The moment everything changed By Amy Pollard

The moment everything changed

The dusk expands
like lungs pumped with air

a car idles in a parking lot,
expectant

the trees above us
hold their breath

your jaw, clenched
unsuspecting

what if i told you
nothing lasts forever

not the grass, the wind,
the water we’re made of

not you, not me

and what if you heard
the laugh in my voice

guttural

like the echo of buildings
when collapse is imminent

like the songs caught deep
in my throat

that you never asked me
to sing

By Amy Pollard

Biography:

Amy Pollard is a poet and writer based in Boston. Her work has been featured in an art & storytelling exhibit by Unbound Visual Arts. She is a Chinese American adoptee. You can follow her on Instagram @aaxprn and Twitter @amyannexu.

2021 Pushcart Prize Nominees

When I think about Rising Phoenix Review, I think about ritual. As an editor, each day is filled with poetry. Formatting new poems for publication, communicating with poets all over the world, publishing new work for our readers. Serving a community of writers I love. In a year fraught with so much turmoil and disruption, a year that saw so many lives changed forever, this was the ritual I repeated nearly every day since April. In a lot of ways, this publication was the altar I prayed at, in hopes of providing some light and inspiration for change.

Along the way, so many talented writers provided inspiration with their fearless words, and with uplifting conversations during the different waves of the Covid-19 pandemic. I am thankful for all of you, every day. You are some of the folks who helped give me meaning and purpose each day.

With all of this said, I want to take a moment to celebrate some of the writers whose words resonated with me, as well as our readers, all year long. Thank you all for your vision and for filling this world with more light. Without further ado, here are our 2021 Pushcart Prize nominees.

Sam Crocker, everywhere whispers to us, a promise By Sam Crocker

Colette Chien, i was born into this place a bit of fire & a cancer (forthcoming)

Erik Wilbur, There’s More Past Now Than Ever

Katherine Vandermel, By the Railroad

Antonia Silva, los lobos andan suelto

Njoku Nonso, Pray the Violence

Sincerley Yours,

Christian Sammartino
Editor in Chief
Rising Phoenix Review

Saturday Night Fever By A.C. Dobell

Saturday Night Fever

The first time I partook in the
“Sabbath”
the Hebrew felt performative
since I had not heard the term
“Sabbath” before that day

But my mother
Filipino and flamboyant
wanted to wear
white lace and look saintly

so she forced our attention
to the salt and the bread
(two things that had before
been so plain to me)
and sang the songs

Perhaps god can show
even if you’re not earnest
about the looking
because I found as I peeked
around that table
while my mother eyes-closed
prayed hard for us all
was that unattainable proof
of the god abound

By A.C. Dobell

Biography:

A.C. Dobell is a Filipina-American poet and visual artist living in Pittsburgh, PA. Her combination poetry and photography e-zine is published on Mercado Vicente. She is the co-director of Mused, an event that brings together artists of different mediums to inspire each other and connect over the creative process. She has work forthcoming in Eunoia Review. She works mainly in activism covering a broad range of environmental and social justice issues. She is related to the English poet, Sydney Thompson Dobell, a member of the Spasmodic school and friend of both Tennyson and Browning.

Marc Anthony on a Summer Day By Yesenia M Coughlin

Marc Anthony on a Summer Day

Tio points to the sky and says there are cracks in it.
I squint my eyes as Tio gestures to a chemtrail or
maybe a cloud, thin and wispy, pale against paler blue.
Mami says his corneas have scratches and they laugh.

There’s a pig in the ground roasting, Tios drinking Old Styles,
primos floating in the blue plastic pool, los viejos playing
the click click click of dominoes, Abuela is winning;
Marc Anthony: voy a reír, voy a bailar, vivir mi vida,

Tio leans close to me, he points to his eyes,
so brown they’re almost blue, he makes them wide
“They say I’m crazy. Let them think it. Pero puedo ver.”
He shakes with his laugh, pats my shoulder, I look to the sky.

He says there are ufos but I think maybe I am the one
unidentified, a part and apart of the music, the food,
the culture that runs through my veins, I hear the beat
but I can’t translate it, it vibrates in my chest; Marc Anthony:

A veces llega la lluvia, para limpiar las heridas,
a veces solo una gota, puede vencer la sequía,
If I laugh, if I dance, if I live my life, can the rain
wash away all the hurt? Can I find myself home?

Tio stares at the sky and I stare with him.
When he looks back at me, sé que soy visto.

By Yesenia M Coughlin

Biography:


Yesenia M Coughlin is a junior creative writing major at the University of Central Florida.

I Begin This Poem On A Note Of Pain To What Might Seem As A Self-journey On A Route To Giving Up By Emmanuel Ojeikhodion

I Begin This Poem On A Note Of Pain To What Might Seem As A Self-journey On A Route To Giving Up

I have tried enough to hold this heart from falling.
Hope is an assurance that slips away from me gradually.

