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CRACK THE SPINE

Issue Eight

Issue Nine


Crack the Spine Issue Nine January 30, 2012 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright Š 2012 by Crack the Spine

Cover Art By Conway L.


Contents J.W. Mark……………….…..………….………….Decision & Dominion Office Amit Parmessur…………………………...…….……………..India Pain The Fool Peter Naughton……………………….…….Dead Boyfriend Mix No. 4 Susan Adams…….…………………….....…………..I Know You Know Thomas Mundt……………………………………...….…...Kitchen Bros Suzanne Allen…………………………….…..……………..28 Rue Jacob Which Moths Break In and Steal? Alan Passman..……………………....The Living Together Continuum Hundreds of Women Running Rampant


Decision & Dominion By J.W. Mark

One decade held in pixels, stalled forced figure locked in motion. His dominion his decision then by art of stealing souls preserved the camera caught The Falling Man. Though eyes perceive new narratives, I will not claim to know his thoughts. That leaping man, I too can see, as many do, and many will I too can cast his narrative, suggestive claim his state of mind. Yet Falling Man remains unknown. Refuse my impositions slight dominion his decision, though I too will stare, I too can see: reject my need for knowledge. For the Falling Man now pixel print symbolic held one decade framed. Existence is decision and dominion I refuse to steal.


Office By J.W. Mark

Sheared morning bleeds its dull, drawn light dull razor day‟s potential burns, Just butter on your bagel, dear? My Wednesday, long in whiskers bows to haggard, scabby Thursday. Starve? I’d rather just drink coffee. Scarves which dangle clinging dust mites, stacked my chamois mitts two tonal bluffs, Your chapeau found then lost again, Enduring fabric drama. You’ll be hungry, all day starving, pain from craving pangs inside that box: The closet coop for lives unlived, Forever face unsmiling, Pack me lunch meat, grin my rations munched I’ll call you when I break for lunch.

JW Mark is a poet living in Sagamore Hills, Ohio. Publications to include his work include The Ampersand Review, Eunoia Review, The Midwest Literary Magazine, flashquake, and The North Chicago Review. He is the author of a novel, entitled Artifice, as well as a book of poems entitled Patched Collective.


Indian Pain By Amit Parmessur

I feel the need to open my blue-veined throat into a wide V for dirty Ravanas to gulp down my nectar. I feel the need to steal her father‟s Trishul to send deadly forks through her brain. I feel the need to squeeze my breath between my fingers and throw it down Mount Meru. I feel the need to lynch her dreams. The need to plan a long sleep by swallowing an overdose of human hatred. I feel the need to believe that love is a lustful Lanka in which I‟ll be ripped and burnt again and again. No one‟s going to slide into my life like a sacred blue candle, like a noble savage from a loud Indian cave, burning bright, each day, chasing sinuous shadows away. Virgin hearts do not know how to love. No one will hug me in the warm rain, ringing Sanskrit out of my soft heart. I‟ll never run barefoot in peace, in the garden of fertility listening to the cries of my sweet harvest. There‟ll be only Nāginīs. There‟ll be the need to perish. I‟m but Indian pain. Old virgin hearts do not know how to make love night and day.


The Fool By Amit Parmessur

You are the basket that grew extra legs, stole my innocent soul and scuttled away, into a night of unknown people, obscene noises. Yet, you are still in my soul. You have destroyed the kingdom of my heart with the katana of another woman. And you‟re still a ruler in that palace! The simple lack of you is more to me than any God‟s presence. I am too kind? I am a Sisyphus of your memories— why only dirty ones keep rolling back to me from your white Himalayas-like throne, spoiling the love I may feel for others. You split my eyelids so that I cannot shut myself on you. I made myself become you. Only to know you are not mine. I won‟t rue. You are still my father.

