Nine Years Old By Disha Ahluwalia

Nine Years Old

You are nine years old with sand in your hair
and a heart so full of innocence
when your friends point at you,
whisper ‘lesbian’ and burst into laughter-

and you don’t know what it means so
you laugh along, muttering ‘lesbian’
in between your giggles,
as though it’s a swear word.

when the dictionary tells you that it means
a woman who loves women, you scowl
because you’ve never been this confused.
why would your friends laugh at you

for being in love with women?
isn’t love the weapon that ends
all wars before they begin?

and so you ask your mama, just to be sure,
and she holds your arms and looks you
in the eyes, and she says, “darling, god
will never forgive lesbians.

they should be ashamed of themselves.”
and your scowl turns into a frown,
because you’re not sure you can love
a God that doesn’t love the idea of love.

because at nine years old, love is
pure and guileless and naive. love is
no more than holding hands and tucking
her hair behind her ears and love is

never saying no when she wants to play
or wants help with homework.
yet, at nine years old,
love is everything,

and you can never fathom why
loving women is wrong,
when your older sister is nagged
about not having a boyfriend.

when your mama notices your silence,
she asks you what’s wrong,
and you scrape out that frown and
replace it with a worried smile,

and you tell her it’s nothing,
and you scrape out the word that
felt like home to you, because
no one wants to be dissed.

and at nine years old, you are taught
to be ashamed of yourself.

By Disha Ahluwalia

Biography:

Disha Ahluwalia is a sixteen year old Indian writer settled in the Middle East. Her heart has a wild case of wanderlust and she wants to travel all seven continents to take pictures of the sunset. When she’s not busy procrastinating over cat videos or overrated TV shows, she can be found in the nook of her room spilling out ink. She has been writer for as long as she can remember and has previously been published in literary journals like Germ Magazine. More of her work can be found here: http://concealednotes.tumblr.com/

Your War By Do Nguyen Mai

Your War

Your war in Vietnam was not ours. You did not
fight in our civil war; you did not lose fathers to
gunfire launched by your uncles, you did not
take the lives of your own cousins. My sisters and
I must “love you long time” because if we don’t,

we take a bullet to the heart just like our
forgotten brothers in the north.

We were condemned to destruction the
moment you took our war from us and called it
yours. America is so hungry for power that
it doesn’t think twice before drenching even the
flesh of their allies’ families in napalm and
frying us like their chicken. You lost your
boys; we lost our boys, our girls, our newborns,
our lands, our history, our future. Our rice fields
burned and yet you humiliated us for our lack of
food, our lack of immunity to the disease you
called communism – our lack of hatred for
the people we were once able to call our family.
And still you call your wars battles for freedom
when all you ever did was ensure its eradication.

Ensure our eradication from your history.

War crowns no victors, but at least
you were not the losers; at least you did
not have your blood mixed with an endless
list of ingredients into a cocktail whose name
clubbers can only pronounce half the time –

The other half, they just order a Silver Bullet.

By Do Nguyen Mai

Biography:

My name is Do Nguyen Mai, written last name to first in the traditional formal style, like the way most Vietnamese poets sign their works. I am a Vietnamese-American student living in the Los Angeles area who spends too much of her free time singing old, war-era Vietnamese songs. More of my poetry can be found at lotuscrowns.tk

little, red, wolf By Jessie Lynn McMains

little, red, wolf

The snow hushed the city sounds and from far far off came a chorus
of howls and yelps. Mama, I hear wolves, she said. Hush, my dear.
There are no wolves near. It’s only the wind in the dried old cornstalks,
only the whine of the furnace turning on, said Mama. But the girl knew
no furnace yelped so high and wild, no wind howled so savage and
lonesome. She dreamt of dark fur speckled with glints of light like a
winter night sky, of a pool of warm red that spread across the fresh snow.

At her grandmother’s house, it was no wolf who lay in wait. It was
the woodsman in sly disguise. Grandma, what big hands you have,
she said. All the better to touch you with, my dear, said he. His voice
was the wind in the dried old cornstalks, the screeee of dead tree
limbs rubbing in the cold breeze. He lay her down and lifted her dress.
You can never tell, he said. His hands were hatchets, cleaving the flesh
between her legs. Look, how red, he said.

