a familiar taste By Yong-Yu Huang

a familiar taste

for the childhood that could have been

i could have stayed and learned
zhuyin fuhao until i could feel the
soft cadences under my tongue even
in sleep. what should have come to
me as easily as singing the ABCs now
require thought––and I feel cheated of
a birthright.

i try my best to fashion
a replacement with sweating fingers
and a cottony tongue, but I am no
artisan, no syllable-spinner.
my parents try too—
perhaps guilt dwells heavier on their minds
when they see me gaze, uncomprehending,
at Taipei street signs. the words taste like
home to them and a destination to me.

they cover my eyes,
calluses scraping paper-thin lids,
when we walk past a horror movie ad,
the title in characters dripping red.
maybe they wish that they could press
understanding into my eyes, that the
heat of their palms will burn the
stories behind the strokes into existence.
they’ve yet to find an herbal balm
to rub into pulse points
that can fix this.

in my mind, zhuyin fuhao
meld into the alphabet:
ㄅ (buh) echoes into a b, the
soft uncertainty at the end fading away.
ㄒ looks like a t, but sounds softer,
almost lisp-like, wind whistling.
ㄓ is a honey-drenched j,
syrupy and heavy on my tongue,
coalescing into something solid,
tangible.

they taste like something
i should know.

By Yong-Yu Huang

Biography:

Yong-Yu Huang is a Taiwanese teenager based in Malaysia. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Heritage Review, Parallax Literary Journal, and Eunoia Review. In her spare time, she can be found playing the flute or binge-watching Doctor Who.

THE FIRST TIME I SAW SNOW By Bojana Stojcic

THE FIRST TIME I SAW SNOW

the first time i saw snow
the white curtain hung down at the window of
my dead sister’s room and i stood there behind
the glass door, ears perked up and pointing to the
sky, and listened to that unearthly sound, and it was
then i realized silence had a sound, i understood
that sound in my dead sister’s room which my parents
kept exactly as she left it, funky pens, pencil
sharpeners and coloring books on her desk, her
snow white costume and folded pjs on the bed, her
fluffy pink coat hanging in the closet, silent, untouched.
it was as if time had frozen inside, and i thought long
if i touched some of her belongings, the clocks would
magically start ticking again and she’d come back
to us warm and soft, and smile when i find her
hiding place. how did you do that, she’ll ask.
i’m invisible. magic, I’ll say, then we’ll play some
more. my mother’s eyes were hoarse, my father’s
voice colorless the day i first saw snow and i
couldn’t help but wonder how they fit her bones
in the little vase on the mantelpiece and if she could
hear that low pitched roar above the fire too.
when i first saw snow, i stepped outside and held up
my hand to catch a piece of that silence, to hold
it, to keep it, to never let go.
the last time i saw snow, i was falling down
to the ground with it.

By Bojana Stojcic

Biography:

Bojana Stojcic is a teacher and writer from Serbia, living in Germany. Her work has been published in many online and print journals and anthologies. She knows snowflakes are kisses from heaven, and is currently working on a collection of short fiction/prose poetry.

Independence Day By Dmitri Derodel

Independence Day

The annual guessing game
of fireworks or bullet.
The dogs shudder.

I know folks here
who wish they could be treated
as well as dogs. People care
about dogs going missing,
when they starve, what their
names are. We make sure their cages
provide comfort. We hear them
when they scream. We never
stopped wearing collars. You
convince yourself that the ones
with orange around their necks
deserved it. Better than being stripped,
you say, as if they were not.
You’re fully dressed
with an unrestrained throat.

A man with his liberty wrinkled
& unwashed is indeed a naked one,
and indecent exposure is everywhere,
and you tell us that nudity is now
liberty when we ask for shelter
and you ignore the bug bites.
When a white person is here
in this white America⁠, they get
to cancel the colors out and they
are still a person. Dog’s best friend.

I wonder what it’s like to be a man—
not the prefix that follows -handle
or -slaughter—the kind created equal.
I wonder what it’s like to be created
at all, rather than simply carved out,
to live in an America that truly wants
me to live, where the phrase “unalienable
rights” wasn’t a loophole, where
you don’t get to call my family alien
just to take their rights away.

