Baltimore By Alex Dang

Baltimore 

I don’t know what you
expected would happen.

Drop a glass on the floor and it breaks.
Put fire to paper and it burns.
Fall and a stranger offers a hand.
Cause and effect.
Action and reaction.

Hands have been kept
up in the air for so long
that you forgot that they
can come down and
push back.

By Alex Dang

Biography:

Alex Dang is a member of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Portland Poetry Slam Team competing at the National Poetry Slam and the youngest representative from Portland in the slam’s history. Alex is the Eugene Grand Slam Champion of 2014 and 2015. Videos of his performances have amassed over 1.5 million views on YouTube. He has been a speaker at two TEDx events: TEDxReno and TEDxUOregon. A nationally touring poet, Alex has performed in over 35 cities, 20 states, and is a world renowned burger expert.

When Life Can Not Go On As Normal By Jamie McGhee

When Life Can Not Go On As Normal

Mourning the souls who are still your soul

Yes, Sir, I am calling in sick
because my people are
dying on their knees
with their hands in the air,
praying to a god
who prefers white skin;

and the last time
we went to church,
we found our pastor’s blood
in the communion wine
but unlike God
he did not turn into bread;

and the last time
we dipped our hands in holy water,
an officer shoved us in
and choked us under
until the water turned black;

and the last time
we tried to breathe,
an arm clamped around our neck
and forced us to the ground
so we could hear our lungs explode
in our collapsing chest;

and the last time
we tried to stand up straight,
our spine snapped in two,
and when we tried to run,
our back ate four bullets,
our heart ate one,
and when we asked to be buried
in that same little town,
a pale-skinned terrorist
carried out the will of God;

and maybe, maybe I could
make it to work,
but I’m afraid to leave my house
because corpses hang from every tree:
corpses from a hundred years ago,
corpses from a hundred years from now,
corpses from this morning,
stripped of their names,
swinging in a stale white wind;

and you expect me to act normal,
to smile wide
and assure you that my people
are just exaggerating
about our own bullet wounds,
but even Uncle Tom
died at his master’s feet;

so, Sir, I am incredibly sorry
to inconvenience you,
but my people are dead
and my heart is sick,
and I’ll need a lifetime
just to cut down these trees.

Authors note: Remember to practice lots of self-care, everyone, and to take time to mourn or cry or scream or write or dance or whatever you need to do.  Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel.

By Jamie McGhee

Biography:

Jamie McGhee is a queer woman of color, spoken word poet, and student activist at Duke University. She writes regularly at www.OffCenterWriting.com

July Publication Announcement

We are proud to announce the publication lineup for Setting the Captives Free, the first themed edition of The Rising Phoenix Review. The writing in this issue focuses on personal and social liberation. Additionally, many of the poems in this issue document the struggle for freedom. Our editors are extremely honored to publish the work of these talented poets.

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

The following poets will be featured this month:

Alex Dang
Jamie McGhee
Lindsey Hobart
Michelle Gordon

Darcy Vines
Elizabeth Hewer
Leah Mueller
Mica K

A. Davida Jane
Alaska Gold
Alessia Di Cesare
Chelsea Fujimoto

Emma Bosacki
Martina Dansereau

Congratulations from our staff and welcome to the nest!

The Rising Phoenix Review

LITMUS TEST By Ashe Vernon

LITMUS TEST

In middle school, the lunch room is
the worst place for feeling invisible; I feel like
everyone is looking at my mouth. I think
if I swallow fast enough, maybe
I can pretend that I never ate anything, maybe
someone will even believe me.
My best friend buys candy from the vending machine
and won’t stop talking about what a pig she is.
Sydney is a runner on the track team–five foot one and
barely a hundred pounds and
her favorite word is “fat.”
It’s her own private joke and
it’s fucking hilarious. I guess I just
always forget to laugh. See–
I am twelve years old and
everyone who has ever called me fat
meant it.
Later, when another friend of ours–a girl who is
bigger than Sydney but smaller than me–
pats her stomach and cracks a joke about
“not being the thinnest little thing,” she
looks straight at me.
And while our other friends laugh, we only nod:
the smiles on our faces looking out from some place
far away and vacant. The difference between us and them is
we are in on the joke and
we both know it isn’t funny.

Seven years later, and the poet on the microphone
is talking about her body–badmouths it, like it’s
a warzone of a country we have no business being in,
like she is a factory of fun-house mirrors and amidst
the mirage of distorted reflection, she’s
forgotten who she really is.
She talks about being fat. She doesn’t use the word.
(Poets never do)
And I look down at my body: the one
I am still learning how to love.
The voice in the back of my head that
I thought I’d finally learned how to shut up,
rears it’s ugly little mouth and whispers,
if she’s fat,  just imagine how disgusting you must look.
It’s funny, right? It’s funny.

