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Crack the Spine Issue Thirty-Six


Crack The Spine Issue Thirty-Six August 6, 2012 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2012 by Crack the Spine


Contents Kamden Hilliard On Watching Jack Play Guitar Brian Kayser Just a Patch of Grass Stephen Byrne Let’s Recollect the Madness Mila Anhielo Blown Caroline Muise Devoured David Spicer Daphne, Charley the Billy Goat, and My Wife J.B. Hogan An Awesome Poet


Cover Art “Blue Tea Girl” by Geoffrey Miller Geoffrey Miller is a lecturer of composition currently teaching at Qatar University in Doha, Qatar. His most recent publications are “Kyoung Bok Palace 004” (photography) cover of Willows Wept Review Winter 2012, “Ascension” (short fiction) in Stepping Stone Magazine May 2012, “Worldly Temptation – 005” (photography) in Existere Journal of Arts and Literature Vol. 33 No. 2, “Hanoi – Dissemination” (photography) in Superstition Review Vol. 9, “On a Balcony in Cusco - 008” (photography) in THIS Literary Magazine Vol. 14, “Manila” (short fiction) in Anok Sastra, Vol. 6, "Motionless Movement" (photography) in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal Vol. 15 and "Istanbul" (photography) in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 10 No. 4. His photography series “The Streets of Sri Lanka” is also on permanent display in the Prick of the Spindle Online Gallery.


Kamden Hilliard On Watching Jack Play Guitar

It’s romantic to pretend that bodies are engineered for retention. As if evolution decided, through cost-benefit analysis, that the hurt and rage of living was worth remembering. Humanity built skinwalls to fit numbers and words and times. We were the fittest, we survived. We made memory holders, we made bodies… opened our brains to foster-home moments, allowing wayward recollections safe passage. And this life is worth the regret; the blood in the honey. Jack proved it. Watching him straighten his concave confidence and sprout wings validated the venom of humanity. Forget harmonic convergence, he bounded octaves to ascension. Kamden Hilliard is a rising freshman at Sarah Lawrence College studying creative writing, education, survival, and philosophy. His respect for language has led him to numerous prizes including: the Easterday Prize and a gold medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing program. He was also named a YoungArts level one winner in creative nonfiction. Kamden has expanded his writing interests to include a poetry editorship position with the Adroit Journal. He looks forward to the future, in which he'll be writing profusely without distractions, like math. He has been published (or has forthcoming work) Crashtest, Emerge Literary Journal, Missive, Fortunates, and The Enuoia Review. His ultimate goal is to discover a healthy and interesting way to survive his life. If he wasn’t writing, he’d be a mad scientist.


Brian Kayser Just a Patch of Grass

My Uncle Jack never had a wife or kids and I never had a father. He was a large man with a thin face and skinny legs, an unnaturally large stomach, a result of rich helpings and drink. Uncle Jack had a young face, the kind of face that looked like he had never worked a day in his life, small wrinkles around his eyes only visible when he smiled, usually after telling a dirty joke that made men laugh, that is, until, the glare of their wives stopped them . While my mother worked as a receptionist. I spent summers with Uncle Jack. He’d give me a list of chores to complete during the day and we’d sit on the deck and talk sports, girls, and boats until the sun went down. I remember how he’d sip his beer and lean back, staring at the sun, his head propped on top of the chair like he was getting his hair washed at the barber shop. He had the kind of voice that took control of a room, experience gained from years as a court attorney. “You fellas heard the one about the one-legged girl?” he asked at the last family reunion. The wives groaned, one of them mumbling, “I guess that’s our cue,” and walked away. “Glad they left,” Uncle Jack said, “Because I forgot the punchline!” Then he reached into the cooler for a beer, the sunlight glaring off the aluminum can. That was the last time I saw Uncle Jack. He died a few months later. Cancer, the doctor said. Untreatable. “I’m surprised you didn’t feel anything sooner,” the doctor said during Uncle Jack’s first visit. I sat with him in the examination room. Uncle Jack’s fortune from being an injury claims lawyer in Key West was divided between his two brothers and sister, my mother, my cousins, and me. He left money for everyone else, six figures, not an even number for anyone. My mother’s got $235,369.36. Everyone spent time comparing their numbers, trying to find a hidden meaning, figuring out why someone got more and someone else got less, but I think ol’ Uncle Jack was just messing with them, knowing the money’d be blown before he was cold in the grave. He left his speedboat to me, Jack’s Shack, a custom red and black Apache. He always let me drive it while he sipped a beer and watched the way the water divided in our wake, always telling me to “let her breathe.” When we’d pull into the dock, he’d say, “Let’s not tell anyone about you driving today.”


