Category Archives: Virgo

This Home is an Open Wound by Breana Mae Estrada

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This Home is an Open Wound

To Brittney. I hope there are no others. I’m sorry it had to be us. Mom, I’m sorry we let each other down.

Once upon a time when I was small, I believed that monsters actually looked like monsters. I thought the definition of home was the smell of my mother’s perfume. I thought the worst that could happen to a person was a broken elbow from falling off their slide. Halloween was my favourite holiday. If only I’d been taught that monsters wear costumes too. That there are worse things than broken bones.


There is a girl that haunts me. Her name is Brittney and she lived next door to me when I was six years old. She was only a baby when her family moved away so I didn’t really know her. But the time she spent as my neighbour was enough for her to be tainted with the darkness that follows me. Each time I think of her, I wish her a different neighbourhood. A new area code. She is the first tragedy I never met.


My mother and I haven’t been talking much lately. She doesn’t understand when I tell her that I’m tired. When I tell her that my insides feel heavy and hollow at the same time. She says take a nap. I do not tell her what I really mean. That I am not a doll, but the empty doll house. There are shadows and cobwebs in my attic that make it hard to sleep at night. Ghost girls play on the porch of my heart, in the living room within my stomach, on every flight of stairs between my bones.


Washington, 2014: Tatanysha Hedman goes to the 7-11 near her husband’s apartment, fills a gas can with gasoline, and sets him on fire as he sleeps. She says she did it because he was molesting her seven year old daughter and shooting him would have been too nice. A comment from one of the news articles I read stated that Tatanysha most likely saved other girls in the future from the same trauma her daughter endured. People claimed she is her daughter’s hero.


I wonder where my mother lost her tongue, when her fingers became too weak to strike a match. I wonder how her spine loosened from the rest of her body. I want to ask her if she knows the exact moment we started to shrink in and away from each other. She says she stayed with him for the money, that we would’ve been homeless without him. I wonder about Brittney, if there are others now. Inside me, the ghost girls weep.


Argentina, 2016: A man is dragged naked through the streets by a rope around his neck after being caught trying to rape an eight year old girl. Her neighbours kept the man subdued until authorities arrived to take him to jail. One woman could be heard screaming for the police to tie him to the back of their car. Most people who hear this story have said that this type of treatment is only fitting for the crime committed. Some think it is still not enough.


I want to ask my mother what she felt when she heard that his hands did things to me that she’d refused of him. Why she didn’t turn into Tatanysha Hedman or that village. Why her limbs stayed fleshy. Why they didn’t expand themselves into angry mob, angry mom, torch and pitchfork. I want to ask why she didn’t call the police. I want to ask her how many girls haunt her elbows, how many hang behind her eyelids. I want to know where my ghost resides. Where Brittney’s is.

California, 1994: I start sleeping in my mother’s bed. My stepdad, on the couch. One of the first places he ever touched me. We put locks on my bedroom door when my mother is finally ready for me to sleep on my own again. We never really dealt with the problem, only appeased her guilt. Only hid from it until I learned the monsters that haunt me are to be locked in the hallway, not thrown out of the house. I say nothing to my mother of the ghost girls in my belly who will never trust her again.


I am an empty box. Marked FRAGILE on the side in bright red scars, only they are too ugly for anyone to notice. I’ve never felt like I owned this body so my self-harm always feels more like tagging on an abandoned building. My mother doesn’t see how I could be so hollow. She says his name in conversation like any other person. She says she gave me a good childhood but asks if the therapy is helping. I do not tell her that the person I talk about most in there is her.

California, 2016: I type his name into the search bars of places like Facebook and Megan’s Law. Sadly, he is on one and not the other. When I find his profile, I pick through his pictures, his timeline, his friends list for possible ghost girls. Maybe his new girlfriend has a daughter. I think of sending her a message. I think of sending out Amber alerts in advance. Of preemptive emergency flares being fired. I change my mind three times before I close the page. I wonder when I lost my tongue, if it’s with my mother’s now. I wonder if they’re where home used to be.

breana mae estrada

breana mae estrada lives in the mojave wasteland, where she fights dinosaurs, highwaymen, and the occasional race-car driver. she laughs at nearly everything, eats poetry at every meal. her favourite colour is rainbow. she can’t resist a good cover song. she has two weasel-dogs and a wonderful family and friends. you can find her at

The Arsonist by Christian Sammartino

Fine Young Cannibal by Lori Field | Website | Facebook | Tumblr

The Arsonist

Call the fire department. Tell them to evacuate
my whole home town—I’ve syphoned kerosene
out of the heaters in the barn again.

The aching in the mine shaft of my heart
ignited like coal fires under Centralia
when they cremated your body.

