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Crack the Spine

Literary magazine

Issue 198

Issue 198 September 6, 2016 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2016 by Crack the Spine

Cover Art

“Dot” by Jean Wolff Born in Detroit, Michigan, Jean Wolff studied fine arts at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit and at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, receiving a BFA in studio arts. She then attended Hunter College, CUNY in New York, graduating with an MFA in painting and printmaking. She’s since had group and solo exhibits in various galleries in New York City and internationally and is part of the artistic community of Westbeth in Manhattan.

CONTENTS Bonnie Lykes

The Secret Language of Women

Lauren Lara

Jan Stinchcomb The Widow

The Old House

Lee Landau

Pie in the Sky

Steven J. Rogers The X Variations

Brett Pribble

Freedom Penis

Chris Stewart

A Nervous Breakdown

Nettie Farris

Sentenced to Death by Drowning Alice Demands Demarcation

Bonnie Lykes

The Secret Language of Women While manly jaws masticate shiny sandwiches Shovel whatever tends to be shoveled Pine for ball-peen hammers Or pluck forgotten plaid rolled up in tight balls from behind car seats There lives a lexicon that mocks the world he thinks he knows It rides the breeze like rising bubbles in a crystal glass Just beyond the bee-stung kisses saved for the world Are a katrillion bio-processors Ticking off observations Made from the fresh clay of categorized emotion The side push of a cheek muscle The northward flip of hand to hair, The back turned ever slightly, shutting out but letting in Whatever needs to be known Female RKO stations sending out invisible waves down an electric fence: Call me. Let’s talk. What’s wrong with you? What’s that in between? I saw that. There is no hiding.

The jerk of a quarter-inch forehead muscle says: Why did you do that? Who are you, right now? Should I be embarrassed to wear this fake aquamarine fur? I hope we’re both right and I hope we’re both wrong. Twitches and silky snaps obese with clarity Soiled by their right to exist Zero apologies A kind of cherished transparency If you came into this world with a double X chromosome, You are allotted a side pocket, Your own satchel of electricity, a portal of tricks This includes eyebrow arches That rival the sacred geometry of a Moroccan marketplace, Smirks that expose high holy hurricanes spun from the slightest fib And mouth corners that ease into vague shapes, Which incessantly relay what the truth may or may not be Words are traffic cones to these contortions, Because these tiny Post-its should be left Like a hard bay leaf in a hot stew The girl-baby absorbs this palate of symbols From her mother in the dark of the womb

So noise and logic only stir up a bubbling mess Of what is meant as raw sacrament These moments are fragile Dipping down with the devil’s spoon Scraping up the most bottom of the barrel pride Protected by a beautiful claw These seconds pass your radar like a hairless cat on a fence Brown eyes gleaming innocent from a knowing smile Given like a tonic from African sisters, Or wisdom whipping out from waspy woolen skirts That educate in shards of shame Or curt emotion from too happy Asian daughters We all know exactly what language we speak No matter where we live on this changing chunk The medium is the egg and the chick is the message In this order She passes it like a bright dahlia to another woman Who may or may not appreciate the color and sharpness of the petals. The point is; information has been exchanged Like a small Bible you’d find on the back of a toilet tank Take it or leave it, it’s there for you

Sticking and stained you glean every nuance Because it says so much that you need to know for your own survival You should watch your step in trying to reverse engineer Her collection of disappointed conclusions Or what propels the perfect flower pushed from each heart ventricle This world is real You needy desperate world of mother lovers Thimbles of our truth spin out And then, much to our sudden surprise in that given second We get it Love you, miss you already, there you are— Here you go, kiss-kiss, bye-bye! It doesn’t matter what you think you saw or what you meant to say: We know Exactly What’s going on