Today, I’m a blurry shadow fading back into myself. & tomorrow,
I’m half-dead & half-alive walking amidst people.

On this journey to self-recovery, nothing recovers me.
Instead, I’m a full bread of grief reducing into crumbs.

In the landscape of my mind, I think of so many things:
Home, my dead father, my widowed mother & my siblings.

Say, they keep this body moving from crashing completely.

Last year, I moved to another city I never knew her length of hardship.
Each route I take to becoming beautiful finds me absorbing a mole of
sadness in a little body as mine.

Sometimes I cut myself with a blade to behold the nakedness of pain.
Nothing surprising but different openings lining up like a fleet of cars on my
skin.

I’m grounded on this journey to finding my beautiful self.
Perhaps, If you do not find me here tomorrow, I became a train
that rammed into heaven

By Emmanuel Ojeikhodion

Biography:

Emmanuel Ojeikhodion is a Nigerian-Edo emerging writer, poet & essayist. He writes to expunge his monstrous demons & documents the ripples from society. He has works published / forthcoming in Capsule Stories, The Lunch Bucket Brigade, Cons-cio Magazine, Chachalaca Review, Museum of Poetry, Déraciné Mag, Rigorous & elsewhere. He’s a finalist in the Best of Kindness Poetry contest 2020 from Origami Poems Project. He recently compiled his first Poetry chapbook & seeks a home for it. He’s a lover of Country & old Songs He tweets at @hermynuel.

On Listening to Jericho Brown By Megha Sood

On Listening to Jericho Brown

After the Summer Reading Series at NYU, 2019

Writing with urgency: an aching desire
a rising hunger in a parched throat

when the craft and empathy are inseparable
seething feeling resonating with tenderness and sorrow

a zoetic language: a soft growl turning into a wail
haunting which resonates leaving me like a thrumming harp wire

such is the riveting effect of his words
an unraveling of the intricate mind;

a mind with aching desire, a nuanced understanding
of the turmoil which surrounds and is within us

a hunger which he experiences
while writing a truth that readily burns

a hunger that clings to my ribs thick as greed
and never leaves.A longing; a desire

for the unnamed passions in my soul
a cleaving opening my transgressions

and I face the proximity of my desires
like standing next to a burning kiln

how it warms me up, the unstoppable
whirling into the unknown. Swallowed like a dream

reaching the end of the abyss, where
everything seems so surreal

reminds me of the moment where it all began
as I stand in admiration. Speechless.

By Megha Sood

Megha Sood is an Assistant Poetry Editor for the Literary Journal MookyChick and a Literary Partner with the “Life in Quarantine” Stanford University, USA. Her works are widely published in literary journals and anthologies including Better than Starbucks, Gothamist, Poetry Society of New York, Madras Courier, Borderless Journal, WNYC Studios, Kissing Dynamite, American Writers Review, FIVE:2: ONE, Quail Bell, Dime show review, etc. Three-time State-level Winner NAMI Dara Axelrod NJ Poetry Contest 2018/2019/2020 and First Place National Winner Spring Robinson Lit Prize 2020, Finalist in Pangolin Poetry Prize 2019, Adelaide Literary Award 2019 and Erbacce Prize 2020, Nominated for the iWomanGlobalAwrads 2020 and many more. Works selected numerous times by Jersey City Writers group and Department of Cultural Affairs for the Arts House Festival. Editor of ( “The Medusa Project, Mookychick) and ( “The Kali Project,” Indie Blu(e) Press). Chosen twice as the panelist for the Jersey City Theater Center Online Series “Voices Around the World”.She blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/ and tweets at @meghasood16.

PULLING BOARDS By David Rosenthal

PULLING BOARDS

1.

It’s something that his father used to do,
which is to say, it is an ancient thing –
what fathers did, their fathers once did too,
and so on, like the never-ending ring
this village has been traveling for ages.
He pulls the nails straight out, to use again,
and if one bends, he bangs it back. The stages
of the process are patterned deep as kin.

He works, and thinks of things he’ll not recall –
his memory is given to his hands
while working, and they sometimes take it all,
the way the lake and seasons take the lands.

From time to time, he holds a nail to stare
at marks his father’s hammer brought to bear.

2.

The marks his father’s hammer brought to bear
obscure the fragile archeology
the nails had born before, as each new layer
envelops and reforges history.
He tosses what he saves back at the box
he made last time of slats from some old bed.
He misses often, nails pile near the rocks
and tools that lie behind him near the shed.

The girls come back with buckets from the lake,
and call to him excitedly, “we got
some wet-sand for the holes!” He takes a break
to thank them for their help and what they brought,

although it’s for a job that’s weeks away,
when it comes time to mix and pour the lay.