Born in 1983 Amit Parmessur is one of the editors of poetry magazine The Rainbow Rose. His poems have appeared in around 100 literary magazines, such as: Ann Arbor Review, Burnt Bridge, BlackListed Magazine, Calliope Nerve, Damazine, Front Porch Review, Nefarious Ballerina, Poetry Bulawayo, Salt, Primalzine, Scythe, The Houston Literary Review, Zouch Magazine and many others. He is nominated for the 2011 Pushcart Award and lives in Quatre-Bornes, Mauritius. In 2007 his poetry collection The Words I Loved was published locally. His book on blog entitled Lord Shiva & Other Poems was published in July 2011 by The Camel Saloon.


Dead Boyfriend Mix No. 4 By Peter Emmett Naughton

Marin made a left onto Thacker and crossed over the railroad tracks just as the last strains of Nick Lowe‟s “Heart of the City” faded from her speakers and was replaced by a staccato, shuffling drumbeat and a slinking bass line. She ignored the track at first, concentrating on the traffic in front of her, but a moment later the muted guitar chords started and Justine Frischmann‟s cooing vocal came oozing into the compartment. Marin screamed and slammed her hand against the dash, barely resisting her urge to wail on the horn. “Alec you fucking twat! That‟s the third time this morning!” Marin shouted and snapped off her stereo. The knob was still for a moment and then slowly turned back the other direction and the song continued: ...so many.....decisions; it's impossible; to know, which is; the proper order, the best position, to be...in; take advantage, or so it seems, the way it go oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoa, oh whoas.... Marin gripped the wheel and pretended it was Alec‟s neck. “You know I used to love this album before you decided to make it your new personal soundtrack! First you ruined The Specials for me and now this!” The song continued to its end and then faded from the radio just as Marin pulled into the parking lot at work. “Jesus, you look like hell.” Marin said as she examined herself in her visor mirror. The clip in her hair had popped out sometime during the ride over and was now hidden safely among the detritus in her car. Her left hand had one nail completely broken off and another badly chipped. “Thanks a lot Alec. Going to make a great impression at the morning meeting.” Marin said and gave her car the finger as she strode off towards the front entrance. No one at the meeting said anything or if they did they had the courtesy to say it behind her back. In truth Marin doubted that anyone had noticed. Most of her colleagues at Arco spent their days confined inside their cubes. The morning meetings


were just a way to let the department heads make their daily announcements and get status updates from the underlings. She was no better. There were weeks and even whole months where she felt like she hadn‟t really talked to anyone. All the usual pleasantries and idle chitchat about weekend plans and the previous evening‟s television shows were exchanged, but they‟d become so automatic that by lunchtime Marin couldn‟t even remember having the conversations. Her commute to and from work was the only unpredictable part of her day. Alec had been just as unpredictable in life; that was one of the things that had first attracted her to him and it was the thing that had eventually broken them up. Spontaneity was great when it came to getting flowers or surprise trips to the art museum, but not so great when it was time to pay the rent or take the car in for an oil change. She never understood why he couldn‟t get his shit together during those times. It wasn‟t as if she had asked him to put on a suit and tie and start calling her sweetie-pie. She never found out exactly how he had died. It had been a car crash, she knew that much, but it didn‟t tell her anything about what had really happened to him. They had been split up for nearly a year by then, but the news had been like a punch in the stomach. It had jarred her in a way that she couldn‟t quite quantify. It was more than just the vague feeling of sorrow from losing someone who had once meant a great deal to her. She felt displaced, as if Alec‟s death had derailed her from her own life. Trying to remain focused at work became nearly impossible and she found herself spending her off hours reading the same page of a book over and over or staring at the television with no memory of what she‟d seen afterward. It was during one of these space-out sessions that she first encountered Alec again. She had been gazing at the front page headline of that day‟s paper for the better part of a half hour when she heard the door to her bedroom slam. It had shaken her out of her stupor, but Marin didn‟t think much of it at the time. Later that night when she had gone to close the window in her room she found it already shut. She had assumed that the door had blown closed earlier. The only other explanation would have been that her cat Rufus had accidentally shut himself in, but Marin had seen him lying on the dining room table right after she heard the door slam. Ordinarily it‟s not the kind of thing she would‟ve dwelled on. Houses creaked and settled and it was likely that one of these tiny internal shifts made the door close or that it was some other random, imperceptible event. Marin understood that, but for some reason she couldn‟t accept it. Maybe it was that everything else in her life had


