The day the sun vanished
my sisters and I spin
dreams of willowy gold as ruby
rain raps on our windows and doors.
outside, streams of dust glint
where sparkling tides once crashed.
my eldest sister’s trembling hands clasp mine.
together, we mourn silver rivers
of vapor, mourn the constellations that
stretched across purple mountains,
mourn the flickering winds of sticky summers past.
my legs are numb,
huddled against these wooden floorboards, as
the sky whistles a baleful warning.
I squeeze my eyes shut, listen intently to the
final breaths of a jaded planet,
hoping I’ll snag the secret to saving the world
on a stray breeze.
our ancestors told us: pray
to the stars that the violet dust never
settles, pray that this rotted
apricot never bares its foul
insides to the universe.
but they bled the planet dry.
peeled away its flesh,
plucked its jewels to adorn their foreheads,
let its emerald glaciers drain
down their fingers and thighs.
so as crackling comet storms tear
at our cloud belt, my sisters and I rummage
through centuries of bellicose madness, and
curse the fools who sowed
poison into sinless soil.
By Nikita Bhardwaj
Nikita Bhardwaj is a high school junior in Princeton, New Jersey. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and has been published in TeenInk magazine. When she’s not editing or telling herself to write, you can find her sleeping, studying for a chem test, or watching the Great British Baking Show. Check out her start-up journal at theaurorareview.org!
An open letter to girls at Coachella
Who like sporting bindis and calling them “eye-dots”,
the california sun melting their makeup as
they breathe in the desert air.
Wouldn’t it be funny, if your third eye just
happened to open that day, and a fleshy indian snake
slithered down your spray-tanned neck,
hissing in your ear,
as an elephant tail whacked the iced kombucha
out of your hand.
Wouldn’t it be funny if you happened to find
a thread of prayer beads in your matted hair,
and your skin started to look purple and
there was the stinging tip of Shiva’s trident
nearly piercing the flesh of your chest.
Wouldn’t it be funny, if suddenly the culture
you’ve enjoyed picking apart just happened
to cling to you, in a way that isn’t
normal (to you)
directed (at you)
or perhaps most importantly,
convenient (for you)
By Kanchan Naik
This poem is the recipient of a Scholastic Gold National Key.
Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin and the Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. When she’s not doodling or writing poetry, she is most likely untangling her earphones or looking for something that happens to be — much like herself — lost.
Write a poem about your pet.
Letter From the Editor
I know these are difficult times the likes of which many of us have never experienced. I feel the weight of this suffering. The sickness, shattered plans, upended dreams. If I’m honest, I am fucking scared. As we self quarantined, I felt so isolated. I knew I wanted to help remedy that feeling for as many people as I could.
What I know is we need as many things that add light to the world as possible. As many things as we can make to help bring comfort, affirm our shared humanity, and amplify the voices of those who need to be heard. Connecting with all of you through this publication was always a light in the dark for me. More importantly, this was a space we built together, a place where we could connect people across the world. What I know is we can be brave together.
With these things in mind, Rising Phoenix Review is officially back. I have assembled a new issue full of poets who give me courage. I think they will uplift you too. Our first new issue will debut on April 1st, 2020. I will publish a new feature poet each night at 9pm Eastern Daylight time on RPR.
My plan is for this to be the start of Rising Phoenix Review being a monthly magazine again. Additionally, I also plan to recruit new section editors (including a photography and art editor), and poetry readers. I hope you will stay tuned for updates about those things, as well as a few other surprise projects I am planning.
Until then, I hope these words find you safe and healthy.
Peace be with you always,
nowadays, edith is static
a shell in the absence
of craving. she used
to adore each sweet
fixation and learned
to unravel her thirst
like spools of thread but now confesses
that orchard pears bring the taste
of brine, their veins an estuary
of tangled webs pulsing, awaiting
expulsion from the tumid womb. edith
squeezes each naked ugly spine and
spits out each sightless eye like
fish flung back to sea, envies
their perfect breathlessness.
in her palm their bodies wither,
bare husks of dreams now
By Amanda Huang
Amanda Huang is a junior at Millburn High School, where she is a senior editor of her school’s literary magazine. Her work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and JustPoetry, and has been published in TeenInk and in the Word magazine.
IN LAGOS, BODIES SWITCH MUSIC IN A TANKER FIRE
and the cloud opens hurriedly for
a prophecy of smoke. It opens like daybreak
and it’s so funny how bodies collate fire easily.
Everyone carried race all over their bodies,
black. black. black.
No one remained the same
no one knew how explosion borrow bodies to make embers
no one knew how fire opens a body
layer by layer until DNA becomes an
Imagine seeing a boy dying outside a car
where you’re locked inside
while fire approaches you with the anger of light,
imagine a man in a praying position
on the steering before metals pleats his faith.
Bodies switch music and dirge is a solo
that sings a boy into silence. Water is a tenor of things too weak
to stay in a body full of darkness. A motor’s wiper
mimes death, and its full light dies into seconds.
Noises drown this city of brown bodies.
do not call this road a mortuary
do not say this body doesn’t resemble your father,
do not seep this broken news into your veins
like the desperate tweaking of injections into a body
veined with deaths,
do not switch on the T.V
for they won’t still be sure
the death toll till the cloud closes like memories.
By Mesioye Johnson
Mesioye Johnson is a bird of many colors who writes to heal his darkness and the world around his waist. His works are featured or forthcoming in African Writer, Eunoia review, Sub-Saharan magazine and somewhere else. He is @mesioyejohnson on Twitter
I LOVE IN A WAY THAT TURNS ON THE HEAVENS
the smoke from the bodies of burning boys is accusative
i fear for the day i will burn because persecution foreruns fire
it continues to consume boys committing selves solely to boys
brave ones with eyes invaded by love taste smoke
i go to my lover’s arms set in the cover of darkness
they will come for me while dressed in light to name me rebel
any boy tongue-kissing another triggers the functionality of bombs
the dark gives up our position so i fucking run into corners unknown
i flee this madness because I carry a wild heart learning different ways to love
in this city & in all its houses, hate is mayor around these parts
scripture quoting warriors tread rudely on my name
fuck, i love my body enough to divorce reason & conformity
everywhere, a boy misses his lover & fear sharpens the blade he hugs as ally
i lose my soul when i am not loving or trying to decipher the language of hate
the words i locate weakens me when placed against mob mentality
i was not taught to hold my body like a gun or twist shape to become knife
like the one i pulled out from a boy’s back the night freedom caught fire
Jesus is the heaven preachers market alongside salvation
they sell ascension for obese bank accounts while the carpenter’s son tends to barren pockets
i walk with Christ & he cries, weeping ike that chapter drawn from Lazarus’ tomb
i exchange my lover for life & they crown him with burning
i pour my heart into Christ’s own to emphasize that kindness is sexy
i observe a minute’s silence for my lover while hate speech rains down
contained in the belly of sleepless nights, i listen for suicide’s call
Christ returns to hold & sing my grief to sleep
he waters my lips, eyelids & skin with kisses, tongue swirls in my favour
By Michael Akuchie
Michael Akuchie is a Nigerian young adult writer. His work is on Barren Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Neologism Poetry Journal, Mojave Heart and elsewhere. He is @Michael_Akuchie on Twitter.