I Can Count To 10 vol.3

 

INVISIBLE FLOOR

by Anson Rap$

 

THE SWEETEST SWING IN BASEBALL

by Zeke Russell

THE SHOCK OF RELAXATION

by Colin Dodds

SCAVENGERS

by arathy asok

 

VEXILLOLOGY (STUDYING THE FLAG)

by Matt Mason

 

SQUEEZE

by Gale Acuff

 

ON BEING ASKED WHY I HAVE WRITTEN MORE POEMS FOR MY DAUGHTER THAN I HAVE FOR MY SON.

by Brittany Rodgers

ABUELA STARES AMERICA IN THE FACE OR MANIFEST DESTINY IS SWALLOWED IN AN EARTHQUAKE

by Brandon Melendez

 

OG GRANDMA

by Ricky Orng

UN-STITCHED

by Ankita Anand

ON BEING CALLED OUT

by Sean Patrick Mulroy

 

 

I Can Count To 10 vol. 3 # October – November 2017 # Broken Head Press 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisible Floor

by Anson Rap$

 

When you believe in the invisible floor,

You have reached the point called rock bottom.

Maybe you have tripped or fallen, 

 

Or forgotten a calling? 

Your physical & mental argue like old couples

The destruction is like a menstrual cycle.

 

Your eyes stare at a rifle that you believe 

Is pointed by outside forces,

Can you see how your fingers are now perceived!? 

Breathe, the trees keep telling you, 

But you don’t listen, 

You just keep looking down to see if security has arrived. 

 

Do you see your feet? 

They are still standing. 

 

They are still standing. 

 

So trust in them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sweetest Swing In Baseball

by Zeke Russell

“That's all I do: hit. When I get the chance I got to get it done, for my team"

-David Ortiz

 

David Ortiz was signed by the Boston Red Sox

just prior to the 03 season.

Which was also just

about the time my opiate

habit really started to turn into a thing.

By the time they lost to the Yanks in seven

I was injecting instead of just crushing, or snorting.

 

I got clean the next year in April

seven days into the 2004 season,

the year they finally broke the curse.

 

I remember standing

in front of that TV

in October

watching that tie score in game

four against the yanks

inning after inning.

Chain smoking,

saying COME ON

I need this man.

I get up every day and go 

to my shitty job, and the only 

thing I do that matters is

I don’t get high. 

I don't have anything else

and I fucking need this

 

I've told this story so many times:

how David saved my life

with that homer.

Or, how I broke the curse

by not giving up.

But the other day

I watched a replay

of his winning at bat on YouTube.

 

That swing was so sweet,

technically perfect,

body torqued

completely into the motion of follow through.

 

Exactly the way

he did it in batting practice.

Exactly the way

he always did it,

like he just knew how.

 

Like he did it,

Every single day. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shock of Relaxation

by Colin Dodds

 

And you’re living 

every day 

like you’re avenging 

your own death

 

But one day 

the wind rubs you down 

polishes you up 

 

The hand pulled back to hit 

returns with a caress

and like that, you’re perfect

for a second

 

Naturally, you 

fuck that up, too

But you get that second

and maybe another one

 

The wind has a talent

for making it all seem quite far
like an industrial park 

from a passing car

The corrugated walls 

and ample slather of pave
are, for these fecund seconds, 

neither your ward nor your word

 

Scrutiny won’t do


All there is is to let it 

slide across your eyes
and to follow it

when it disappears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scavengers

by arathy asok

 

Day light is a shade you purposefully dodged

Walking in the wind of leaf lights.

In the by roads men hurried to move in cotton mundu and soiled shirts.

No traffic there, just houses without eyes, shut for the day before night

Two schools where children walk

In colour dresses, their legs a slow chant of prayer.

In the alley at the corner near the Language Institute, the scavenger women gather

Their blue overalls covering faded sarees, torn at sides. 

From the holes in the cities they come before the sun forgets to rise

And loaded in humming engines lift what we offer not to use.

Once a woman at my door waited for permission to take a fallen coconut

Sometimes she waits for the master to reveal, the ten rupees he’ll flow

The ten without which we drink black teas at month ends and give to old women hard green plantains for vegetables.

I walk my eyes behind me see two women in the alley sorting the waste before dumping it to heap

She lifts a packet and reads Macaroni.

 “This is macaroni,” she says to her friend bend at the scum and throws it casually over her shoulder.

Unlike the coconut, the macaroni is faded.

 I think of the hollow necked children she left behind the morning for work

Who would never read Macaroni on covers their mother threw away that morn

Who would never know that it existed, till such day they forgot hunger.

And their mother’s lifted waste before the sun forgot to rise

Because heaven forbid they do the same, when they became mothers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vexillology 

(Studying the Flag)

by Matt Mason

 

In school, they’ll tell her 
about the state flag– 
one of those with the dark blue, the gold seal– 
the kind of lesson 
everyone forgets by second grade. 