I became an arsonist, a flamethrower
exhaling an eulogy of napalm.
Everything I own is kindling.

The inferno will outlive all our relatives,
consuming every block in our city
until I locate your new address.

Nothing about my life is a controlled burn
without you, my fire extinguisher.

I never could write your name in cursive,
but I can spell each letter in lighter fluid,
blaze a billboard you’ll see for light-years.

I hoard cardboard packets of gas station
matches so I can spark a signal fire
big enough for you to see from heaven,

the other side of the Milky Way,
wherever you hitchhiked after they scattered
your ashes across Chester County.

Where the fuck did you go after you died?

When you became an astronaut of loss,
blasting off from the silver urn pallbearers
used to launch you over our cornfield?

None of the astronomers at NASA
can calculate your wandering orbit
through the geography of space.

The Hubble telescope can’t catch
a glimpse of you no matter how hard
it squints into the bonfire of stars.

No one on the space station recognizes
the picture of you I carry in my wallet.

In a constantly exploding universe,
populated by burning neighborhoods,
your light is the only one I want to find.

Christian Sammartino

Christian Sammartino is the co-founder and Editor-In-Chief for The Rising Phoenix Review. He studied English Literature and Asian Religions at Elizabethtown College. His poetry is influenced by life in the Pennsylvania Rustbelt near his hometown of Coatesville. His works have appeared in Words Dance Publishing, Voicemail Poems, -Ology Journal, and Lehigh Valley Vanguard. Sammartino was a Resident Poet for Lehigh Lalley Vanguard during the summer of 2015. His first collection of poetry, Keystones, was released by Rising Phoenix Press in December 2014. :

Double D by Kate Foley

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Double D

Megan and I borrow her mother’s
Macy’s catalogue. We squeeze together

on the porch swing and browse through pages
filled with ladies prettier than we’d ever be.

Megan points with her pinky at a woman
wearing a beige bra and lace panties.

I wish I looked like that and
her boobs are the size of the moon.

I remember hoping that someday someone
would look at me like I was the moon.

This was before men started looking at me
like I was an object. I did not realize

that the second my chest flourished,
I’d hear wolf whistles coming

from outside the playground.
I didn’t know that complete strangers would tell me

that my breasts would look better
with their face between them.

Megan turns the page to a woman in a silk slip,
she says: I hope my boobs bloom like that.

When they did, I heard every boy in her middle school
suddenly learned her name.

My name is Person. My name is Not My Body.
My name is More Than You Can Hold.

Kate Foley

Kate Foley is a young, emerging Canadian writer. She has been published in Yellow Chair Review, Germ Magazine, Eunoia Review, and others. She studies English Literature and Creative Writing at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She’s passionate about art journaling, helping others, dogs, and winged eyeliner. .

Commandments by Nicole Byrne

+ + by Inna Mosina


1) Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
        I would kiss Beth’s feet if she’d let me, hand-pick wheat to bake her loaves of bread,
        carve her poems into stone tablets, part any sea, make myself a slave if it would please
        her. I’d build her a cathedral and conduct mass daily to preach her words, hold baptisms
        in the waters of the Mississippi.

2) Thou shalt not make unto thee an idol, any graven image, or any likenesses.
        Cigarettes, beer, weed, and wine. My body is an altar for the worship of intoxication. I
        find ecstasy only when it comes in white tablets and the times I am closest to He, most
        High, is when I am.

3) Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
        Other names I use: Omnipotent Cocksucker, Useless Sky Daddy, Almighty Piece of
        Shit, Blizzard Jizzer, The Tea Party’s Imaginary Friend.

4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
        Every Sunday I scramble to finish all I have not done in a week. I am on my hands and
        knees with oven cleaner and later I bleach stains from shirts too delicate for the regular
        wash. I write checks to pay overdue bills and I salvage anything broken. I haven’t been
        inside of church in years. By sundown, I am exhausted, drunk, and I ache from the effort
        of work.

5) Honour thy father and thy mother.
        There are bruises on my body and inside my brain. My mother beat me with wooden
        spoons until they snapped like frozen branches and threatened to abandon me, her
        suitcase already half-packed. When I was sixteen, I cried to her about being molested by
        my orthodontist. She told me I was overreacting and reminded me I had an appointment
        on Thursday. My father smoked himself oblivious, hiding in the garage with Mavericks.

6) Thou shalt not kill.
        I cut the throats of younger Nicoles and hang them limp from trees. Each night I grieve
        in my sleep and dream away any regrets. I destroy and rebuild myself with rivers of
        blood and pillars of salt and I know that each me I create will die by my own hand.

7) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
        When I kissed Mariah up against her boyfriend’s bedroom door, she moaned and said “I
        wish he would bite my lip like that.” I pushed her onto his bed, sucked and nibbled at
        her until my her hands were under my clothes and her nails dug into my skin. I left her
        shirtless and painted with sweat and took with me the taste of almost-broken flesh.

8) Thou shalt not steal.
        It’s much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about. There is no
        sinner like a young saint. I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I
        am, I am, I am.

9) Thou shalt not bear false witness.
        The only thing I have never lied about is my name.

10) Thou shalt not covet.
        My heart wants to want—hot showers scented with eucalyptus, thick steaks, and hairpulling
        pinned down sex—but it is never satisfied. It repeats, give me, give me, give me,
        and refuses to finish.

Nicole Byrne

Nicole Byrne suffers from a crippling addiction to poetry. She self-medicates with copious amounts of black coffee, avocados, hot sauce, and rock ‘n’ roll. The treatment does not appear to be working and she hopes it never does. As of August 2015, she has uprooted herself from Maine to move out to Kansas where she is embarking on the quest of receiving her MFA at Wichita State University. Her work has previously been published in The Sandy River Review, Sunset Liminal, and Green Blotter. Find her online at

Venus Flower Basket by Phoebe Nicholson

dried flowers 2 by Inna Mosina

Venus Flower Basket

Each spring,
bees appear in the grass.
The warm wakes them and
the clockwork queens tick up and set off.
They dodge my ankles
in the dash to find a nest to fatten
with family.

Gulping pollen, gulping earth,
she pulls the wax into eggs,
into the gumming clack of grubs
fed endlessly,
to grow work,
to grow an army in the thin air.

A warm noise thickens the nest
and lungs thick with sugar,
nectar-heavy, a cramp of drones and daughters
fresh from the foxgloves, thistles, knapweeds,
picnics where they licked the stick from spoons.

The nest, rattling. Frantic.
Fur bristling. Feet working.
High summer, and then,
just as quickly,

And the long swell of silence
surviving the winter.
The queen bled out,
a crisped shell in the chill
impossibly poised on a still wing
on the floor of the hive.

Some days I cannot think to live like that.
Some days I would rather fold up underwater,
boom to the bottom of the ocean
to crawl with the ant-sand and
pricklecrabs of tiny lights and spikes
and eyeless.

My fierce gods, my sting paling –
the whales washing overhead.
A numb noise humming.
I’d find you there –
sponge-stems like a wedding gift,
bright as silver fork-tines.
We will climb them, slip in, and stay.

We will unevolve our eyesight.
We will find new ways to learn old things
and to love old things endlessly.

And the scream of bees, and
the dull of old age – the tick of a husk
on the hivefloor –
cannot pierce the peace of blue light
and blindness.

Phoebe Nicholson

Phoebe Nicholson is a poet and trainee lexicographer living in Oxford. She also edits the Catweazle Magazine, a quarterly arts magazine currently in its second year, inspired by the performance night which takes place every Thursday at the East Oxford Community Centre, The Catweazle Club.

A Recipe for How to Get over Your Ex by Renee Christopher

Carry the Axe by Kelly Louise Judd
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A Recipe for How to Get over Your Ex

1 ripped out bleeding heart
3 photos of the trip to Tahoe
2 whole potatoes
1 and 1/4 cup of tears
2 tablespoons extra virgin regret
(pinch of salt)

1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Turn on fan just in case something starts smoking for no reason
3. Beat bleeding heart with tenderizer until flat and malleable
4. Season with salt and regret
(Refrigerate overnight for enhanced flavor)
5. Mince photos and combine in bowl with tears
6. Dice potatoes in chunks and spread around heart in the roasting pan
7. Leave in for 3 hours, checking periodically until desired tenderness
(Pour photo and tear mixture over heart to prevent drying out)

Serve warm at the first available dinner party.


Renee Christopher

Renee Christopher earned her B.A. in English and Communications from the University of California which she uses to sell pizza in her hometown. She can be found poking around the darker corners of literature and fiction and she has recently been surprised to find that there is a scarcity of calming work on her bookshelf. This is her first publication and you can find her tweeting about representation, ladies, and working in customer service at @jademoonsun on Twitter.

Saying Goodnight Near Bethlehem by Christian Sammartino

Night and Day by Kelly Louise Judd
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Saying Goodnight Near Bethlehem

Shadows from the concrete factory
cling to our shoulders as we embrace
at the end of the driveway.

These secondhand silhouettes stretch across
summer lawns like the capes super heroes
wear in all my old comic books.

But this isn’t the episode on our storyboard
when we rescue suburbia from communists,
and foil plots to detonate a nuclear reactor.

Tonight is about her love demolishing
the Berlin Wall surrounding my soul,
until we are one united country.

Her lips slip me an alphabet of love
I didn’t know I was capable of writing.