Jan Stinchcomb The Widow

What Miranda likes most about her lover: he transforms himself to suit her needs. Just now he was gentlemanly, speaking with an English accent as he escorted her home from the market, carrying her bags, taking her by the waist to keep her from walking into a convertible with a giant balloon swan in the backseat. Yesterday morning he threw her on the bed while Rick was at a meeting. He was rough then, yes, his eyes turning dark and his voice dropping to a delicious baritone. And at the dinner party last Friday, when Miranda’s shyness made her disappear into the white tablecloth, he was a sweet guy from her hometown, giving her a pep talk as he rubbed the small of her back. She can never resist this mind reader who knows her soul. She has been awake for five hours now, and, while chopping vegetables and copyediting, fielding texts and setting appointments, she is searching for her lover in the corners of her mind, and when she finds him they will fly together to that place where, without ever having to speak, she is heard. Rick is the problem. No--she loves Rick, would sacrifice herself for Rick, which is why it’s sad and strange that Rick has to die. Alas, there is no way around it. Miranda can’t bear to let him live, even in a fantasy, while she’s with her lover. It wouldn’t be fair to anybody. She likes herself in widow’s weeds. Draped in black, she feels her lover’s hands on her breasts. He pulls her into the bedroom closet before she leaves for the funeral mass. No. Too obvious. Maybe he’s waiting for her when she gets home from the reception.

A storyline can drop so easily. The good ones have a way of enduring. She closes her eyes each night as her favorite setting welcomes her home. Same lover. Rick does not exist, thank God, though it takes a plunge backward in time and across a separate continent to free herself of him. Miranda looks great in a tight bodice and full skirt, her features chiseled just right. She is ready. Here comes her lover. Sometimes he lifts her skirts and takes her without words, and other times they have to go through several rounds of banter before they can earn their union. It all depends on how tired she is. She often falls asleep in the middle of a bedtime fantasy and prays she hasn’t betrayed herself in the dark. Once, when she was a young girl, she confessed her bad habit to her mother. “I’m not really here in the world with the rest of you. I’m always imagining things. Nothing I care about is real. I don’t want to be like this but I’m so bored. I don’t like life, or the world. I hate it.” Her mother convinced Miranda not to worry. “It’s because you’re creative,” she said. Then Miranda killed her, too.

Lee Landau Pie in the Sky

What Flows Forget Mrs. O’Leary’s cow Falling stars, blinking lights. Free fall in blackest of nights. Faster still, faster ride that Filly, her neighs wither dawn. Flicker of flashes—the Milky Way Floats pie in the sky as sun Fades, moonbeams bedazzle Favor eventide, feast on darkness. Fancy, fearful, sometimes flaunted Finds pie in the sky as it Founders--Flickering at sunrise.

Steven J. Rogers The X Variations

It’s the kind of dream where I know I’m asleep. I’m in the middle of 26th street by the old train station. Instead of cars, or people, or the drone of urbanity, there is hay. Dry grasses blowing in the breeze. It’s peaceful and quiet. The kind of quiet so loud it hurts. So loud I wake up. I think it’s morning. I’m on an afghan rug in the middle of a hardwood floor. It’s totally dark and I’m not sure where I am. There’s a cacophonous buzzing in my ear, like an insect, or fuzz from an old television. I try to swat it, but there’s nothing to swat, and the buzz continues endlessly like a din current of electricity stuck inside my brain. I listen for a minute, try to find the pattern in the hum, the beauty of it, but I can’t. I make out the blurry outline of an end table, a lamp. I turn it on. I know this place. Blackout curtains cover every window in the apartment. I think they exist to block out the oppressive summer heat, or maybe to keep it dark enough to sleep during the day. I don’t know. I don’t live here. Sarah lets me stay here, on an artists sponsorship. Everything seems different than when I first got here. Like someone came in and changed the living room into the set of television sitcom; a big picture window, an island attached to the kitchen with open wall cabinets stocked with generic packaged food. Product placements so the viewers at home know what to buy from their local grocer.