Still, they’ll try, they’ll tell her 
about Chief Standing Bear, 
the first Native recognized as a person 
by the law.   
That was in Nebraska, 

giving us our state motto: 
“Equality Before The Law.” 
It looks good there on the flag, 
written on the banner 
near the top, 

there above a blacksmith, 
a steam engine, river boat, 
the Rocky Mountains: 

things that haven’t been seen 
in Nebraska much since 1879 
if you’ve ever seen ‘em here at all. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squeeze

by Gale Acuff

 

Sometimes I wish that I was dead but then

I see Miss Hooker at Sunday School and

although she's 25 and I'm only

10 there's still a chance that we'll get hitched one

day, it could happen, if I can just wait

and the same for her, say we marry-up

when she's 36 to my 21,

that won't be so bad since beyond 30

there's not much life left in most folks anyway

 

so I'll marry her little sister if

she's got one, and then after her it's her

little sister and so on down the line,

hope she's got a lot of 'em, a slew of

sisters that is, maybe clear down to my

own age or even younger but if she's

an only child, Miss Hooker I mean, or

has nothing but brothers and I prefer

women, that's just me but, who knows, I've got

an open mind and I'm just a knuckle

-headed kid as it is, what do I know

of love, nothing I can't learn about, then

--well, I forgot what I was going to

say, not that it matters much until I

start courting Miss Hooker, I'll start late at

that, too, maybe when I'm 16 and have

 

a deeper voice and hairier face and

my folks' old Chrysler to tool around in,

then maybe I'll ask Miss Hooker out and

to show her just how devoted I am

I'll ask her out even if she's married

and explain to her, her husband, too, that

 

God's behind it all, after all, He made

Miss Hooker a Sunday School teacher and

what's more He made her mine and not just my

teacher but my life-partner or soul-mate

or main squeeze or lifelong sweetheart or what

-ever the Hell you call it, Father calls

Mother his ball and chain, says it to her

 

face but she just laughs and says I hope it's

a life sentence, then they kiss and I mean

with their mouths, two wet mouths, Father's full of

Schlitz, at least he's swallowed a few ounces

and Mother's Mogen David, it's a sight

to behold and in our church drinking is

a sin but I guess that's why they don't go

and shows that sin can be some good fun, that's

why God's had His hands full but then it's His

 

own damn fault, it's in the Divine Plan and

Miss Hooker says so but on our honey

-moon I'll help her forget all about it,

I'll hold her hand and gaze into her eyes

and we'll watch some cable TV and fall

 

asleep together and wake up even

more married than at the wedding itself

--can you be more married than at that time?

--and every day get closer and closer

and she'll die first and what's funny is that

we'll be closer than brothers. That kills me. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On being asked why I have written more poems for my daughter than I have for my son. 

by Brittany Rodgers

 

When I got pregnant with her

I jinxed my momma’s favorite mirror.

She held it to my face and still 

saw her own. Frostbite

came through the phone

when she said I didn’t have to-

so young at least, so why did I? Because she 

prophesied everlasting toil, and was right.

Because she didn’t want to be right, but honest. 

When I got pregnant with him

my aunt called it blessed, finally;

the curse, lifted. Said you train daughters

but love sons, and ain’t that the rest 

the good Lord promised us? 

And don’t I want to rest?

We leave our house and 

women look past her to speak 

to her brother, though he is too young 

to respond. Men and boys

eye her preadolescent hips

smiles stuffed with rows

of rotted teeth. 

My daughter

has never been known for

her silence, and yet, here she is. 

Because they never say her name.

Or her name. Or hers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abuela Stares America in the Face or Manifest Destiny is Swallowed in an Earthquake

by Brandon Melendez

 

I grew up visiting my abuela in motel rooms

or abandoned houses 

Gutted buildings around East Los Angeles,

anywhere without a mortgage.

 

because she could not afford rent anywhere,

could not afford the casket her husband

now calls home.

could not afford each eviction

from stolen land that is 

once again, stolen.

 

but she refuses to let anyone

name her victim

refuses to let anyone

name her

she’ll do it herself

 

& so what—if she refuses to speak

English around you.

& so what—if she does not trust the white folks

at the motel who try to walk through her

like she doesn’t have a body.

& so what—she doesn’t take that shit,

stands firm, daring them

to cross her border.

 

She survives, every day

open mouth & loud.

Her mouth is the song of every ghost

she knows, who will not remain a ghost.  

Her mouth is all her ancestor’s mouths

clicking their tongues,

refusing to be silenced or dead.

 

This woman gathers

all the walls of her body,

gnashes her teeth,

& waits for you to say

she does not belong here,

or does not have a home.

When really, she is a home.

When really, Manifest Destiny magic

made her ancestors disappear—

 

but America is not the only magician

in this story. My abuela speaks  

in a tongue that is not English,

& all the tombstones

of her dead crack open

She conjures a spell

from water & salt

calls it her name

& all the border fences melt

into a bridge

or open arms

& the ground

beneath Los Angeles

begins to tremble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OG Grandma 

by Ricky Orng

 

 

My grandma is

gangster as fuck.
She rocks bucket hats

and beanies.