become so disjointed that she needed a rational explanation for the door to maintain some semblance of order in her life. Before she was able to put her mind at rest about the bedroom incident, Alec made his presence known again and this time he was far less subtle. She had filled a vase with water and put it out on the coffee table for a small bouquet of flowers she had picked up earlier that day. She was fishing around in the wrapping for the plant food packet and when she finally retrieved it she looked up just in time to see the vase tottering on the edge of the table for a moment before smashing into a million pieces on the floor. Again there was no sign of Rufus and no breeze. Even if there had been a sudden gust of wind, the vase had been in the middle of the table and would‟ve likely tipped over rather than being pushed off the end. She thought she was losing her mind, was almost sure of it. Sweeping up the glass fragments she wondered if psychiatric care was covered under her work insurance. Not that she‟d ever put much stock in analysis, but Marin thought it might be comforting to have someone impartial to talk to about going off the deep end; lord knows she didn‟t want to tell anyone else what was happening to her. Odd things continued to occur with increasing frequency. Lights flickering, the television turning on after she knew she‟d turned it off and a recurrence of the door slamming, which had now been joined by several instances of windows slamming shut in nearly every room in the house. Throughout all this it never occurred to her that there was anything supernatural or paranormal about it. She wasn‟t a skeptic exactly, it just wasn‟t something she‟d ever spent much time thinking about. It wasn‟t until she was watching a show about urban hauntings in New York and Boston that the possibility dawned on her. Looking back it appeared that Alec had been getting impatient, considering it was the only program she‟d watched that night that hadn‟t suffered at least one spontaneous channel change in the middle of it. Even with the mounting evidence, Marin didn‟t really buy into it at first. The idea of being haunted seemed infinitely more ludicrous to her than simply having lost her marbles. Not that there had been a real precedent for either event, but it was easier for her to believe that the whole thing had been a failing on her part than some external force messing with her life. Then the music started and she finally knew that it was Alec, though she didn‟t want to admit it to herself. It wasn‟t the specific songs or even the repetitiveness with which they came up on her iPod. It was that they were always the wrong songs. They


clashed with whatever mood she was in and after a while she resorted to making specific playlists rather than just putting her whole library on shuffle the way she normally did. When songs that weren‟t even on her lists started popping up she should‟ve known it was Alec, but she went to the electronics repair shop instead and waited while they ran a full diagnostic and told her that the device was in normal working order. This had been his modus operandi from the beginning of their relationship. It was one of his annoying habits like leaving the toilet seat up or not rinsing off his dishes in the sink. Whenever they were in the car together and a song came up that she wanted to skip he would cover up the player with his hand until the song was over. After that he‟d spend the rest of the ride finding other songs that she wasn‟t in the mood for. He had an uncanny knack for zeroing in on exactly what she was trying to avoid and then bombarding her with it. Alec of course thought this was cute and endearing. He tried to play it off like it was some sort of moral test. ‘Think of all the starving children around the world who go to sleep cold and hungry. This is nothing compared to what they endure on a daily basis.’ That was true of course, but all it made Marin think of was what a self-righteous prick Alec was. Getting lectured by a guy who barley contributed to the rent and was riding in her car because he didn‟t have one of his own was the equivalent of being ridiculed about frivolous spending by the CEO of a bailed-out bank. Not to mention the fact that it brought out one of Alec‟s least attractive traits, his contemptuous smugness. It was during one of his musical hostage sessions that she‟d broken up with him. He‟d played Human League‟s “Don‟t You Want Me?” fifteen times in a row and on the sixteenth play she‟d answered him. “No, I don‟t.” Marin said. “What?” Alec asked, his shit-eating grin still firmly in place. “I don‟t want you and I don‟t want to be in this relationship anymore.” He‟d brushed it off, assuming she was just giving him a hard time. It wasn‟t until the next day when he came home from work and found his stuff in front of their apartment and the locks changed that he finally understood.