The “BZZZZZZ.” doesn’t stop. I try to ignore it and close my eyes. I drift back to sleep, but stop myself. I don’t have the time. The only thing I’ve ever wanted is more time. More time to try to make noise that transcends the bounds of any conception of reality, or time and place. The ability to find the time to lose the time, for a broke jazz musician, is as elusive as payment for a jazz musician. Between the waitressing gig at the diner, and backup gigs, I never had the time to play my horn. Lack of time is how I ended up here. They gave me a grant to record an album. They said, they found me at an open mic over on 26th street. They said I made beautiful ethereal sounds, and wanted to give me the opportunity to record. Sarah, who I think is on the board of directors for “they” let me use her apartment, to get intimate with some new tracks. Within a few weeks, they would rent a studio a couple blocks away, where they thought I’d be comfortable recording. When Sarah showed me around the apartment, she told me that I should play my horn in the foyer so I wouldn’t bother the neighbors. It feels like I’ve been here forever, but it doesn’t feel like I’ve been practicing forever. Except my lips are numb, and my index finger has an open callous like I’ve been laying it into my horn. “BZZZZZZZZ,” it continues. Coffee. Maybe I need coffee. I move to the kitchen, search the cabinets and fridge for caffeine. There’s a calendar plastered on the door, with a picture a cat in a tree branch on the top half, and big boxes with the days on the bottom. A red pen has crossed out twenty-one of those boxes. Each day marked with a slightly different “x;” a loop at the end of a line, an “x” with a circle around it, an “x” with hands and feet and a head that floats above the rest of the body.

“The X Variations,” the perfect title for a song played in the simple scale of C. C, the note with no flats or sharps. Like the “x’s” on the calendar I could distort it with my horn, make it complicated and unrecognizable. Like Coltrane did with “On Green Dolphin Street.” There’s a red pen in my pocket and the “x’s” look like I drew them. I don’t remember writing any “x,” but how could I forget? I creeping fear of adult onset madness spreads through my stomach. The kind of insanity not even coffee can fix. There’s only one way to clear my head. I need to play. I walk to the foyer. My sax lays in the middle of the floor, the neck cork disconnected from the rest of the body. The reed is wet and the ligature twisted like someone played it well into the night before. Maybe someone else was in the apartment. “Hello,” my voice sounds meek and small. I clear my throat, and shout, “If someone else is in here, you need to get out. This is Sarah’s apartment.” Nothing but silence, except the buzz gets louder. I lay down next to my horn and listen. Despite my confusion, and lingering fear that there’s something wrong with not being able to remember the better part of the past twenty-one days, I always feel better the closer I am to my horn. I’ve known some musicians who’ve named their respective instruments. Sally is pretty common amongst percussionists. Suzy with trumpet players. But I never have. My sax transcends the need for a simple human name. I try to think of my horn like one would think of the sunset, an experience that’s as grounding as it is celestial. “BZZZZZZ,” it comes from the kitchen. I carefully screw the ligature back onto the neck cork and pet my horn like I’m saying goodbye to a loved one. There’s no way to make music with that buzz.

In the kitchen, the buzz is so piercing I can imagine a version of reality where it ruptures my eardrums. I’d fall to the floor, and grasp my ears as blood flowed like a river through my fingers. “Shut up,” I scream, as though the noisy culprit can understand English. The buzz stops and a voice, deep and crusty, with an British accent comes from behind the curtain above the sink. “Didn’t your mother insist you refrain from using such vulgar slang? A simple, ‘be quiet’ would suffice.” “You’re not supposed to be here,” I try to say with authority, but my voice sounds meek again. I reach out to the culprit, but stop myself. How could a man fit inside such a small window frame? It isn’t more than four feet high, and three across, with three inches of space between the window and the curtain. I don’t think I want to see what kind of gross aberration of reality could inhabit such a space. “You remember,” the voice says, “When you were eleven years old, digging through your father’s dusty vinyl collection he kept hidden away in the attic. How you thought he kept it there because he was ashamed, that he’d once been the kind of man who had tastes and interests that transcended mowing the lawn, or watching Law and Order reruns?” “How do you know about that?” “Underneath all those Classic Rock standards, you found an Alice Coltrane album. Eternity. On the cover, Alice sat in a hay field with a long flowing dress, looking like she was contemplating the mysteries of the universe. It surprised you, something so elegant could be in the middle of hay. Hay — the only thing you saw out the window of the school bus in the morning, and you were so bored by it.”