One no-sleep night hounded by visions of woodsmen, hatchets, tree limbs
hewn and dead, she pulled on her cloak and stepped out into the yard.
She lifted her face to the blood-red moon, stretched her neck and opened
her mouth and keened. Lonesome and wild she howled; savage and high
she cried. She waited in the silence after her stormcall, waited until
from far far off she heard one voice, then a second, a third. She listened
to the wolves, and they said: Teach your legs to be quick and quiet as
falling snow. Grow your fur long, wear it as a star-flecked night cloak.
File your teeth until they are sharper than any axe. Be vicious, relentless,
unforgiving. Go for the throat. Bite, tear, shred. Then look, my dear.
Look how red.

By Jessie Lynn McMains

Jessie Lynn McMains (aka Rust Belt Jessie), is the Poet Laureate of Racine, Wisconsin. She has performed spoken word on tour with the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, at FILF in Cleveland, and at Queer Open Mic and Bitchez Nueve in San Francisco, as well as various other places across the US and Canada. She has been publishing her prose and poetry in her own zines since 1994, and her work has also appeared in The Chapess, New Pop Lit,The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Wonderlust Lit Zine, Razorcake, and Word Riot, amongst others. Her short story “Insect Summer” was nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize. She currently writes music reviews and essays for Witchsong. Someone once called her the Debbie Harry of poetry, and she thinks that’s a pretty rad description. If you like, you can also refer to her as the punk rock Edna St. Vincent Millay. She loves music, adventure, community gardens, home-brewed beer, tarot, dancing, playing dress-up, her friends and family, and her four-year-old kidlet. She collects souvenir pennies and stick and poke tattoos. She is perpetually melancholy, restless, and nostalgic. She believes storytelling can change the world. You can find her website at recklesschants.net and her blog at rustbeltjessie.tumblr.com.

Earth By A.C.

Earth

When I was young, my father told me
Mamoni, be like the earth
solid and selfless and unshakable—
let others do to you what they wish
you shall endure it all in stoic silence.
This is why we call the earth ‘Mother’
she bears our weight without complaint
as all women must learn to do.
Sacrifice, he told me,
sacrifice is your soul.

Little girls are taught not to argue
not to talk back, so I stifled my protests
bit my tongue against the bewilderment in my heart
And as I grew, I tried to be the ideal daughter,
sister, friend, oh, I strived so hard towards sacrifice
but I could never quite kneel low enough.
I was always a shade too wild,
too arrogant, too defiant—
I’d let them hit me first but then I’d strike back.
So my father would shout me into submission,
watch as I wept my anger away
and remind me—Mamoni,
be the earth. Bear it.

But Baba, now I know who I am.
I am the wildfire that tears through serene forests
Burning and blazing amongst the twining trees
Sparing none in my path to absolution.
I am alight with devastating power,
I am aglow with the promise of rebirth.

I am the white waves that batter at your shores
A swirling tempest of saltwater
That seems docile until it surges forward
And washes the world away in its seething fury.
I soothe your troubled thoughts with my sweet sonance
But try to lay claim to my soul
and I will swallow you whole.

Yes, I am indeed the earth,
solid and selfless and unbreakable,
But I will never be silent.
You meant well, Baba, yet how wrong you were
The earth does not bear our weight quietly, no,
she roars and shakes,
sends tremors through our hearts when she quakes.
She lends us shelter, sustenance, she cares for our needs,
but abuse her charity
and in a blink she lays waste to base human greed.

And, now, do you see?
Sacrifice is but a part of me—
I am earth, and fire, and sea,
I will not give myself to those who do not deserve me.

By Amrita Chakraborty

Biography:

A.C. is a 20 year old writer based in New York. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and attempting to understand life by writing copious amounts of poetry and petting as many cats as she can. In her free time, A. can be found lost in a library somewhere, thinking dreamily about all the places in the world she has yet to visit, or staring at the stars with a slightly slack-jawed expression.

In Response To Delhi By Ang Shuang

In Response To Delhi

1 billion people and half ‘have 
no value’. 615 million women 
and only 20% are ‘good’.
I am tired of men who think
they rule the world. I am tired
of men who use the word ‘cunt’
without thinking of where they
slipped out from. I am tired of
men with greedy hands, men with
wandering eyes, men with the nerve 
to blame their rapacity on 
strips of skin. I am tired of 
the words ‘indecent’, ‘revealing’,
and most of all, ‘she asked for it’.
I am tired of period jokes, of 
driving jokes, of kitchen jokes.
I am tired of cities built on the bones 
of women, then named after men.
You call us prudes one minute,
then sluts the next.
You ask for ladies in the street,
but freaks in the sheets.
You name hurricanes after us,
then tell us not to ‘fight back’.
Set us alight. Go ahead.
I hope you choke on our ashes.

