When Survival Does Not Suffice By Darshana Suresh

When Survival Does Not Suffice

This is what healing looks like:
blooming / reaching towards the light /
falling into the sunset / ripping wings off
and watching as they regrow / holding
a paintbrush between teeth and painting
the trees a glowing, hazy pink.

And this is what healing looks like:
nails painted with the ocean’s foam /
laughter like chocolate / a baby opening
its eyes for the first time / the little hiccup
when someone crying really hard stops /
the watery smile after the last tear.

And this is what healing looks like:
purple / twined vines & stitched hearts /
hands clutching / a plane landing / sky
scrapers / paper cuts healing / the
smell of hospitals / reaching out to
touch the stars /

leaving the stars alone because there is
enough wonder down here anyway /
because there is enough wonder in just
you alone anyway.

By Darshana Suresh

Biography:

Darshana Suresh is an 18 year old self-proclaimed poet residing in New Zealand, where she is currently studying psychology and English at the University of Auckland. You can most often find her falling over her own past or wistfully dreaming about all the places she has seen and all the places she has not. Poems that wrench her heart out and leave her tender and trembling are her favourite kind. More of her work can be found on afterthelonely.tumblr.com

Back to Basics By Ramna Safeer

Back to Basics

Washing my mouth of you.
Brushing until my gums bleed.
Sink is a cloud of pink
and my tongue is metal in my mouth.
Brushing until you become
the open wound, not the salt.

I bit my nails to the tender today.
I took 53 pictures of my lips and
wished I had a stranger to send them to,
a stranger who would recognize them
as ones he once wanted to kiss.

I wonder if anyone has ever wanted to climb
the hill my eyes make when they close.
I wonder if falling in love is bullshit.
If it’s just another store with only one size
or chocolates that go on sale the day after Valentine’s.

I wonder if falling out of love
is not just another way of saying,
‘I’m going to pretend I didn’t think
this was a wonderful idea when he looked at me
like I was first snowfall and I answered with
hands to his cheeks like church bells.’

I forgive myself for you.
This heart is underground parking lot
where all the cars start at once,
a hundred engines rumbling softly like belly laughs.

That is where the laugh is born.
Underground. Between the lungs.
Inside the inside.
That is where I learn to snap my neck to the sky
and be the kind of happy that made you
weak in the first place.

By Ramna Safeer

Biography:

Ramna Safeer is a pre-Law English Lit student. She is a writer, blogger, researcher, activist and perpetual coffee-spiller. Her poetry has been previously published in The ASUS Undergraduate Review, Atwood Mag and Words-on-Pages Magazine. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, New Canadian Media and The Queen’s Journal, where she works as the Editorials Editor. She is the founder and blogger at CherishChai.com, an online space that maps her journey to recapture her Pakistani, Muslim heritage. 

I Spent Twenty-Two Years Trying To Be Nice About It By Trista Mateer

I Spent Twenty-Two Years Trying To Be Nice About It

The first time a man slaps me on the ass,
I am fourteen years old, bussing tables at a family restaurant.
He asks where I go to college and laughs.
I laugh too but the sound gets caught in my throat.
I haven’t even been kissed for the first time yet.
I have always been told that “boys will be boys”,
so when I come to accept that men will be men,
nobody corrects me.
He wraps his arm around my waist,
hand warm on the place my work shirt rides up
above my khaki shorts—
and frowns when a waitress shoos him away.
I thank her nervously. I’m worried that she’ll think poorly of me.
I trap the word slut in the back of my throat with the laughter.
She tells me that the customer is always right,
so I have to be polite, but I can still say no
if I do it quietly.

When I first learn that no does not always stop
slipping lips and wandering hands,
I am sixteen years old in a plaid miniskirt.
I am told that it is my fault for being tempting;
and it feels like the truth.
I already refuse to wear shorts outside of the house.
It makes me nervous to be alone somewhere with another person
when I have a dress on.
I throw out my miniskirts and I apologize.