“That’s enough,” I scream. I’ve never told anyone about my relationship with Alice. Whoever is behind that curtain, somehow snuck inside my soul, and ripped out my memories. I yank the curtain, split it in half, and jump back as it crashes onto the sink. There’s no small man, or being of any kind on the other side, only more darkness. It’s that time of morning just before sunrise, the witching hour I think it’s called. I look out the window. The city wakes up. A small crowd of tired people wait for the bus, a homeless man stirs underneath a dirty blanket. I should go out there, be a part of the world for a little while, maybe get my head on straight, but I can’t. I have time. I turn to head back into the foyer, but it returns… “bzzzzzz.” A fly hovers in the center of the window. With clenched fists, I punch the insect, hit him square with the knuckle of my middle finger. The window wavers and cracks with the blow. I hold up the corpse of my intruder, still smeared across the back of my hand, for any insects still lingering in the kitchen to see. “If any of you other winged beasts feel the need to harass me, this will be your fate.” I forget about the forgetting, the buzz, the conversation with nobody, and return to foyer. The only thing on my mind, “The X Variations.” I lean against the wall, like a sax player from a late nineteen-eighties music video, and shove my horn into the very concept of C. With every breath I rip apart the simplicity of the major key, press it against itself until it becomes unrecognizable, like a maimed victim of a near-fatal car crash. “The X Variations” feels comfortable, familiar, even banal, like I’ve played it a hundred times before, and still don’t like it.

“You have played it a hundred times,” the intruders voice comes from my hand, the smeared guts of the fly still crusted in my pores. I set down my sax, and furiously wipe the corpse against the wall, but it only burrows deeper into my skin. “It is incredible what twenty-one days of insanity can do to a girl. Look in the kitchen. Underneath the sink. It will all make sense.” “Shut up!” I shout, as I bash the remnants of the intruder against my sax. I hit the ligature so hard the neck cork twists off. The disconnected pieces bounce and scatter across the floor. The visage of my mangled horn looks oddly reminiscent of the way I found it. The deja-vu makes me feel like my brain is filled with mashed potatoes. Dizzy, I brace the wall, and pull myself towards the kitchen. “All you have to do is look.” The voice of my intruder sounds muddled like it’s inside of a cave, or the padded walls of an insane asylum. The morning sun crests well beyond the center tile in the middle of the floor. I must have played for a few hours. I open the cabinet underneath the sink, and stacks on top of stacks of pages filled with notes and sheet music, written in my handwriting, pour out. I page through them. They are all in “C.” “The X Variations.” “You have played it thousands of times.” “When?” I search my mind for the memory, but find nothing. The intruder knows about my father’s vinyl collection, it must be able to access my memories, and take them away at will. “You took them from me.” I raise my hand to bash the intruder against the floor. Maybe, if I kill it I can get the memory of my work back. But that doesn’t make sense. How could it steal my memories, if I still had Alice?

A knock echoes from the front door. “Hey, sweetie, it’s Sarah. It’s Monday, are you still able to record?” She speaks from the hallway. To record. That was the deal, but what can I play? “Give me my memories back,” I whisper to the intruder. “I don’t have your memories.” I can find them, they’re scattered on the floor. I read through the notes. It’s clear “The X Variations” is boring, simple, as inspired as a Dave Brubeck piece. The page on the bottom of the stack doesn’t have any music, only hastily written words, “the worst thing is when you get what you’ve asked for. I miss the comfort of never having the time to practice.” “I need you to think about Alice Coltrane’s Eternity” the intruder’s voice is nearly inaudible, "and the first time you played it on your fathers old record player in the den.” “I can’t think about Alice, I need to…” I trail off. I can hear the key in the front door turn. Sarah is coming. I run into the bathroom and lock the door. “At first,” the intruder continues, “you thought you were listening to some sort of joke. Alice wasn’t playing music. There were no words, no rhythms like the pop standards on the radio. But then it hit. ‘Los Cabbalos.’ The second song on the album.” “The third, the song after ‘Wisdom Eye,’ ” I whisper. “ ‘Los Caballos.’ That song courses through your veins more than your blood. A simple non-conformist waltz with bongos and a Hammond Organ. A song similar to your ‘X Variations.’ ” I can hear Sarah’s footsteps in the kitchen. She must see the cracked window, the broken curtains, my notes scattered on the floor. My secret shame.