The declaration was an unsigned contract.
I think about how the people who
have lived on this land for millennia,
forced into a system that didn’t
recognize them as citizens until a century ago.
Fifty asterisks are white hot,
and soak in the water while we sink.
I think about everyone who will watch
fireworks through metal bars,
how the sound of a firework flying
sounds like an innocent cry,
how a tear-soaked face can look
like an explosion too, how
the land of second chances didn’t
even give us a first.

I think of the dogs who will flee their homes
because of the holes we will pierce
into the sky tonight—the dogs with a home
they can get away from in the first place.

By Dmitri Derodel

Biography:

Dmitri Derodel is a poet, songwriter, essayist, aspiring music artist, and 2020 Scholastic Gold Medalist. He’s been writing creatively since elementary school and continues to dedicate most of his free time to honing his craft.

x as symbol for all things lost By Abdulbaseet Yusuff

x as symbol for all things lost

all that we cannot explain, we name x
x is what i call a friendship as old as yellowed letters
& as distant as two atlantics

there are distances even telegrams can’t bridge

when you move back into the city years later,
we meet at a park
& sit by the fountain. x sits with us too
x, now, is a silence stretched taut by cobwebs

i ask “how did we lose contacts?” you say “life!”
x again

we watch our sons mould a friendship in sandcastles
& in them, we see ourselves in elementary,
kicking mangoes eaten inside out by bats, laughing
& promising to build our houses side by side

i ask why you shaved your head
you reply by saying i have gained weight

weeks later, i hear from your wife that you died
of cancer; that you had been battling it
i am ashamed that i didn’t know of it
after the funeral, she gives me an old photograph
of you and some friends
she assumes i’m in it, but i am not.
i cut off your part of the picture &
i put you in my breast pocket

x is two lines — two friends — with a brief intersection
& a lengthy divergence

By Abdulbaseet Yusuff

Biography:

Author_Photo_Abdulbaseet Yusuff

 

Abdulbaseet Yusuff is a Nigerian writer whose works have appeared in Brittle Paper, African Writer, Praxis Magazine Online, and Memento: An Anthology Of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry (Animal Heart Press, 2020.)

violet/the end By vanessa maki

violet/the end

1. in my wildest of dreams
the sky would be violet
the clouds would be shaped
as question marks
to match my internal confusion
& it’d make sense to be here

2. damn right in my wildest dreams
i’d be braver in the moments
that called for it
or bolder in the moments that maybe
didn’t require it but needed a little kick

3. the color purple & violet
are meant to keep us grounded
but violet also relates to fantasy
& escape
how fitting is that for me?

4. violet in no capacity
represents the end
where the bullshit is finally over
& yet i still want violet skies
in my dreams & otherwise
maybe for hopes of
balance
maybe for hope to exist at all

By vanessa maki

Biography:

vanessa maki is a queer writer, visual artist & blk feminist whose work has appeared or will appear in various places. She has self-published chapbooks & has several chapbooks forthcoming or out this year: the chosen one (Animal Heart Press), sweet like limes (Bone & Ink Press) & another final girl (Roaring Junior Press).

 

Sedans By Sam Crocker

Sedans

My father and his friends
drove cars that smelled
like cigarettes and old books.

Canvas bags lay on the front seats
filled with bootleg tapes
and dusty CD cases.

My Mother rolled her Subaru
onto the yard every spring
px;”>and washed it and put it in order.

She pulled paint cans, quilts,
and antique candlesticks from
the inside until they circled the lawn.

A family friend lived
in his car while he tried to pay
his way through graduate school.

His car was full
of discarded manuscripts
and fly-fishing gear.

My Grandmother’s car was
immaculate, with a plaid
blanket folded in the back.

She kept a small wooden turtle
on the dashboard
and a backscratcher inside the door.

In 2007 my Grandfather drove
the last car he would ever own
to the dump.

Before leaving, he retrieved
a book of common prayer
from the passenger seat.

My neighbor’s car
smelled like oil paint
and turpentine.

She moved to Los Angeles
when she had her baby.
His name is Isaac.

By Sam Crocker

Biography:

Sam Crocker is a young writer from Bernardston, Massachusetts. He spends most of his time gardening, writing, and playing music. His poetry has appeared in the Little Brown House Review, and his songs have been featured in the Valley Advocate’s “Valley Sessions,” (a local site for live music in the Pioneer Valley).