Little ravens on her yellow sundress
wave their wings in the wind
as each letter appears.

Her mouth tastes like water
from a thunderstorm and the last
sip of an unfiltered lager.

One kiss makes me feel like
I can leap factory smokestacks.

This is the storyline where my heroine
braves my ghost town heart to conquer
the Kryptonite of my fears.

This is the comic strip where I rocket
up to heaven to gather enough starlight
to write her name in a constellation.

In this city south of Bethlehem,
we are the love we deserve.


Christian Sammartino

Christian Sammartino was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. He studied English Literature and Asian Religions at Elizabethtown College. His poetry is influenced by life in the Pennsylvania Rustbelt near his home in Coatesville and his experiences as an AmeriCorps Scholar. He has honed his writing through meditation sessions with the Elizabethtown College Meditation Club. His first collection of poetry, Keystones, was released by Rising Phoenix Poetry Press in December 2014.

A Vigil In San Francisco by Aurelia Lorca

Doves and Flora by Kelly Louise Judd
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A Vigil In San Francisco

We gave you a vigil in front of the lamp-post
            in Union Square where you spent the last of your days.

*                                    *                                    *

It still does not seem real:

            On Good Friday at sunset, the night
            before the blood moon,
            a man’s voice left a message
            from an unknown number,
“This is an emergency phone call,
I have some very sad news.”

            He asked if I was next of kin,
            did I know next of kin?

I was no longer your girlfriend,
            but always your friend.

You had died on April Fool’s Day.

I’m still waiting for someone to say April Fool’s.

*                                    *                                    *

                        Upon first glance,
there is little that is welcoming in Union Square.
All around are convex edges and sharp surfaces-
metallic benches, concrete boxes,
            shapes that are un-natural, unfriendly.
The statue of Victory Pillar has curvatures,
            but it they are high above, out of reach.
It is a place of squares upon squares upon squares,
            and little that is concave, welcoming, or spherical,
and the homeless are who no one wants to see.

*                                    *                                    *

                        The Union Square security guards
allowed all the candles, the bottles of vodka.
They even attended, and donated to your funeral fund,
because you always had a smile
and never gave them any trouble.

I could do nothing, really, but stand in front of your lamp-post,
                                    take a few shots of vodka,
            and read my poems about things that became
            words and turn back into things again-
And then the words from the same book I am teaching this semester,
“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world?
                        Our father, who art in nature.”


Aurelia Lorca

Aurelia Lorca is the pen-name of a woman from the borderlands of the Monterey Peninsula who has been motionless in the twist of time.

The Thief by Meggie Royer

Berried in Snow by Jude McConkey
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The Thief

You want to steal your body back from his bed- the way his hands cupped your hips,
the way your mouth still remembers the taste.
To go back there and pick the lock on the door, enter the bedroom
and remove the ghost of yourself from underneath the covers.
This is the way you remember moments:
the cold coffee and the vanilla candle on the table,
and you know. You know.
Even when your body is lifted from the wreckage, when it’s carried out the house
and returned to its own room,
even there you’ll still be a shipwreck.
Buried in something that’s deeper than blue- cobalt, dark grey
while everyone stands above you
watching you try to remember how to breathe
the same way someone who falls through the ice in winter
lifts a hand up through the surface
as if a stranger could be bothered to grab it.


Meggie Royer

Meggie Royer is a Midwest writer and photographer who writes about survival and love. In March 2013, she won a national Silver Medal and a Gold Medal in the 2013 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Her work can be found at

Winter Weather Advisory by Christian Sammartino

Painting by Lola Donoghue
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Winter Weather Advisory

The national weather service has issued
a winter weather advisory concerning
your quadrant of the American Heartland.

Adopt coping methods from your inner
child when cold fronts transform states
into commonwealths of blizzards.

Buy dollar store coffee filters
with your pocket change.

Snip paper hearts into an igloo cooler
until you harvest one for every patient
on the national transplant list.

Write single sentence love letters
addressed to anyone who forgets they are
not blots of ink in an avalanche of names.

Fold them like fortune cookie proverbs.
find a niche in your ice chest as you wait
for the ribcage of your hometown to thaw.

Plant your blessings in the soil
with tree seedlings on Arbor Day.

Roots will compost your gifts, spreading kind
words beneath the county, until a whole forest
builds your message into its branches.

Christian Sammartino

Christian Sammartino was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. He studied English Literature and Asian Religions at Elizabethtown College. His poetry is influenced by life in the Pennsylvania Rustbelt near his home in Coatesville, and his experiences as an AmeriCorps Scholar. He has honed his writing through mediation sessions with the Elizabethtown College Meditation Club. His poetry has been published in Rib Cage Chicago Literary Magazine.