By Ang Shuang

Biography:

Ang Shuang is a 21 year old dreamer from Singapore. She writes a lot about love.

I Am The Girl By Alyson Brown

I Am The Girl

Yesterday a boy in my orchestra class said
he used to have a girlfriend but,
“She got annoying and fat.”
Everybody laughed.

I bit down the words that were struggling
to climb up my throat. After all,
my voice is too loud, I should speak softer.
My ideas are wrong, why should I share them
with people who don’t care.
My opinion doesn’t matter,
no one listens to girls anyways.

At lunch, my best friend whispers excuses
and slips into the bathroom.
Her legs tremble, and I can see sunlight
between her bones. She is
shattering because of a perception
that she is too much: too much
weight, too many goals, too much
to be considered perfect.

In our world of women’s rights and feminism,
a girl is still sitting in the back of her
geometry class afraid to raise her hand.
She is strong and smart, but fears the
judgment of society if she asks a question.
I am her, and she is me.

By Alyson Brown

Biography:

Alyson Brown is a high school writer who lives in San Diego, California. Along with writing poetry in her free time, she does speech and debate and helps with her school magazine. She aspires to make a difference in people’s lives with her writing. You can find more of her work on tumblr at c0nstellationofdreams.tumblr.com

Q (1) By Alexis Smithers

Q (1)

1.) After I drop him off at school Monday morning, I walk back to the metro to catch the 45 train home. A man with stale coffee breath and more lines etched in his face than years I’ve been here won’t take my silence as rejection and stands too close. I forgot my pocketknife at home. As he continues flirting, I inch towards the rails, past the warning lights. I told Q I’d miss him at school today. He said “Don’t worry, I’ll see you soon.” The train is coming. I step back.

2.) Tuesday we listen to the news on the radio. Marissa Alexander looks at a possible twenty years for shooting into the ceiling as warning to her abusive husband. Q waits for a pause in the report to state, “That’s not right.” I agree as he continues, “No one should ever be punished for protecting themselves.” He makes sure he has my full attention when he finishes: “She shouldn’t have had to protect herself in the first place.” I’m not sure he’s talking about Marissa anymore.

3.) When I tell him, “There’s no point in sending kids to their rooms as punishment cause they have everything they could possibly want in there.” he begs me: “Please don’t send me there when you’re upset. Locking me in my room makes me feel like you’re throwing me away.”

4.) Thursday he won’t apologize to Mr. Sol after telling him he’s glad his son, Jake, is at home sick today. I apologize for him. After Mr. Sol leaves, Q says, “Jake isn’t nice. I’m not sorry he won’t hit me today.”

5.) Q stays under the covers Friday morning even after I yell “IT’S TIME TO GO!” Q thinks the dead are sleeping. He won’t get up unless his great grandfather gets up too.

6.) On Saturday, Q asks about you, Grace. I tell him that the boy you’re with holds your heart, I still have to ask to hold your hand. Q thinks for a moment, then shakes his head no. He tells me,“her eyes like you best.”

7.) After Sunday’s sermon, after everyone politely hurries out of church for Sunday brunch, I kneel in the pews. beg God to unbroke
me. After a few minutes, Q kneels beside.
with love because he knows I can’t remember how.

By Alexis Smithers

Biography:

Alexis Smithers is a twenty one year old explosion of messes. They are queer black writer that was published in a book about how horses heal (Wild at Heart by Heather Kirby), and has work that can be found on theEEEL. Fun facts: they tied a pillowcase to their back and tried to fly after seeing Sky High, their mantra can be found in Wreck-It Ralph, The Babadook, or Orphan Black (depending on the day) and they’re terrified of mostly everything but art makes the fear easier to hold.

To All The Men Who Should’ve Known Better By Fortesa Latifi

To All The Men Who Should’ve Known Better

He is leaning across the table, arm draped across the back of my chair
a whisper in my ear so thick I can taste the last cigarette he smoked.
He is saying the things they always say. That I am so mature. That I am
nothing like the other girls my age. That I understand him and that’s
what’s important. He pulls his car keys out of his pocket and I am still
years away from driving. I’m in the passenger seat and he’s weaving
through traffic too quickly. We try to find a bar where they won’t ID
me but even then, my face is too soft to be anything other than 15.
My heart is too naive to be anything other than a child but I don’t know
this yet. In this moment, I am the girl whose so mature for her age,
who can reach through the years that separate him and I and kiss
him full on the mouth. I can taste the other girls there, the other childhoods
that died on his lips. It Isn’t until I’m 22 that I look around and ask what
the fuck someone my age would want with a 15-year old. And then I remember.
They wanted everything. They wanted everything and they got it easier than
tugging a ripe peach from a bending tree.