Paper Town By Jessica Kim

Paper Town 

the shadows wait by the tattered train station
in the tenebrous outskirts of the old paper town
hunched over the faint stench of leftover dinner
peppered with the encroaching chill of twilight
and the lone lamppost that oscillates in the stale
autumn air stretches into the paper parlor that
used to sell cotton candy for the kids in carnival
blowing away their immortal youth in vain but
always having a mother to buy just one more
token and they loll loosely by the ferris wheel
only to stop the time from flickering away
but still the paper lamppost dims out and
they are hunched over the faint echoes of
family and discover too late that mother is
gone and in this paper town even a paper
one is better than the musty shadows that
wait by the tattered paper train station for
the ruptured paper train that never arrives.

By Jessica Kim

Biography:

Jessica Kim is a high school writer who edits for Polyphony Lit and whose work appears or is forthcoming in Teen Ink, the Daphne Review, and the Heritage Review among others. She enjoys long plane rides and large servings of poetry. Besides writing, she spends time solving math problems with no solutions, watching historical movies, and eating cookies without chocolate chips. You can probably check her out at a library.

Communion By Miriam Alex

Communion

i.
communion begins with right-hand
on leaf-spine, tangled legs pressed
against linoleum. i invoke language
my tongue has forgotten to crave,
gods i do not pray to. my mouth is
pigmented, ground beetroot,
pickled mango, parippu.
i am wound up in cotton pavadas
until thick rings circle my arms,
just like amma’s. she calls them
heritage.

ii.
private school carves definition
from tradition i learn to tuck deep
into lunchbox: why sensual spells
carnal, why our communion spits
heathen in mulaku red. the hand,
they say, breathes uncivilized.
i swallow their words and ask
for a blessing i do not want.

iii.
my mother anoints her legs
with coconut oil and her greying
roots with henna. her church
sounds different than mine:
nimble-tongued, long vowels
that hang in the air like perfume.
the clay pot holds diced fish-
bodies, mangled anatomy
bruised in cardinal sea.

iv.
at the dinner table,
the children eat with silverware.
heritage is carved from stomach cavity,
sighing organs emptied on porcelain plates.
i call it consecration.

 

By Miriam Alex

Biography:

Miriam Alex is an Indian-American writer from New Hampshire. Her writing focuses on identity, family, and sporadic observations. When she isn’t writing, she likes to listen to indie-pop, musicals, and film scores from movies she’s never watched. “Communion” is also forthcoming in the Heritage Review.

Open Staff Positions

The Air We Breathe
Our team of editors is expanding! If you’d like to join our staff, we have opened up several new positions at Rising Phoenix Review. Open positions include Managing Editor, Art & Photography Editor, Interviews Editor, Poetry Readers, and more. We look forward to hearing from you!

You can learn more about the available position / apply through this Submittable form:submit

 

Disarm: Police Brutality

Disarm: Police Brutality

We stand against institutionalized racism now and always. We are heartbroken by the news of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. We will use this platform to interrogate our own privilege, and to join those who are seeking an end to institutionalized racism.

Disarm (2)

We are seeking poetry that responds to police brutality in America directed toward people of color in America. What would our country look like if we protected the lives of black and brown people? What if we held law enforcement accountable for their violence towards people of color? What would our country look like if we dismantled white supremacy and institutional racism? Show us that America.

 

This issue is in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Tamar Rice, Treyvon Martin, Eric Garner, and so many others. We say their names. We demand justice. Enough is enough.

This platform is yours to express what you are thinking and feeling. We want an America where the lives of our friends and loved ones are not cut short by racist policing. We want brothers, sisters, and gender variant siblings of color to grown old and live to build beautiful things. Melt down the guns and ammunition. Disarm the tools of violence. Dismantle systems of institutionalized racism and oppression.

 

This issue will be released as a digital download and a limited edition print issue. 100% of the profits from the sale of this issue will be donated to SpiritHouse. We will also match up to $250. SpiritHouse, was founded and is led by women of color. This organization specializes in restorative justice, striving to “reduce and eventually eliminate community reliance on law enforcement.”
Please submit your work here:

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