“Six minutes into the piece, after the extended drum solo, the organ comes back in and the song peaks. You remember the first time you heard it peak? Sitting there, thinking about the up-coming school dance, about the weeds your father asked you to pick from the garden. But once the Hammond came back, you didn’t think about anything at all. Lost in the music, gone from the corporeal world. In that moment, you intuited that your life wasn’t typical, and it was, all at the same time. The hay fields, the school bus, your boring father were all a part of a cosmic beauty that didn’t need to make sense.” “Get out of my head.” “ ‘Los Caballos,’ the best high you’ve ever experienced, total catharsis through Alice and her Hammond. You’ve been chasing that high ever since. Have you ever felt as good as you felt with Alice when you're playing your horn?” “No.” “You will never be able to create the feeling she gave you in others,” the intruder whispers. The last words it will ever speak. I bash the intruder against the pedestal sink, the porcelain splits in two, and half the sink crashes onto the floor. The memories of the past twenty-one days stream through my skull. Days spent trying to play “The X Variations,” and instead lost to the haze of creative insecurity. Days spent pacing, playing solitaire on my phone, and watching macaroni boil. Sarah’s footsteps arrive outside the bathroom. “I heard you play when I was knocking about an hour ago. It was beautiful. You didn’t hear me knock?” I open the door and try to smile for Sarah. Try to appear like everything is okay.

Sarah holds up the sheet music for “The X Variations.” “Sweetheart, this piece is incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it.” “It’s nothing compared to Alice.” I say as I push past Sarah and rush into living room. My hand, ripped open along the knuckle, veins exposed, touches on Sarah’s wool cardigan. A streak of blood drips down her sleeve. “Your hand. My sink.” “I — I’m going to go to the store to get a bandage.” I say. I run through the sitcom living room, past my horn, and out of the apartment. When I reach the street, I turn to see Sarah running after me. “What is happening?” She asks, loud enough so the people waiting for the bus turn to see the commotion. I don’t answer. I run. Like I'm running from a rabies-infected pitbull. I don’t stop until the sun has crested well past the center of the sky, and into the afternoon. I look behind me. Sarah is gone, and so is everything about the city that’s familiar. Wherever I am, there’s tall buildings that glisten in the sunset on both sides of the street. The sidewalks are filled with families in bright t-shirts, with bulky bags slung over their shoulders, and eyes filled with wonder. I sit at a bus stop and watch the strangers. They must be tourists, absconding from their typical lives on the periphery of normal; tax accountants, high school science teachers, small town city councilors. Their lives must be so placid and serene. No matter how much I covet that kind of existence, I know I can’t be like them. My hand is turning purple. I need my hand. My horn needs my hand. Down the street, there’s a sign with a white cross on it with the words, “urgent care” in neon lights underneath. I turn my attention from the tourists and walk towards it.