By this time, catcalls make me jump out of my skin.
I never figure out how to take them as a compliment.
I always get uncomfortable when men make jokes
about why women go to the bathroom in groups.
Nobody likes to hear that we are taught from the youngest age
that we should never go anywhere
alone.

The second time that no does not stop someone,
I am nineteen years old in the passenger seat of a pickup truck.
My date pulls up in front of my house
but hits the door lock instead of letting me out,
wraps his hand around my throat
because I told him I just thought we should be friends.
When I cry later to my mother about it,
she only asks if he’d been drinking
because you know how men can get sometimes.

And I do know how men can get sometimes.
On another date, I am told by a man
that it will be my fault if he ever goes too far
because his brain is wired like an animal.
I want to say that even my dogs recognize the word no,
but I am afraid of how he might react so I don’t argue.
I sit through the rest of the date with a smile on my face.
We even kiss afterwards.
And it is not the last time I try to make kissing into a bandage
for something that never should have happened.

The third time is only a few months later.
The third time is the worst time.
When I first say no, I think maybe he doesn’t hear me
but it has nothing to do with volume.
It takes me years to lay on a hammock again.
Spring might always remind me of bursting instead of blooming.

I carry my keys just to walk to the mailbox at night.
I’m too paranoid to jog down my street alone.
I am groped on the sidewalk,
I am groped on the bus,
and even once at the grocery store.

Newly twenty-one years old,
I am followed all the way to my friend’s car
by a group of men who stand around
laughing and jeering and banging on the windows.
It is the last time I ever let a man buy me a drink at a bar.

I have men in my life who call themselves my friends
who put their hands on my hips and my thighs
without my permission.
There is no question.
They do not think they have to ask.
They laugh when I bristle.
They call me bitchy when I tell them to back off

but it takes twenty-two years for me to realize
only I have a right to my body.

I used to bite my tongue, but I do not say NO quietly anymore.
I bark my discomfort like an old dog,
weary and uncomfortable even in its sleep.

By Trista Mateer

Biography:

Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry. More of her work can be found at: tristamateer.com

Power Pigs (Make A Movie Make Us Laugh Star In A Show Drop A Beat Make A Three-Pointer We’ll Forgive You) By Fortesa Latifi

Power Pigs (Make A Movie Make Us Laugh Star In A Show Drop A Beat Make A Three-Pointer We’ll Forgive You)

Your best friend was born and raised in this town
and being born and raised in this town means loving basketball.
Scratch that- it means worshiping.
The game, the team, the fanfare of it all.
So when you go to a concert on a warm October night
and see the team there, you ask them if you could all
take a picture together and they say yes

In 1977, Roman Polanski raped a 13-year old girl.
He was arrested and charged with rape by use of drugs,
perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts upon a child
under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor.
When he learned he would likely be facing imprisonment
and deportation, Polanski fled to France. In 2009, Polanski
was detained at Zurich Airport. While he was in custody,
over 100 people in the film industry publicly called for his
release in a petition. Since 1979, he has won twenty awards
for his filmmaking.

As the flash is going off, the shooting guard of the basketball team
who has rosary beads tattooed around his wrists
slips his hands between your best friend’s legs
sliding his fingers into her through her leggings.
In the picture, her mouth is opened into an “o”
of surprise.

In 1985, Bill Cosby allegedly raped Barbara Bowman.
42 other women have come forward with their
accounts of sexual assault and rape at the hands
of Bill Cosby, with the earliest incident dating back to
1965. Although accusations of sexual assault and rape
have chased Cosby for decades, it has not impacted his
life, career, or marriage. In 2009, he won the Mark Twain
Prize for American Humor and in 2010, he won the
Marian Anderson Award, which honors individuals
who have changed society through their art.

You keep asking what’s wrong and when she tells you,
your heart drops into your feet. 20 minutes later,
you watch him get kicked out of the concert.
So you follow him.

In 1990, Charlie Sheen shot his fiancé, Kelly Preston, in the arm.
Six years later, he was arrested for repeatedly beating
his girlfriend, Brittany Ashland. He pleaded no contest to battery
charges and got two years probation and a $2,800 fine.
In 2006, his wife Denise Richards got a restraining order against him
after repeated threats of violence from Sheen.
In 2010, he was the highest-paid actor on TV.

