I Can Count To 10 vol.1

 

Amber

by Zenaida Peterson

 

JUST MAKE IT RIGHT

by Jess Rizkallah

 

This Corner of the Basement Could Totally Be a Bedroom

Brian S. Ellis

Luna Lovegood Spots Anxiety/Depression on School Grounds

by Justin Rogers

 

An explanation of Orpheus

after Simeon Berry 

by Sam Cha

 

maybe this will explain my taste in men

by Rachel McKibbens

 

For Michael  2009

by Kisha Nicole Foster

The Light-House Dreams

after Ray Bradbury

by Ryk McIntyre

 

Found Out:

by RebeccaLynn Gualtieri 

itchy ears, itchy heart

by Cassandra de Alba

 

 

I Can Count To 10 vol. 1 # June – July 2017 # Broken Head Press 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amber

by Zenaida Peterson

 

I tell myself we are alike

That there is softness in her for me

I have never seen it

Even affection came

With hard edges

Hugging closed doors

Is all but impossible

The knob kept hitting me

In the stomach

I stopped trying and

Embraced the hinges that

Kept her hidden instead

 

The first time she said “I love you”

I was 18

On the other end of

A land line in a college dorm room

The words felt unsafe

I waited for the air to

Smell like something I recognized again

Inhaled

And hung up without

Saying goodbye

 

My roommate was playing

Alanis Morrisette’s Ironic

And I sang along to the last verse

Rocking slowly

Arms tucked into my body

 

She still says it

I say it back now

Rushing through

The vowels sounds

Holding myself

The way I always have

The “love you too”

and the “bye”

Run together

As though they are the same word

And for us

They probably are

 

Goodbye is the thing

I'd been waiting to say

To her since I could talk

And I love you

The thing she taught me

By omission

And mostly I only know

How to say goodbye to love too

Through years of practice

Silent tears soaking soggy cheeks

I have perfected

The art of goodbye

“Hello, I love you”

Is much more unfamiliar

Like a dry pillow

In childhood

I'm not sure I'd know it was mine

If you asked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUST MAKE IT RIGHT

by Jess Rizkallah

 

 

at least once a week, a pedestrian will mistake this coffeeshop for the 90s

make me talk to their hand & i can’t tell them to put that shit away

 

my own hands are always too soft or not soft enough

either way, i make customers wait an extra fifteen seconds

while i wash them. because i don’t forget under the fingernails.

 

i make customers wait an extra fifteen seconds for their iced coffees

because i like watching the milk unfurl its wings inside the cup

i like filling people with dragons & i like to watch them hatch

i hope this loses us a star on yelp

 

henry is here every day. he thinks he can swear to me.

he thinks we have rapport. I don’t have rapport with anyone

who talks to me an hour before closing.

 

he says DAMN. THIS TEA IS

FUCKING BAD. FUCK.

i wash my hands

 

he says HEY DO YOU WANNA

HEAR A RACIST JOKE

i say “no”

i wash my hands

 

he talks to two teenage girls who move down a seat from him

they eventually leave & i think about all the other contexts he must

use the word “fuck” & i wash my hands

 

 

 

my manager gets an email from a disgruntled cantabrigian

who says the baristas are touching dirty rags

then not washing their hands

 

i scrub the same spot on the counter for five minutes

when don comes in because he likes to look

at my boobs & it’s annoying

 

i scrub the same spot & all the spots

like the counters are hands

i’ve somehow missed a wrinkle. a stain.

i try to make the steel scab.

then i wash my hands

 

i think about hands & i wash my hands

 

my hands touch other hands & things hands have touched

& i wash my hands

 

henry leaves his teeth in the tip jar where he knows i have to listen

to them rattle & twitch against the loose change

& empty space between the coins & i wash

my hands

 

a cambridge mom asks me about the origin

of almond milk & i do not point to the ocean

 

that answer would have been enough for me twenty years ago

when i learned about humans & saw the ocean & had a feeling

that something like a mother’s mouth once reeled us all in

by the neck

 

but this mom is not pleased at the inorganics

of the operation, the inefficiency

of the transaction

the way i stopped

to wash

my fucking

hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Corner of the Basement Could Totally Be a Bedroom

by Brian S. Ellis

 