He had banged on the door for almost two hours before finally giving up and leaving. Marin had felt bad about that; about ending things without even a proper conversation, but she‟d had enough. She tried to contact him a few weeks after the split, but he was already gone. The next she‟d heard about him had been the news of the accident. Alec‟s posthumous musical tortures made his previous ones seem like a pleasant dream. He would cut off songs right as she was getting into them and play something that was the polar opposite of what she‟d been grooving to. His powers of annoyance had grown exponentially and he was eager to show them off; his newest trick had been playing songs she really liked over and over to make her sick of them. He didn‟t play them back-to-back the way he once had, instead slipping them in often enough that it put a subliminal irritation in her head that she couldn‟t shake. He had singlehandedly ruined entire albums for her, and in the case of the Pixies an entire band. Even hearing a few notes of “Gigantic” or “Here Comes Your Man” made her itchy and agitated and she hated Alec for it. She had tried leaving the radio off and that had worked for a while; Alec apparently didn‟t have the means to simply summon music out of the air. The peace was nice, but it didn‟t take long for the monotony and boredom to set in. More than that though, was that it felt like she was giving in to him and that was worse than the silence. Marin wondered if ghosts were exactly like the physical beings they once inhabited or if their personalities changed when they died. It seemed to her that it was the latter and that the bullying and manipulative aspects of Alec‟s personality had grown into his raison d‟être since becoming a specter. She started reading up on hauntings, poltergeists and spiritual possession. The whole idea still seemed ludicrous even while it was happening to her and Marin had a hard time taking any of the remedies very seriously. Still she dutifully burned sage and other spices to try and cleanse her apartment and car. She sprinkled red brick dust across the thresholds of her doors and even encircled her car in sea salt overnight, which caused more than a few odd stares from her neighbors. Nothing worked. Alec kept tagging along as her invisible commuter, ridding shotgun and bogarting the radio the whole way. “Dipshit could at least become corporeal and let me ride in the carpool lane.” Marin grumbled after having been subjected to a morning of Billy Joel that she could‟ve sworn she‟d deleted from her iTunes library years ago.


She was only a few blocks from work when “I Go to Extremes” came pummeling out of the speakers. “You want extremes motherfucker!” Marin shouted. “I‟ll load my playlists up with Manilow and see how you like it!” And that‟s when it hit her. A smile spread across her face as she pulled into the parking lot. Marin knew exactly what she needed to do. The next morning she would be ready for him. *** On the way home Alec had tormented her by playing later era Tori Amos, the albums she had bought out of a combination of loyalty and guilt and had abandoned after only a few plays. It didn‟t matter. Nothing he did could bring her down. Even after a night of slamming doors, flickering lights and the TV blaring on and off at all hours, she woke feeling invigorated and raring to go. She skipped her shower that morning and spent the time compiling songs from CDs she‟d had in a box in the back of her closet. When she finally finished the playlist contained over a hundred songs. She titled it “Exorcism Mix” and transferred it over to her iPod. The sky was gray and overcast and a light drizzle had speckled the windshield of her Corolla. She flicked on the wipers and lights, carefully backed out of her parking space and headed out onto the road before she hit the play button. Alec must‟ve been on to her plan because from the moment the bass-drum kicked in on the first song the radio started losing volume. Marin watched the knob as it slowly rotated counter-clockwise and snapped itself off. She immediately turned it back on, cranking the volume as the electronic thrum of synthesizers and computer-generated squalls of sound sailed over the steady thump, thump, thump, pounding underneath it all. When they‟d first gotten together she and Alec had shared a computer and they had agreed to eliminate the songs from their combined music library that overtly offended the other; it seemed simpler than constructing elaborate playlists of his and hers tracks and allowed them to import only what they absolutely needed. The first thing to go on his side was his collection of noise rock. Marin had actually admired the innovation of it, but just couldn‟t listen to it for more than a few minutes without getting a headache. Alec had grudgingly let those records go, but only after demanding that she get rid of all her Electronica, House, Club, Techno and Hip-Hop music from her high school days.