3.

When it comes time to mix and pour the lay,
the families from the row will all pitch in.
It takes a week to do one house per day,
and one more week before they can begin
to clamp and bolt the sills and stand the posts.
They stagger their support for those two weeks,
to help each other move in with the hosts,
and mend some early splits to stave off leaks.

But after that, save four and six-hand tasks,
the bulk of what is done, is done alone.
The help is always there if someone asks,
but no one asks. Whatever’s learned, is shown.

Their bond is unacknowledged, but it’s there.
The isolation is a thing they share.

4.

The isolation is a thing they share
with generations – they know what they owe.
It’s something that they only have to bear
once every seven years, and only so
for twelve or thirteen weeks, and then they’re done.
It’s everybody’s burden, so they know
enough not to complain. It’s said that one
is blessed to build the house that moves the row.

The sun sets late and north in moving season,
leaving behind a woolen alpenglow
that lays his hammer down. Then, without reason,
he takes one chore before he has to go:

he picks up all the old nails that he threw.
It’s something that his father used to do.

By David Rosenthal

Biography:

David Rosenthal lives in Berkeley, California, and works as a teacher and instructional coach in the Oakland Unified School District. His poems and translations have appeared in Rattle, Teachers & Writers Magazine, Measure Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Raintown Review, Unsplendid, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, and many other print and online journals. He has been a Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award Finalist and a Pushcart Prize Nominee. His collection, “The Wild Geography of Misplaced Things,” was released by Kelsay Books in 2013.

Boxcar By Jacob Lee

Boxcar

I stood within my own four walls,
yet did not recognize the doorway.
The paint is a different color,
and the photographs hanging
depict faces from a life I do not know.

Through the open window,
I hear the lonely whistle
of a train as it passes through
this hometown where
the street names have changed.
A siren dwelling in my ears.

Knowing then, that my heart is
already stored within the boxcar
making its way to some end unknown.
The great and marvelous over there,
wherever these rails may lead.

A stranger, the hand that will reach in
and guide my steps onto the platform.
A conductor to a different earth.
And should I ask if we’ve arrived.
I could only assume he would answer, maybe.

By Jacob Lee

Biography:

Jacob Lee is a 29 year old writer, based out of Columbus, Ohio. He finds poetry to be a reminder to slow down; a remedy to a world intent on burning itself out. He has been previously published by The Soapbox Press in Toronto, Ontario. He has a degree in music, and when not writing, is part of three multi-genre bands.

A WINTER LOVE SONG (SILENCE) By Chritopher Kuhl

A WINTER LOVE SONG (SILENCE)

there are times when

winter silence

is not a question
but an answer

a gift, a moment

to caress the one
sleeping beside you

silently

a time for a green—no,
a blue remembering

                        and at those moments

silence
is a love song
a winter’s dream keener

than snowflakes

By Chritopher Kuhl

Biography:

In 2014, Chritopher Kuhl’s poems were selected to be published as an individual chapbook by Red Ochre Press. Christopher has been published in Big Muddy, Burningword Literary Journal, California Quarterly, Carbon Culture Review, Crack the Spine, Edison Literary Review, Euphony, Forge Journal, Prairie Schooner, The Anglican Digest, and The Critical Pass Review among others. Christopher earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and one in music composition, as well as two masters of music degrees and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts. His other interests include studying higher mathematics and classical Greek and Hebrew, as well as drawing and painting with acrylics.

seafoam and salvation By Kristen Corless

seafoam and salvation

Saltwater has filled my lungs before.
I have felt this storm run over my skin,
felt the cracks of thunder and lightning
as the water dragged me down.
I fell in love with the bruises and the burns,
the pruned fingers and the gasping for air,
but you,
you are the dry land I have ached for all these years,
warm and soft
I have felt oxygen with you for the first time
I have laid down on your sands and felt the sun on my skin for the first time.

I am no longer a corpse,
a bruised and bloodied mass of guilt.
I will stand on these two shaky legs,
and feel the oxygen in my lungs,
and remind myself that
I am enough.
You have shown me that I am enough,
Feeling the sand between my toes reminds me that, despite everything, I am alive.
And that is enough.

I got addicted to the feeling of drowning every day,
and sometimes the storm sucks me in like an old habit
but I know that one day I will leave this ocean behind
and you will be there on the other side to guide me home.
And that
will be enough.

By Kristen Corless

Biography:

Lilith is 22 and a recent graduate from Muhlenber College, where she studied English and Theatre. She had always loved to read, and did so ravenously, but at school that love blossomed into something she was proud to wear on her sleeve. Now, she is in her first year at Northeastern University’s English Masters program, where she is unapologetic and determined.