A year after that, I stand my brutal body on stage.
What nobody in the crowd knows is that the blue puddle
of my cardigan in my seat means that this
is the first time in years I’ve let this many people
see this much of me. What nobody knows is
I used to be bigger than this and it was everyone’s favorite joke.
But nobody knows. And now, I am five foot two,
only a hundred and sixty five pounds.
I am thinner than I used to be but
I will probably never been thin enough.
And I’m sorry.
I know how it feels to hear women smaller than you
talk about their body issues. I know
how it feels like swallowing your tongue.
I never wanted to be that for anyone.

But this isn’t a contest. And if it were,
we’d all lose, anyway.
We’re already expected to be flawless.
And the inside joke of the beauty industry is
making sure we all know
we never will be.
We expect such violent perfection from our bodies.
I know how it hurts listening to a girl who
doesn’t look the way you think they should
talk about the pain that matters to you,
but we can’t turn ourselves into gatekeepers
for heartache.
We are all hurting.
There’s no litmus test for low self esteem;
no one deserves to hate their body.

The fact that so many of us do
is exactly the problem.

By Ashe Vernon

Biography:

Ashe Vernon is a produced playwright, an actor, and a poet. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, but found poetry when she most needed it. She recently graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in theatre and gender studies. Before she hits the job market with her oh-so-impressive fine arts degree, Ashe is spending the summer on tour doing spoken word with her best friend and partner in crime. Her first book of poetry, Belly of the Beast, was published by Words Dance Publishing and her second, Wrong Side of a Fist Fight, will be coming out through Where Are You Press, this July. She spends most of her time writing her way out of dark places, and looking to the stars. Ashe has featured in venues across Texas, such as The Standpipe Coffee House in Lufkin, Nacogdoches Literary Readings, and Love Jonz Spoken Jazz, in Duncanville. She has placed first at WriteAboutNow in Houston and her work has been published in Word Dance Magazine, and volumes one and two of the Literary Sexts anthologies. Ashe has no concept of the term “inside-voice” and spends every waking hour with her giant bear-cub of a cat. She plans on moving to a big city and covering herself with tattoos. It’s going pretty well, so far.

Arlington County, 1953 By Meggie Royer

Arlington County, 1953

Once as a child you believed the graveyard shift
meant whole cemeteries uprooting themselves &
passing like ghosts through cities
to some other hills
that would accept them as they were,
would take them in
with the grace of an unhinged door.
You loved as well as anyone.
Better than a mortician,
with your softness of throat & unending want.
The way your blood sang in all octaves
like the wings of a sparrow
still curled in sleep.

By Meggie Royer

Meggie Royer is a writer and photographer from the Midwest who is currently majoring in Psychology at Macalester College. Her poems have previously appeared in Words Dance MagazineThe Harpoon ReviewMelancholy Hyperbole, and more. She has won national medals for her poetry and a writing portfolio in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and was the Macalester Honorable Mention recipient of the 2015 Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Prize.

Three More Months By Rebecca Dutsar

Three More Months

There’s too much room
between our two lands,
and I know that
I haven’t got a clue what
the armchair you sit in
each night looks like
or what kind of tea
you’ve been drinking
in the morning.
I just hope parts of me
aren’t slipping away
from you, too,
like my small bed
in this room at school
and the pot of flowers
on my table.
I know that you’ve
got three more months
to spend
in London and
I haven’t got a row boat
or a passport
but I’ve got this pen
and this paper
to write you a poem,
this poem,
telling you again and again
that I miss you
and want you
to come back home.

By Rebecca Dutsar

Biography:

Rebecca Dutsar is an enthusiastic 20-year-old from Newtown, CT. She is a junior at Ithaca College where she majors in Writing and serves as the Editor-in-Chief for a campus wide publication, The Mirror Magazine. Aside from writing, she enjoys drinking tea and scrolling through photos of baby animals online. Nothing makes her happier than feeling connected to a writer while reading their work, and it her goal to give others the same feeling as they read her own poetry and short fiction.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Harpoon ReviewThat Lit SiteSouvenir LitUnbroken Journal, and After the Pause. You can find her on twitter @beccsdutsar.

A Letter to My Mother By Sade Andria Zabala

A Letter to My Mother

Dear mommy,
These scars on my wrist are for you,
I hope I made you proud.
It didn’t hurt like I thought it would,
I didn’t scream out loud.

Dear mommy,
I used a belt last night,
but stepdad found me out.
I couldn’t tie it around my neck,
I never was a girl scout.

Dear mommy,
I’m sorry sixty pills
were not enough to kill myself.
I’m sorry that I let your words
affect my mental health.

Dear mommy,
I promise you one day
I’ll properly end my life.
Next time I attempt suicide
I’m gonna do it right.

Dear mommy,
I’m trying not to fail so much
I hope that you can see.
I’m doing this all for you, please –
say you’re finally proud of me.

By Sade Andria Zabala

Biography:

Sade Andria Zabala is a twenty-three year old Filipina surfer and nomad residing in Denmark. She has a degree in Mass Communications and is pursuing higher education to become a certified English teacher abroad. She has self-published one collection of poems called “Coffee and Cigarettes” and is now working on her second book “War Songs” to be released this fall 2015.

In her spare time she likes to eat words, drink sunlight (or wine), and question her own existence.  You may reach her at http://surfandwrite.tumblr.com.