Marin knew the move was meant to wound her. Alec had never expressed any strong dislike for the tracks aside from rolling his eyes and calling them cheesy and he knew how important they were to Marin. Alec had given her some speech about growing up and shedding her adolescence. It was the kind of rhetoric he was fond of spouting, which she found particularly amusing considering how reticent he was to grow up himself. She had done it though, chalking it up to the kinds of sacrifices two people make in a relationship. It seemed like a small thing at the time. Looking back now it should‟ve been a warning sign, but she was too blinded by her infatuation with Alec to see it for what it was Heavy D & The Boyz blared out over the speakers and Marin gripped the wheel as her doors spontaneously locked and unlocked themselves and her windows began sliding up and down of their own accord. Now that we found love, what are we gonna doooooo with iiiiiiiit “You like that you son of a bitch!” The truth was that Marin hadn‟t so much as hummed the song in years, but she knew Alec despised it and that automatically made it one of her new favorites. Rain began spattering the interior of the car and pretty soon the left side of her body was soaked and she began to shiver as the windows continued to rise and fall. The volume control on her stereo spun and clicked off again and Marin immediately switched it back on and ratcheted up the volume until the speakers in her doors rattled the glass. With the volume fully cranked she pulled off the knob and chucked it out the window. “Go fetch asshole!” Cowgirl from Underworld started up and Marin began thumping the steering wheel with the heel of her hand. “This is my jam Alec! Feel that beat you Zuul-wannabe mother fucker!” The windows began to rattle in their frames, faster and faster until they suddenly dropped down into the doors. The rain began sheeting in sideways and she wiped the water from her eyes just in time to see her rearview mirror twist violently back and forth and then break off. Marin jerked her head to the side as the mirror sailed past her temple and bounced off the back seat and into the rear foot-well. “That the best you got? You always were an ineffectual little prick.”


Why don’t you call me I feel like flying in two.... Marin started to slow for a traffic light up ahead and just as she pivoted her foot over to the brake the gas pedal dropped to the floor. She quickly jerked the steering wheel and switched lanes, narrowly avoiding the car in front of her, and flew through the intersection just as the light changed from yellow to red. She tried to wedge the toe of her foot underneath the gas pedal, but it remained pinned to the ground. Marin pressed down steadily on the brake, forcing herself not to slam it. The car was at sixty as she approached the next intersection and the light was blessedly green, but she was going to run out of road in less than three miles and there was no way she could turn at her current speed. Marin carefully pushed the pedal the rest of the way down as her breaks screamed in protest and the smell of grinding metal filled the inside of the car. She gripped the wheel tight in her left hand and simultaneously pulled up on the handle of the emergency break with her right. The car shuddered like it was about to shake itself to pieces and she fought the wheel as the rear of the vehicle fishtailed violently. She tried to maintain control and keep the Corolla in the lane, but it became a sled on the wet asphalt and went sliding off the side of the road and down the embankment that bordered it. Marin closed her eyes and screamed so loudly that it felt like it was coming from somewhere outside her. There was a deafening bang followed by another and then a tinkling clatter that was almost musical. When she finally opened her eyes she saw through the web of her front windshield that the hood of her car was tented and smoking. The front passenger window had shattered and there was a heap of crumbled glass fragments in the seat next to her that she thought looked like a pile of shiny diamonds. She smiled at the thought and suddenly realized that Cowgirl was still playing in the car, though it was crackly and faded in the background like she was hearing it through a tin can. “Still my jam motherfucker.” Marin said weakly and winced as she felt the cut on her upper lip for the first time. “Still my jam.” ***