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, Femrat, Kosovo 2.0, The Rising Phoenix Review, Human Parts, Mend, and is forthcoming in To Write Love On Her Arms. She is currently a contributing editor at Words Dance Magazine. Her second book, We Were Young, is coming out in October 2015. She hopes it reminds you of being young and having lipstick smudged on your teeth.

Subway Blues By Martina Dominique Dansereau

Subway Blues

There are         eight
stops left.

He sprawls like landscape over the seats,
legs spread open,         elbows on knees,
head tipped to the side,
eyes scouting for prey.
He meets your gaze, winks.
He is middle-aged,
you note, sugar sprinkled at his temples.
Sugar. His eyes
are sugared too: too sweet, an invitation.
You want        to throw up.

Seven.

He has the body of a warrior
but moves        like a dancer
when he gets to his feet,
crosses the train,
positions his tall frame            next to the doors.
“Hey, beautiful,” he says.
His voice feels like fingers      skimming your skin
and you flinch.            There are cities beneath
his fingernails, dirty and dank, full of
shadows and graffiti.
His smile is like
a dark alleyway
unfolding at your feet.

Six.

You try to catch someone else’s eye.
A girl   nodding along
to the music     blasting into her ears.
She is oblivious.
A woman talking        on a cellphone,
her laughter raucous like
a beer bottle    shattering        in the street.
So        many   people around you
but none of them see and        the ones who do
avert their eyes.           Willful blindness,
ducking their heads down      as they hurry past
the crime scene.
You can already feel the yellow tape
tightening around your neck.

Five.

His patience thins;       you aren’t responding.
Clouds gather in the furrow    of his brow.
There, his fist clenches:
fingers baited,
fishing line at the ready to      reel you in.
“Come on, babe,”      he says.
You glance at the bait and feel
your throat      crawling
with worms. Your lungs         begin to unravel.
Can he see       the collapse     of your star system?
You taste gasoline, see red.

Four.

Suddenly sun rays spread across your skin:
his hand, splayed over your hip.
Your flesh withers, you smell
charcoal. You push
his arm away.              It is a gut reaction;
you don’t think. If you did, you would have
anticipated the lightning that cracks
in the eddying pools of his eyes.
Electrocute. Nerves buzzing with danger.
“Bitch.”

Three.

You get off the train,
push through the crowd, tripping
over feet and tangled legs,
try to lose yourself in the mass
of bodies         and heartbeats.
Look back; he’s at the window. Raises
a hand.                                    Waves.
His lips peel back, a smile,
but all you can see       are teeth.
It feels like your bones have turned
into a bulk of butterflies         quivering
inside your skin.
You think about catching the next train, but when
it pulls up next to you,            you see
the men with shadows like his
in the seats, slouching in the corners, at the doors,
and you know
that they always
rinse
and repeat.

You walk the rest of the way home.

By Martina Dominique Dansereau

Biography:

Martina Dominique Dansereau is an 18 year old (gender)queer writer and performance poet from Vancouver, Canada, who spends the majority of xyr time blogging, snuggling snakes, and crying over spoken word. For xem, writing is a vital part of healing from trauma and mental illness as well as a platform to share xyr voice as a marginalized identity. Xe is a poetry reader for Persephone’s Daughters, a lit mag dedicated to empowering women, and has work published or forthcoming in the Rising Phoenix Review, Oddball Magazine, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Doll Hospital Journal. Xe is passionate about anti-oppression, queering platonic relationships, radicalizing self-care, and going on midnight walks in the rain. You can find more of xyr poetry online at http://numinouslights.co.vu

September Letter From The Editors

As the birds of Boston emptied their nests in preparation for migration, we unveiled the September issue of The Rising Phoenix Review, the fifth in our history. Together with a new group of talented poets, a baker’s dozen to be exact, we continued our mission of spreading social change through poetry. September became the most viewed edition in our history. More importantly, we shared every single poem in our archive with a wider audience. Our staff is astounded by the way our publication grew this summer. We are humbled that so many writers embraced the mission of our magazine and chose to call our nest their home. Every writer we published filled our hearts with more hope for the world than the Sox have ever crammed into Fenway Park.

In our small corner of the city, we have a megaphone and a rooftop. We pledge to continue broadcasting the voices of poets across the world, collectively striving to build a better existence one poem at a time.

Peace be with you always,

The RPR Team


Do something today that your future self (1)