And you scream. And your best friend sits on a curb
across the street and she cries. And you scream.
And she’ll never talk about this night again.
And he asks you what the fuck you want from him.
And you want to say leave us alone leave us alone.
And you scream. And she cries.

In 2000, Eminem’s wife Kim Mathers attempted suicide
after he performed a song detailing his desire to violently
murder her while beating a blow-up doll on stage that was
meant to resemble her. During that same year, Eminem released
a song expressing hatred toward his mother and his longing
to rape her. “Just bend over like a slut OK Ma? Oh, now he’s raping
his own mother, abusing a whore, snorting coke, and we gave him
the Rolling Stone cover”. Despite a history of violence and songs that
are rife with misogynistic, abusive, and homophobic themes,
Eminem has won 15 Grammy Awards throughout his career and in
2013, was awarded the Global Icon Award at the MTV European Music Awards.

She didn’t ask you to touch her she didn’t want this
you have no right she didn’t want this how could you
how could you how could you.

In 2009, Chris Brown was charged with felony assault
for a vicious attack against his girlfriend Rihanna on the
night before the Grammys. Brown was sentenced to five years
of probation and 1,400 hours of community service.
In 2012, Chris Brown won his first Grammy. In 2015,
he sat in the audience of the Grammy Awards as
President Obama issued a PSA imploring the country
to help stop violence against women and girls.
“Artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes,
and get us thinking and talking about what matters.”
That night, Chris Brown was nominated for the
Best Urban Contemporary Album Award.

Three months later, you’re watching a basketball game with your friends
and the boy with the tattoo of the rosary beads makes a 3-pointer
and your best friend looks away from the TV but that doesn’t stop
the stadium from erupting in cheers and they’re chanting his name
and they’re chanting his name and they’re chanting his name.

By Fortesa Latifi

Biography:

Fortesa Latifi is a 22-year old poet. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona and calls the desert home. Her first book, This Is How We Find Each Other, was published through Where Are You press in 2014 and she still can’t believe it. Her work has been featured in Persona, Words Dance, and Rising Phoenix. She is currently a contributing editor at Words Dance and a contributing author for Kosovo 2.0. She is working on her second book which will come out in the fall. She hopes it reminds you of being young and having lipstick smudged on your teeth. You can find her online at madgirlf.tumblr.com

Hey Sexy What’s Your Name By Auriel Haack

Hey Sexy What’s Your Name

On a side road near my house while on an early morning run:
“Hey, baby, I know another way to make you sweat.”
The driver of the truck punches the gas and spits gravel in my face.
I barely notice, too stunned by the words.
He was old enough to be my father.

On a city sidewalk:
“Hey, purple shirt! Hey, nice tits! Smile for me!”
I lock my jaw. Put my head down and keep walking.
God knows it’s not the first time.
God knows it won’t be the last.

On a dance floor:
Unfamiliar hands pressed flush against my skin.
A foreign mouth lunging for me.
I skitter back and his mouth collides with my collarbone.
He walks away, throws “fat bitch” over his shoulder
like his palms weren’t just skimming my thighs.
Everyone will see the bruise peeking from my collar and give me the look that says
they know what I’ve been up to.
I will not know how to tell them that I was trying to run.

Everywhere I go:
I am being punished.
I have committed the unforgivable crime of being a woman, but
I am not sorry. I will not apologize for having this body.
I don’t know what it would be like to not be afraid. But I am trying.
I will not smile. I will not look their way.
I will be unapologetic, and strong, and beautiful, and brave.