Her lip ended up needing three stitches, which was nothing compared to the gash on the top of her scalp that required an even dozen, and which Marin didnâ€&#x;t even know about until after she had flagged down a car and was on her way to the hospital. She felt like Frankenstein for the first few weeks back at work and the stares from her co-workers only intensified when she refused to tell them how she had received her injuries. After a while a story about her accident began circulating, but no one knew what had really happened. Marin never encountered Alec after that. She didnâ€&#x;t know whether her stunt had worked and she had driven him off or if heâ€&#x;d just grown tired of her and moved on to haunting someone else. If it was the latter she hoped that whoever it was had comprehensive auto and medical insurance as well as a solid supply of early nineties dance tunes. Heaven knows they were going to need it.

Peter fell into fiction by writing stories to amuse his grammar-school classmates, which helped him overcome his shyness, but led to very few completed homework assignments. He has an abiding love of cheese in all its gloriously stinky forms, horror movies with a sense of humor and trashy punk and garage-rock. He was raised and currently resides in Chicago with his wife and cats. His writing has appeared in The Delinquent, Candlelight, Black Words On White Paper and Spook City.


I Know You Know‌ By Susan Adams

I know you know I'm sitting here listening for your move I can hear you chew crumbs crisp their fall, the fence is a barrier that sometimes exposes. We breathe the air of the other and have never met. The space between us waits. When you are not next door silence minds its own. When you are molecules cluster, cause an electronica that curbs my wander. I cannot loose myself with this synthetic quiet chewing the lips of yourself, sucking my breath.

Susan Adams is an Australian poet who has been published extensively in anthologies, online and print literary journals both in Australia and internationally. She has been read numerously on ABC Radio National. Recent publications have included Eureka Street, Nth Position (UK), Great Works (UK), Eclecticism Aus), Sugarmule (USA), Bacopa (USA), Hecate (Aus,) Social Alternatives (Aus), Ascent Aspirations (Ca), Cordite (Aus), The Chaffey Review (USA). She is preparing her first collection.


Kitchen Bros By Thomas Mundt

The Kitchen Bros are holding court again. This time, they‟re debating the relative merits of two record producers from the „70s. They all agree that both were black and from Memphis but there is considerable disagreement over one‟s intangibles, his Fuck, man, you just can’t… I mean, talk about a… I mean, you just can’t fuckin’… I mean…

They‟re making everybody‟s lives difficult because this is a party and you‟re supposed to be able access your beer but the fridge is blocked.

“Je ne sais quoi. One has it, one doesn‟t.”

This I offer as I reach past the Arm & Hammer, in search of my last Stella, now sweating in the mitts of one of the Bros. The fat one with the lazy eye. Still, he musters a crook with it.

“Go back to Equatorial New Guinea.”

The other Bros cackle because Equatorial New Guinea is very, very random, and if there‟s one thing the Kitchen Bros love it‟s something, anything, you might not know or care about, brandished like a mace and swung into your face from atop their highass horses.

I decide that I need to find Christine, and my coat, immediately.

***


At work, I answer to a man named Glenn. He has terrible taste in slacks and his breath smells like a late-August recycling bin, sour and sugary at once. I prepare his correspondence and, occasionally, arrange for his kids‟ ride home from Catholic School when his wife picks up an extra Aqua Zumba class.

Glenn also loves sandwiches, but this has everything to do with our local Panera‟s proximity to the Aveda Institute. He returns from his lunch hour flushed and short of breath, a horny anthropologist back from the field and eager to report his findings to his khaki‟d colleagues. The twenty-somethings in his division are always more than happy to indulge him, fresh off campus lawns and sponge-like in all matters ribald.