Ghosts love having room-mates.
Ghosts like Margarita's late at nite.
Ghosts like late 1970's muted color schemes.
Ghosts like Hawaiian guitar records from the 1950's.
Ghosts prefer playing gin to gin rummy.
Ghosts prefer blackjack to Texas hold'em
Ghosts think Texas hold'em is tacky 
and can't wait for it to go out of style.
Ghosts prefer stairs to elevators
and prefer elevators to escalators.
Ghosts don't like the mall unless 2/3rds
of the stores are closed and then 
they are obsessed with it and want to go all the time.
The longer a car is the more a ghost likes it,
and they always want to sit as far back as possible.
Ghosts don't like religious places 
unless they can go in disguise.
Ghosts don't think its cool 
that you like cemeteries.
Ghosts think Instagram filters are bullshit 
but otherwise Instagram is pretty ok.
Don't talk to ghosts about vinyl coming back
ghosts have been listening to vinyl all along.
Ghosts are really touchy about their showers
being the same temperature the entire time.
Do not run the dishwasher while the ghost is in the shower.
Ghosts are really forgetful.
Ghosts have a hard time remembering their own name.
Ghosts spend most of the time muttering their own name 
to themselves while walking up and down the hallway to the bathroom.
Ghosts spend their nights awake in bed, face turned to the blank wall
saying their name over and over in the dark,
never quite being sure that words that leave their lips are the words
that come back to them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luna Lovegood Spots Anxiety/Depression on School Grounds

by Justin Rogers

 

There is a brain turning 

the sidewalk into

a loaded barrel 

The brain - of course - pulls

the body like a carriage

or

uses the spine as a spoon to

empty the skull into an alley. 

The alley invites the flesh 

for a smoke.

The heart drags 

off before it becomes Dark

Mark burned 

or

before the flesh finds

another body to cremate

the smiles off of. 

The mouth tells the lungs

they are dying

or

an esophagus sucks the brain

barren & sends its good

memories to Azkaban where

they escape & hide Horcux-- 

have you seen one?

Do you know the bone joy belongs to

or have your sockets

 not been picked?

Apart 

from the eye

the most wicked 

creature bred is the brain. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An explanation of Orpheus

after Simeon Berry

by Sam Cha

C, not precisely a friend, is telling you

between sips of Scotch about the time

our mutual friend tried to seduce him,

the year before her cancer. How he

wasn't attracted, but wishes now he'd

said yes. This, by the way, is precisely

why C is not precisely your friend. But

then again, O is your friend, if only

sporadically, and wasn't he just the

other night telling you the dream he

had, about the very same woman? In

his dream she was still alive, though

ravaged. Her fiery hair burnt out, ash.

All the sweet cream and wobble of her

body sandpapered off. Still she opened

her mouth to him. As if he were water.

As if she were tangled, pinned in deep

water, and all this time she'd been

holding her breath... Though he didn't

say that, exactly. I'm putting words in

his mouth. I, too, it turns out, am the

kind of man who thinks his cock can

raise the dead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

maybe this will explain my taste in men

by Rachel McKibbens

 

When Dad busted my face open 

I got to stay home from 

school, watched cartoons

all day like a goddamn king.

 

Dad called in sick, 

icing his damaged fist

with frozen peas & meat.

Overheard him on 

the phone with his boss: 

 

Broke my hand yesterday

playing ball with the kids.

Can you believe it?

I caught a fastball, no glove. 

My own damn fault. 

I’ll get those blueprints

to you tomorrow morning,

first thing.

 

Poor Dad. When he hung up

he squeezed my shoulder

& winked. Just after lunch, 

there was a knock on the door. 

 

I peeped through the blinds 

with my one good eye, saw 

a blonde in a nurse’s uniform.  

 

Dad opened the door & howled 

as she sang him a high-pitched

song, bending at the waist

to show off her tits. 

 

At the end of it, she handed him 

a catcher’s mitt with a 

get-well card.