Brett Pribble Freedom Penis

Mike, not Michael, squeezed a black marker in his blazer pocket in preparation of drawing the penis that would change the world. As he shoved through the crowd, a punk rock band fired up the Orlando pub. They were just posers, accepting cash for tickets in the American oligarchy. Their music wasn’t brining revolution. Mike had to destroy the system piece by piece—starting with this pub. That’d teach Wall Street and his upper class suburban parents a lesson. Who they hell did they think they were making him take piano lessons? Drawing the freedom penis wouldn’t be easy. Skinner, a longtime lush Mike placed somewhere between fifty and seventy-five years old, spent every Saturday night in the pub bathroom. No one understood why. Some guessed it made Skinner feel important, but bar regulars accepted it. His bathroom patrol had become a novelty that people visited the pub to experience. Mike nudged the restroom door. A hipster with a blue mohawk was at a urinal, and someone else was in the stall. Skinner sat on the ground with his head against the sink. He’d thrown up on his No Fear t-shirt, and his camo shorts were stained with piss. He winced up at Mike through dirty glasses, which he’d taped back together on multiple occasions. “Urinal’s free, kid.” Mike glanced at the empty stall next to the guy with the mohawk. “I got to do number two.” He raised two fingers as proof. Skinner nodded. “The old number two, eh. Pinching one out. Dropping a bomb.”

“Yep. I have to go.” Skinner laughed. “You don’t have to do nothing in this life, kid.” “I agree,” Mike replied, “but I really have to go.” Skinner scratched his chin as the mohawked man reached over him to wash his hands. “There’s a water crisis in California,” Skinner said to him. A hippie exited the stall and Mike darted past inside and slammed the door. “Whoa there, Speed Racer,” Skinner called out. Mike dropped his jeans and perched himself. The marker felt like a grenade in his pocket. In a few seconds, it would explode. He popped its top and drew an ebony line inside the stall—slashing the oligarchy’s throat. The flag of revolution rose within him. Refusing to pick the lesser of two evils, he drew the mushroom-like head of a sword. All evil would be cut down by this inked schlong. He wouldn’t sell out and vote for a corporate democrat over a hatemongering republican; he’d rise like the outlined phallus before him. The nation was two testicles away from an uprising. Skinner slid his head under stall and gaped up at Mike. “What’s taking you so long in here?” “Get out, you perv,” Mike hollered. “Okay, okay,” Skinner replied. “But… ” He examined Mike. “Why are you holding a marker? You’re not vandalizing historic property?” “Get out or I’ll call the police.” “Fine. Fine, good sir,” he said. “But if you can’t go, and it happens to all of us, don’t think you have to flush. California is in a serious water crisis right now.” Mike gritted his teeth. “This is Florida.” “Someday you’ll understand we’re all citizens of the world, my boy.”

“Get out or I’ll scream.” Skinner sighed and said, “Apathy. Apathy killed the cat.” He winked at Mike and slid out from under the stall. After catching his breath, Mike scribbled on: two giant gonads, squiggly pubes, and the words SUCK ON THIS SELLOUTS emblazoned in all caps above the mutinous joystick. He’d done it. Mike counted the new score: freedom fighters one, sellouts zero. Soon all the pseudo rockers would enter this stall only to find that their art was a half measure, that they could, quite simply, eat a dick. Mike plunged the marker back in his pocket and yanked up his Spiderman underwear. Marching out of the bathroom, he turned to Skinner and said, “Your days of fraud are over, old man.” Before Skinner could reply, Mike slammed the door behind him and burst back into the throbbing crowd. All around him, people jumped to the beat, swayed to the chorus lines. He felt his heart pounding against his chest and ogled their heavy breaths. He was right back in the center of it. The mosh pit raged. Crowd surfers glided above the audience. Mike was back with fellow punk rockers, feeling the bass of the speakers pulse through him. All of a sudden, the dizziness overwhelmed him, so he found a corner in the back of the bar where he could sit. He’d drawn the penis, but everything looked the same. Now what?

Chris Stewart

A Nervous Breakdown In A Nightclub As A Dichotomous Key Roman A Clef This is a roman a clef, A novel with a key. Except, these keys are dichotomous. You know what dichotomous means. Remember that Biology lesson Separating bugs into 2 piles? 6 legs insect 8 legs arachnid. Consider Fairuza... Fairuza is best described by her homemade patchwork-quilt dress; Rayon - fake. Her sternum wears the sun. Beneath the blue bib of her skyline Recline the cobalt hills of an azure British countryside. Sun rays shower her molehills. She smells of English hedgerow; mole droppings, Stoat paraphernalia, privet and elderflower cordial.