“We‟re talking Whale Tail City here. Guess who‟s runnin‟ for mayor?”

Inevitably, Glenn‟s thumbs point back to Glenn, Mayor-Elect of Whale Tail City. I typically give his contingent several beats to compose themselves, to allow their cerebrums to process sixty minutes worth of beauty school butt, before entering Glenn‟s office to fill his Inbox with another stack of unsigned Demand Letters and Notices of Representation.

In that instant, I become very aware of my own thong, a line of nude-colored fire ants marching up my ass crack.

“Thank you, Steph.”

I am microscopic. I could get sucked into the HVAC system and remain in the ducts for years, lifetimes.

***


We‟re drunk and the concrete hasn‟t been salted so Christine and I lock arms, dipping our toes into the steps as we would a lake, careful not to slip and shatter important bones. The sky is doing its weird winter thing, lavender and menacing.

The party continues. We invented flimsy excuses to leave, early-morning appointments with endodontists and parents‟ friends‟ travel agents, respectively. The truth is that Christine and I have myriad things, solitary things that have earned bad reps for creepiness, that we would rather being doing to draw our evenings to a close than fucking any of the wretched men whose acquaintance we made upstairs.

“This won‟t always be a waste of time.”

The wind keeps blowing Christine‟s hair into her mouth, so the words come out like she‟s chewing newspaper.

“I‟m almost certain you‟re one-hundred percent wrong about that.”

Christine‟s ride is humming on the curb and when the cabbie rolls down the window to less-than-politely request that she come the fuck on already, I hear vibraphones.

“Toodles.”

I am the recipient of a blown kiss from a friend and that is all I‟m left with at that particular moment, standing on the sidewalk. There is still a light on in the kitchen, one that I imagine will burn until end times. ***

Thomas Mundt lives in Chicago. He is the author of the short-story collection You Have Until Noon to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe (Goldfish Press, 2011) and a 2012 Pushcart Prize nominee.


28 Rue Jacob* Suzanne Allen

With complete indifference, perched at one corner of the desk, the window behind me, one shoulder hunched and my knees crossed, I wrote. —Colette

If you go, go in the middle of the night, after a late dinner in the Latin Quarter and a bottle of wine. Take Boulevard Saint Germain to Rue de Seine and walk toward the river, down hill. Cafes will be full of young Parisians who won‟t even notice you. Turn left at Paul and stand across the street from its picture windows. Watch the Algerian bakers turning dough, kneading and letting it rest, then rise. They score the baguettes with knives. Butter and flour hang in the air like scarves thrown off.

Go in the middle of the night, especially after rain. If you didn‟t know to look for it, you wouldn‟t even notice it. There isn‟t any plaque that says she lived here.** The chipping paint and graying white are more romantic in the wet streetlight, and the wobblestone


streets are empty if you go in the middle of the night. Stand across the street from it, in front of the boutique with nothing but red chandeliers. Her last salon—across town at the Palais Royal due north across the Seine—was all in red, but this one was her first. Take pictures of the blue front doors. Count the floors—one, two, three flights of stairs she climbed to rise above his affair with the accountant.

“Don‟t be afraid of the spicy details,” her new husband said to her here. “Funds are low.” If you go, go in the middle of the night. Picture the green desk lamp glowing in the window, and a woman with some notebooks and an inkwell, signing her husband‟s name.

Colette‟s first Paris address… where she wrote the Claudine novels—sensational coming of age stories based on her provincial youth. *

** Since January, 2009 there is, in fact, a plaque.


Which Moths Break In and Steal? By Suzanne Allen

Not all of them. That‟s for sure. Some just flutter about in the street lamps all night and not all of them are assigned the complicated task. Most do not have a propensity to carry off with any more than they can nibble for themselves. But the ones with a tenacious persistence, the ones that will fly in your face evading the swing of a hand or magazine, these are the ones who will rob you blind. Not the silver, not the gold jewelry, not even the woolen coats and sweaters where the others flock. It‟s the love letters they‟re after… and the photographs, so why not just burn them all? Watch the real daredevils rush into the flames.