By Auriel Haack

Biography:

Auriel Haack is a poet living in Jacksonville, Florida. She is a senior in high school. More of her work can be found at poppyflowerpoetry.tumblr.com

Even Medusa Should Be Loved By Kimberly Siehl

Even Medusa Should Be Loved

I thought I knew what love was when I was 13 and kissing a tall green eyed boy in the woods whose eyes still send shivers down my spine when I think about them.
And then I turned 15 and I thought I knew when I was crying into the shoulder of a boy who would rather fuck his ex-girlfriend than spend time with me in the daylight. I thought that was what love was supposed to be.
Then I turned 16, and kissed boys who tasted like beer.
Then I turned 17, and kissed boys who told me I tasted like vodka.
Then I turned 18, and started to think that kissing boys made me weaker
and then I turned 19, and kissed boys again anyway.
They would never look directly into my eyes, like I was Medusa and would turn them into stone with the strength of my passion.
I was just an organ pumping blood into their veins feeding their libidos, smiling at their empty compliments until I was sure they would combust.
They looked through me, ignoring the single freckle on my nose, greedily gnawing at my lips instead of tracing the curves with curious fingers.
They never saw the length of my eyelashes or how my left eye sits slightly higher than my right.
I was skin
I was sweat
I was lust
but never a kiss goodbye or a kiss hello.
They taught me that love is not what it’s chalked up to be because they taught me that love is foggy car windows or hickies given by a mouth that knows more about rum than the edges of my body.
Maybe this time they will look into my eyes and wonder what I was like as a child or what book I could read a million times over or what would be my last meal on death row.
But they kissed and touched and fucked the monster with snakes for hair and eyes that could turn anyone cold and lifeless.
I am a monster;
what does that make them?

By Kimberly Siehl

Biography:

My name is Kimberly Siehl and I’m a 20 year old student at The College of New Jersey studying clinical psychology and spanish. I love writing, singing, dogs, and good food.

What We Didn’t Know By Lindsey Hobart

What We Didn’t Know

He loves me like a monster,
all teeth and talk and
hiding in the dark.
That’s my specialty—
men with strong bodies
and fragile hearts,
and if you hold them too tightly
they will crumble beneath you
like an avalanche that’s waiting.
Still, he looks at me like all things
beautiful and burning
and we love each other recklessly
with hearts so empty
our names echo against
vandalized walls that say,
“There was someone here before me,
listen closely and you’ll hear their name.”

He has matches for hands,
and I, a paper heart.
Gasoline will drip
from our mouths
and we will call that holy.
We will burn at the stake
and pollute the sky with
smoke and selfishness,
and we will say it was
in the name of a crooked love.
We will burn our own bodies
to the ground and we will
call that sacrifice.
We will tear ourselves open
like there’s something left inside.

Nobody ever taught us how to love.

By Lindsey Hobart

Biography:

Lindsey Hobart is a seventeen year-old poet from a New York town that’s as quiet as her voice. Her work has been featured in Canvas Lit and she is a winning Slam Poet.

A Creation Tale By Emily Palermo

A Creation Tale

Grief
slipping through the wide open mouth,
this animal scream
cutting itself from the back of the throat,
this salt
burying itself inside the open wound.
Let’s start there.
Let’s start with the pitiful
and work our way back.
If the world ended with sorrow,
was the genesis hopeful?
Or was God so lonely,
he wept the earth alive,
he sculpted bodies out of clay,
bodies that would listen to him,
bodies that would love him back?
Let’s talk about how God shook
from the cold,
how nothing felt
warmer than flesh,
how the universe
was craved into being.

By Emily Palermo

Biography:

Emily Palermo is a nineteen-year old aspiring writer from Louisiana, where she is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature. Her greatest influences include Richard Siken and Margaret Atwood. In her free time, she likes to frequent coffee shops and bookstores, talk about her dog, and wax poetic about Vincent van Gogh. More of her work can be found at http://starredsoul.tumblr.com/

August Publication Announcement

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The RPR Team is proud to announce the new lineup of poets for the August issue of The Rising Phoenix Review.

We will post our second issue from August 4th-August 31st. Check our site
for a new poem every day at 5pm Eastern Standard time.

Our editors are honored to have the opportunity to publish poetry that addresses some of the most challenging issues of our era. We are extremely grateful to all of the poets who have worked with us to embody our mission. All of them are beautiful people, we love them dearly. Thank you for continuing to build this nest with us!