Her grandchildren
Yell at her
because she can kill
a case of Heineken

on her own.

Homegirl

Still chews tobacco


See,

all my family lives in Massachusetts.
So when I moved from the South,
I was re-introduced to my culture,
Cambodian folk,
I started living with grandma.

Imagine:

 

A 5'2" homegirl,
killing it with a floral skirt.
Rocking a fanny pack

under the thermal.
Probably had

a couple stacks in it,
at least.

I'm telling y'all,

she is

gangster as fuck.

Her grandkids call her OG.

You know,
like Original Gangster.
Except the G

stands for GRANDMA,
because she cute like that.

See, the thing is— 
I don't really know her story,
nor can I background check her credentials.
But what I do know is:

There has been

some crazy shit.
Some hard shit.
Some tough times.

I know her husband

died in the war
and she raised four daughters

on her own

in a country

that does not belong to her.

She's gangster as fuck.

Homegirl machetes the backyard

in flip flops,

then takes a TO

because poison ivy is

everywhere.
And I mean,

everywhere.

When I get home from school,

she is already

squatting it up in the kitchen,
both hands full with

butcher knife and

beer.

It is 3 o'clock.
Dinner is ready at 4

and I eat with her.

She asks, "Kon, la mom?"
Child, is this good enough?

Asks, "Choung banthem ambel? Dok sa-ew? Dok grohck chma?”
Want to add salt?

Soy sauce?

Lime juice?


It seems like

she really wants

to make this dish

perfect.
I reassure her

that the food is okay.

I don't really know

how to say anything else.

Sometimes,

my gangster ass grandma

will tell me some gangsta ass stories.

Usually,

it is after a few beers
and I know

no one has been home

all day

besides her.


Sometimes,

it sounds like a rant.
Maybe disguised

as some life lesson 
or just blatant “Shit-You-Need-to-Know”.

 

And I am trying my hardest 
to follow along with ears 
that aren’t familiar 

with this palate. 

She will stop every few minutes.

Ask, "Yol?"
Do you understand?
and I want to tell her,

so badly,

that I want to.

Sometimes,

honesty will slip up

and I will say no.
And she will try to

backtrack the story.

Most of the time,

I just want her to keep speaking,
so I answer, “Yes, grandma.

Ba’aht, mak yeay.

She asks, "Yol-a?"
Do you really understand?
and I wonder

if sometimes

she is asking less

about the words
and more about

this.

And sometimes

I say, “This food, grandma, is delicious.”
Mahope chenangh, mak yeay, chenangh.

With each spoonful,

I grow thankful.
I wonder

if I can't learn her story,
this must be

the only thing

she can give me.

Make me feel whole.
More full.
More Cambodian.
Less hungry.
Less fleeting country.

More like home.

And that's some gangster shit OG

 

That’s my grandma

Helping her grandkids survive


I want to tell her about my day
or about my problems,
but my mouth

only knows how

to eat and

spill out

one way.

 

I know sometimes 

shit is still hard

and tough

and she doesn’t need to say anything

The last time I saw her,
I hugged her
and she was so small.

She asked me

if I wanted

to take some food

home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Un-Stitched

by Ankita Anand

 

Every second day my mother goes to her tailor

And he sends her back with a false promise;

I don't know why she doesn't give up on him.

 

But the day I get out of my wheelchair and walk 

I plan to go and see this guy

Who makes my mother walk so much. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on being called out

by Sean Patrick Mulroy

 

You’ll find you haven’t lived until somebody’s called you the white devil—

 

Which is to say you haven’t been alive until somebody’s seen 

   your ugliest self and offered you no consolation.  


The righteous know the art of beating without fist. 

 

The righteous know it is much more affective to use judgment. 

 

You will wonder: How did they know how desperate I am to be liked? 

 

The righteous know this is the only thing that saves you from your power. 

 

You will think you know how right they were.

 

You will say:  I was a gaudy watch. I needed to be stopped.  

I was a joke in poor taste, told loud. 

I was a Grammy award. 

 

You will regard your shame and think, 

 

What happened here was not so cruel, 

Every insult, an incision, small and fair

and in the end, a kindness.

 

It will feel as if you have been locked inside your house 

less like the doors to the outside have been nailed shut 

and more like they have been replaced with curtains of live scorpions. 

 

You will hate the way you cannot get out of what you are. 

 

You will hate how you cannot stare down being wrong. 

 

You will hate it so much you become a different person overnight 

 

just so you will never be this kind of wrong again 

 

and still you will be this kind of wrong again and again

 

Someday you will look back at yourself as you are being spit upon

and you will point and laugh just like the righteous do. 

 

You will say along with them: 

 

Yes, kick me again. Kick me again. Do it. It’s less than I deserve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for participating.