Suzanne Allen‟s poems appear in Not a Muse, (Haven Books, 2009) Strangers in Paris (Tightrope Books, 2011) and Villanelles (Random House, 2012) and in literary journals such as Tears in the Fence, Nerve Cowboy, Upstairs at Duroc, Spot Lit Mag, Pearl, California Quarterly, and Cider Press Review—who nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. She is a co-editor of the Paris based issue. ZERO, and her chapbook, Verisimilitude, is available at Corrupt Press.


The Living Together Continuum By Alan Passman

When we kiss our eyeglasses clink like we‟re toasting, l‟chaim! And if you‟ve never seen Fiddler on the Roof, then that means “to life” and that is what we‟re celebrating when we lock lips like fighting fish. Yet those scaly fucks don‟t have these boxy horn-rimmed things on their faces.

At other times, our lenses are the steamy windows of the cars that line the cliff edge of Makeout Pointe every date night in every city nationwide and quite possibly the world. Those obscured windshields that hide unseen groping and practice runs at baby making, test pilots on the airstrip of procreation.

My mouth is either a size too big or yours a size too small. Tongues too of the same such proportions are the candle flicker atop a menorah or a birthday cake. Lights trumpeting that presents soon unwrapped will behold a greater glory untold.

Gift wrap or clothing, what‟s the difference? Rip, tear, rend, then left scattered like the how, the why, the when, but not the who, we know who. That‟s the important piece of info in a convo spoken in whispers in the darkness of shared room. Hello Kitty and a black velvet painting of Satan cohabitating on wall spaces, remnants


of family photo albums of separate childhoods sealed together, magnets of belonging pin them to the fridgeâ€&#x;s alabaster face.

Your life bleeding into mine into yours, showering together to save time and money on cold mornings. We soap crevices, aching to fill or be filled later but knowing that we canâ€&#x;t afford the bane of tardiness that might take away those vocations that allow us to perpetuate this pupal period, where we might glide out with manicured wings or just fade from Technicolor to monochrome to ash, ghost murmurs of memories of well spent time.


Hundreds of Women Running Rampant By Alan Passman

Smelling of honeysuckle, rampaging rabid. Hundreds of wet spots like a cheetah in the ocean. They are legion, an inflammation, estrus is tantamount to invasion.

Untied aprons displaying protuberant tits swaying, mystifying us, the supposed stronger sex, with exploits of sexual dimorphism.

Plumage displayed like battle flags, coiffed and coiffeured alongside the appropriate couture of fishnets, legwarmers, heels, garters, war paint of blush, lacquered in a blood rouge. All a careful rouse for disarmament.


They don this amorous armor to make us paralytics below the belt. They illicit battle cries, sensuous moans, aching for our surrender. They storm our hearts and crotches, descending upon them like warriors of old, ensconced in the primeval hungering for melee and death.

The battle of the sexes now waged and lost, we find the feminine mystique exulted as a high priestess, drinking blood and sperm from male skulls. Chanting incantations, plotting the next campaign.

Alan Passman strives for impossibility. His aesthetic, one that blends blatant pop cultural nerdery with red hot American male deviancy, masks the empathetic heart of one who has hurt and one who has been hurt. He has had two chapbooks, Pop Monger and These Vertigo Transmissions, published by Viva Vox Press. Ever the renaissance man, he is not only a poet and a writer of prose but also a musician in the Los Angeles-based band The Terrapin. He received his BA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach for Creative Writing and Poetry respectively. Currently, he teaches English as a Second Language at CSULB.


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Crack the Spine - Issue 9  

Literary Magazine

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