I bet she tastes like coconut milk with that creamy-white skin, Or, mebbes, just a little bit, like a Thai massage. I wanna schluck off my muddied galoshes, Tamp down her wheat, Lay in her furrows and let Sun dapples batter my eyelids. However... I am an ectomorph,predominant somatotype 1-1-7; A pathetic preponderance of skin and nervous tissue. Any idea what it's like to have a back like a thumbprint, That conglomeration of nerve ganglia to flesh? All I feel is pain. I'm an anxious individual. A wallflower, Shrinking violet, in the popular. Geek, nerd,weirdo, Depending on your take in the colloquial. An avoidant type personality, Or shizotypal/avoidant, Or borderline histrionic, In the lingua franca of the online self-assessment tests I habitually take: Which Oily Fish Best Describes You? I’m a Mood Hoover, asocial resistor, Drawing on the craic of social circuit, A sebaceous cyst.

I yearn to be Mentos in Diet Coke, Someone people buzz off, A transducer. Last week's Fairuza is best described By her homemade patchwork quilt dress. This week's Fairuza's is best described By her '20s flapper bob, The V where the pleats of her Manga-style Gothic Lolita dress press, Knee socks, And incongruous rainbow umbrella (even though it isn't inclement), Charlotte Gainsbourg’s dimple chin And Delia Derbyshire lips. Yes, Fairuza is top of my list. Fairuza’s transient specifics conclude: A grubby Cinderella With wicked-hot legs. Last weeks Fairuza's knee Covertly kisses mine under the real ale table An intentionally dropped McGuffin in a Soviet spy thriller. This week's Fairuza's knee is dancing!

With him... He is best described by his left arm; A half-complete Celtic braid. His arm is a Colouring In Book Of cliche: Smorgasbord pecs, chicken fillets laid out on a breadboard, Alpha-smug reverse male mullet, Love beads and wheat beer beard. He is a predominant somatotype 1-1-7: Characterised by a preponderance Of skin and nervous tissue. I am characterised by a preponderance of skin And nervous tissue. What's the difference? He is clearly Times New Roman font masquerading As an Helvetica. "Helvetica, "Helvetica!

"Do better, think bigger! "I know Wikipedia's no substitute for a lack imagination "But if you're really gonna reinvent yourself at least put in the effort. "What's your excuse for not looking up something a tad more obscure? "You could be a Hiroshige Sans, Kabel, Lato, "Or Lexia Readable "- designed to redress legibility issues related to dyslexia. "But no. Helvetica. "Helvetica? "Helvetica! "Linux Biolinum has a nicer ring "I'd even forgive a Lucida Grande "And yet still there is Lydian, Meiryo, Myriad, "Nimbus, Nina, Parisine "- used by the RATP on their jurisdictions of the Parisine transit system. "A talking point, you boring Comic Sans, "I'm sorry Comic Sans, Comic Sans, oh, fine, Comic Sans, "I only used you because I felt sorry for you. "And as for you, "PT Sans,

"Made for all minority languages of the Russian Federation, "Do you realise your camera's a Fed-5 cloth focal-plane shutter base rangefinder with an Industar-61LD lens? "Or did you just buy it off "To go with the rest of your Soviet kitsch "Because you've just got in to Regina Spektor, "That bargain-basement Joanna Newsom." I sit in this body of text, this graveyard acrostic Of fungible items, All desirous of being their own headlines, Loudly proclaiming their own obits and self-referential Appellations: Akzidenz Grotesk, Franklin Gothic, Monotype Grotesque Flama, Futura, Folio, Frutiger, Geneva, Haettenschweiler, You pretentious cunt, Haettenschweiler. Dank cliches the lot! Grotesque stereotypes. "No, I'm not saying I'm majuscule. "I'm not. Only, "You are miniscule cliches I scrabble with "For my own amusement. "See, when you exist on the periphery "And glimpse things from out the corner

"You see people's true typefaces. "You forget I am the Meridian Line you all deviate; "You're two hours ahead, "You're a day behind. "I am Goldilocks' porridge." I see my tongue has made of itself a smooth muscle And of me an unspooled foolscap. "I am drunk. It is time to go home "Because as a cisgendered, heteronormative, neurotypical, English, white male, "I just don't feel this is a safe space for me."

