
and knowing I was being told
my father would die, soon.
I remember holding my brother
close to me and
wondering how hard
skin had to be pushed
before it turned the color growling from
underneath my mother’s foundation.

I remember rainbow sherbert
on the back porch.

I remember my mother telling me
not to go outside.
That she needed to talk to me
about a thing called death
as a round tarp
the size of my dog
was dragged from the yard.

I remember being told
I would grow up,
and waking up this morning.
By Emma Bleker

Biography:

Emma Bleker is a 22 year old writer based out of Virginia. She has previously been published or is forthcoming in Philosophical Idiot, Persephone’s Daughters, Cahoodaloodaling, Yellow Chair Review, Thought Catalog, Rising Phoenix Review, and Skylark Review, among others. She probably wants to be your friend.

salem By Aryk Greenawalt

salem

midwinter piled up around you.
salem, oregon, where the sun didn’t shine. you
walked a mile in his shoes and could not take them off.
all this casual ruin. your little town of arsenic,
the stench of spilled gasoline heavy in the air, his words
like bricks on your tongue. how the snow
piled up against the window, and the light burned
in your hanging lamp. how flat his voice was
when he told you to leave. how the gifts

for the baby scattered out across the floor—
onesies, plushies, picture books: go, dog. go! oh the places
you’ll go, and you looked at it all at his feet and thought,
you were living on old miracles. the baby in your arms
wasn’t crying; your daughter watching, learning that love
meant voices howling violence through the walls.

you packed your things, the baby’s things, in two suitcases,
the clock ticking in the other room, the sun hanging like an
apparition behind thick oregon clouds. it brought images of

your husband standing trial at the stake, the hungering logs beneath; your
husband, no longer with roses tumbling out from behind his teeth but with lilies caught
in the dips between his fingers. the hanging lamp spilled sun across your husband,
alone. you looked back the whole plane ride. you held his hand
with your eyes closed.

and the baby didn’t cry, not once.

By Aryk Greenawalt

Biography:

Aryk Greenawalt is a queer nonbinary writer studying abroad. They are deeply interested in the power that words have to impact the world, the way that prose and poetry influence society as much as society influences them.

For My Sister By Aryk Greenawalt

For My Sister

8 a.m.
Sunday.
I stand in the kitchen, surrounded by ordinary things:
the curtains pulled back, the coffee maker
humming, my sister asleep in the other room
where the alarm is beeping like something flatlining.
I pour myself a coffee, and it steams up the window glass.
I’ve read that siblings of people who cut
are more likely to tear up their own flesh, that early deaths
run in families, and I fear every day for my sister’s unmarred
skin, her childhood scars, her bitten-down
fingernails and the damage they could do.
Here I stand, alone with the white scars on my arms, my sister
asleep in the other room, her hair undone around her face like
a fairy tale princess. How I wish I could promise her a happy ending.
I try to write it out. The hero dies in this one. That won’t do. I would give her
a better story, but what do I know about princesses? About shining armour
and the thorns that wait below? What do I know
about stories with happy endings? The prince wanders
the wilderness for years, blinded, searching. That won’t
do. I put down my pen. I pour my sister a coffee, go
to wake her up, to feel her pulse, to watch her
stir from the bed, so fiercely alive.
I want to tell her I love her and have it mean
everything I need it to mean. Please
don’t end up like me. Instead I mix pancake batter
while she stumbles bleary-eyed through the kitchen. She has church
later, and the rest of her life, and I still don’t know how to say it,
how to write it out. She is going places I can’t reach, places
I’ll never be able to reach. This is a story
she is writing for herself.
How I love her for it.

By Aryk Greenawalt

Biography:

Aryk Greenawalt is a queer nonbinary writer studying abroad. They are deeply interested in the power that words have to impact the world, the way that prose and poetry influence society as much as society influences them.