 

The boys at the office

sure look after me!

he roared, shaking his

head in disbelief

then handed me 

the remote so I, 

too, could 

know love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Michael 2009

by Kisha Nicole Foster

 

We are laughing at the 

mockery of everyday economic depression

paychecks withholding taxes taken from a 

controlling government

relaxing

disregarding real people issues

suited and booted for a false battle

faces of babies set in stone

dimple impressions depressed from the inside jaw out

hunger pains overpower innocence

a survival spirit starts

hearts torn into.

We are dancing to the 

offbeat common two step music

blaring from Capital Hill

commercial rap lyrics

We the People of the United States of America

waxing gas faces with the rhetoric

put yo hands on your hip

bounce that ass a bit

male or female.

We are sitting at bar stools

throwing shots back to 

jukebox tunes blaring

“that’s a chance I’ll take/baby I’ll stay/heaven can wait

nooooo/if the angels take me from this earth…”

from where we walk we lay

heaven did not wait on Michael

heaven will not wait on us

dreams are little destinies in pigtails

double-dutching on cracking concrete in the jungle

waving handkerchiefs for an S.O.S

creating smoke cloudish images

imagining a creation of colors

treated equal on balanced solid ground

unraveling under ankles breaking love

pieces of weak parts in lives

this system

poetry

rapes the soul

music soothes said soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Light-House Dreams

after Ray Bradbury

by Ryk McIntyre

 

I was built to be a warning to those lost

in the night and the storm. Lonely Soldier

at the edge of ocean, strong against waves.

 

Sometimes I am red, and often I am fog-

colored, but shining eye, and a doom voice

that sounds sad even in the awake of day.

 

I sing the same song, I have only one: I am

here and there is wreckage in my direction. 

Pass me by... pass me by... pass me by...

 

When I sleep (because all things sleep

in their own way) I dream of bright angels

come to relieve my burden, or the sea

 

monster, tall as I am, come from below

the waves, neck flesh wrapping around

me; its joy of hearing my call, finding me

 

whole. Something to hold. I am no different

from anything that keeps a light on in the fog

of how we hope someone finds us; no matter

 

our warnings, our shores of treacherous rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Found Out:

by RebeccaLynn Gualtieri 

 

Found Out:

My Favorite Scarf 

That I Thought 

Was Lost Forever
Is Actually At My Ex's House 

And I Found That Out 

When

I Stumbled To His Place, 

Wasted 

And Asked Him

To Tie My Noose 

With It's Floral Pattern 
And Choke Me With It's Softness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

itchy ears, itchy heart

by Cassandra de Alba

 

i spent 4 hours on the highway today 

and understood nothing new about my life

 

 


 

i sat in the passenger seat and watched

the mountains stretch and flatten

into the stifling city

 

i sang along soft enough

that he couldn’t hear me

 

i stared at my cracking boots

and thought about hope, how hollow

it seems, but also how 

in the hollows of dead trees

sometimes bloom 

the sweetest buds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untitled 10

by Morris Stegosaurus

 

It starts small 

and a little bit funny, 

like a vulgar schoolyard joke 

so you invite it in.  

 

You feed it cookies and pat its head 

and when the night is cold 

you allow it to crawl gently down your throat 

to bivouac in the warmth of your belly.  

 

You protest only a little.  

 

You forget it's there as it 

spends years whittling out your chest, replacing 

organs with rude chrome facsimiles and the machinery of rust.  

 

It learns to grasp with your hands, 

to stare out from behind your eyes; 

it folds your tongue into scorpions you never visioned 

and splits your unity along the axis of its own ambition.  

 

You catch an upturned snarl 

in the lip of a passing reflection 

and remember what you carry, maybe 

you'll try to scrape it off your lungs 

or pass it kicking through your colon, 

and when nothing serves 

you turn yourself inside out in some field or alley,  

 

emptied, you survey the detritus for some salvage, 

but you've lost the sense to distinguish flesh from metal, 

polluted from clean, and must rebuild from scratch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for participating.

Broken Head Press (2017)

poems for life.