Nettie Farris

Sentenced to Death by Drowning

If I lose my wit, decided Alice, I will drown in all this nonsense.

Nettie Farris Alice Demands Demarcation

How can I plan my day when I can’t see the shape of it?

Contributors Nettie Farris Nettie Farris is the author of “Communion” (Accents Publishing, 2013), “Fat Crayons” (Finishing Line Press, 2015), and the micro-chapbook “Story” (Origami Poems Project, 2016). Her chapbook “The Wendy Bird Poems” is forthcoming from dancing girl press. Lee Landau Lee writes with raw honesty about her interaction with the environment, family events, those dysfunctional backstories. She shelters emotional trauma from the snowy winters of Minnesota that spark her imagination. She writes about obsessions, both large and small that tumble through her poems. He work has appeared in Bluestockings Magazine at Brown University, Wisconsin Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal. Burningword Literary Journal, One Trick Pony, Broad River Review, Broad Street Magazine, and others. Bonnie Lykes Bonnie Lykes is a humanitarian free-thinker, musician, writer, and radio host. She has lived in the desert of Phoenix, AZ, later moved to San Francisco, Ca, then attended Antioch University in Seattle, Wa, and presently resides near Woodstock, NY. She is a also a professionally trained jazz/rock vocalist. She hosts the “Writer’s Voice” at WIOX, 91.3 FM every second Tuesday. She is also a founding member of the Reservoir Food Pantry.

Brett Pribble Brett Pribble teaches creative writing in Orlando, Florida and is in on the selection committee for the Kerouac Project writer in residence program. His work has previously appeared in Stirring: A Literary Collection, Saw Palm, The Molotov Cocktail, and10,000 Tons of Black Ink. He spends his nights searching for his third nipple. Steven J. Rogers Steven J. Rogers is an avid canoesman and beardsman from Northern Wisconsin. Alas, he currently lives in Los Angeles, California. Steven is not an absolutist, so he is willing to accept the idea that there might be a hell. If there is, he’s pretty sure that it would involve writing bios. He has a BA and MFA which he’d happily trade for some beer money. To learn more about him, and his upcoming publications please visit Chris Stewart Chris Stewart is currently turning his life into a playable text-based adventure. He has a poem forthcoming in the international annual ‘The Careless Embrace of the Boneshaker’ by New York publishers Great Weather For MEDIA. He plays at the Cheltenham Literary Festival in 2017. He was long listed for the CYCLOP International Videopoetry Contest 2015. His poems and stories appear in a variety of magazines including The Wrong Quarterly, The Atticus Review, Maudlin House, Freak Circus and Outdoor Photography. He’s anthologised in “Break-Out” (Ek Zuban, 2013). Tweet him @SideBurnedPoet. See his award-winning filmpoems here.

Jan Stinchcomb Jan Stinchcomb is the author of the novella, “Find the Girl” (Main Street Rag, 2015). Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Cease, Cows, Necessary Fiction, Conium Review Online Compendium, A cappella Zoo and Paper Darts, among other places. She reviews fairy tale-inspired works in Notes From Rapunzel’s Tower, her column for Luna Station Quarterly. She lives in Southern California with her husband and daughters. Visit her at Jean Wolff Born in Detroit, Michigan, Jean Wolff studied fine arts at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit and at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, receiving a BFA in studio arts. She then attended Hunter College, CUNY in New York, graduating with an MFA in painting and printmaking. She’s since had group and solo exhibits in various galleries in New York City and internationally and is part of the artistic community of Westbeth in Manhattan.

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Crack the Spine - Issue 198  
Crack the Spine - Issue 198  

Literary Magazine