“We need a swing set,” Julie, my wife, said. We sat in our backyard in the early morning, sipping coffee and reading the paper before Andy, our six year-old, woke up. The sun peeked through the row of pines, the shadows on the grass resembling a skewed checkerboard. I surveyed the backyard for the thousandth time. I knew Julie wouldn’t let it go, relying on the “I had a swing set when I was a kid” argument. No matter how many times I told her Andy would turn out normal with or without a swing set, that the park was a bike’s ride away, she persisted. “Where would it go?” I asked, already knowing the answer. Julie stared at the boat to her right, it’s elevated nose poking out where the house ended. “There would be perfect,” she said, pointing in the general direction of the boat. I sighed. “Where’s the boat going?” Julie lifted both hands, palms outward, and shrugged. “I’m not selling it, if that’s what you’re suggesting.” “I’m going to check on Andy,” she said. She left the table with her coffee, a sure sign she wasn’t coming back. I walked to the side of the boat and surveyed it. It was a thirty-footer, stretching the entire length of the house and then some. The tires from the trailer killed the grass it sat on, the boat doing the rest, blocking the grass from the sun. The speed boat hadn’t moved in seven years, its only trip a quick jut around Cape Cod during a vacation. Ever since Julie got pregnant, she’d deemed the boat too dangerous, claiming I wasn’t experienced enough to drive it. It didn’t help that we lived in Utica, New York, at least four hours from the closest beach. Mr. Windsor, our neighbor, told me on more than one occasion that the “piece of shit I have to look at every morning when I’m taking a dump” has to go.” I told Julie if the boat is blocking us from being in the living room and seeing Mr. Windsor crap, that should settle it. She didn’t laugh, instead agreeing that it was sore on the eyes and an imposition on our elderly neighbors. I let Andy use the boat with his friends when they’d come over, even got him a captain hat he could use. Andy and his friends would stand in the boat and take turns steering the wheel making “vroom-


vroom” noises, ducking when imaginary waves hit. Julie said even that was too dangerous, since the kids could fall getting out. Andy and his friends could only use it when she was out grocery shopping. Julie was reading the newspaper at the kitchen table when I walked in, my coffee gone, stomach rumbling. I poured cereal and sat on the couch in the family room, watching sports highlights. I let Rocket, our golden lab, lick the milk from my cereal bowl. “Don’t let him do that,” Julie said from the kitchen. “That’s gross.” “That’s what a dishwasher’s for. The milk’s just gonna go to waste.” “Is Rocket drinking from one of your bowls again?” Andy asked. He rubbed his eye as he walked down the steps in his pajamas. His curly brown hair was a mess. “I’ll make you some scrambled eggs,” Julie said. She folded the newspaper and placed it on the corner of the kitchen table. Andy sat at the table, petting Rocket. “You sleep well?” I asked. “You know,” Julie started. “We owe another thousand dollars in taxes for that stupid boat. That’s around seven thousand dollars we’ve paid in taxes since we inherited that mess.” “It’s covered,” I said. “We don’t have that kind of money. Andy needs new shoes, you just bought another suit for work, and I have to get my transmission fixed. Where’s that thousand dollars coming from?” “We’ll take care of it.” Julie slammed the spatula on the frying pan, the hard clank startling Andy and Rocket. She stirred the eggs furiously in tense, tight movements. Raw egg spilled over the side of the pan and onto the floor, chunks of egg debris speckling the linoleum. Rocket sprinted over and began licking it. “You know that thousand dollars could be going towards a swing set? Towards growing the grass back? Towards not being the laughingstock of the neighborhood, looking like a family of rednecks with a huge boat and nowhere to use it?”


“We could always rent it out. I’m sure someone in Utica would love to say they live on a boat. I don’t know how the bathroom situation would work...” “I’ve had it,” Julie said, walking upstairs, leaving the eggs sizzling in the pan. Andy stared out the window, his expression silent. I finished cooking his eggs, the outer layer firm but not yet brown. “Are you getting rid of Uncle Jack’s boat?” Andy asked between mouthfuls of eggs. He always referred to the boat as Uncle Jack’s because I always did. “I hope not,” I said. “I love that boat.” “Me too,” Andy said. “I’m the only kid in school with a boat.” “I know.” As Andy finished his eggs, Julie came downstairs and grabbed her keys off the counter. “Andy, I have to run some errands,” she said. Julie wore her sunglasses, which I thought looked silly indoors. She wore one of her flowered yellow and blue sundresses, her brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. “I’ll be back, all right?” She kissed him on the forehead and left, the door slamming behind her. “I think she’s mad at you, Dad.” “Let’s run some of our own errands.”

It had been years since I’d hooked the trailer up to the car. After securing the attachment, I started the car, Andy in the passenger seat. I pressed the gas, felt no movement, the engine straining. Finally after flooring the gas pedal, I felt a lurch. The car jolted forward with the boat, probably leaving huge divots in the grass. I didn’t look back. “What are we doing with the boat, Dad?” Andy asked. “We’re gonna take her out, let her breathe.”


We rode in silence, Andy’s head pressed against the window as signs flew past. I checked the rearview mirror frequently to see if the boat was still attached. My fingers tapped the steering wheel. I followed signs for the Long Island Sound. I rolled down Andy’s window. “Smell that breeze, son?” “I’m hungry.” I followed the signs for Wilson’s Cove. Uncle Jack always kept Jack’s Shack at his harbor, so I needed help maneuvering the boat off the trailer. Andy and I stood as the workers backed the trailer into the water and unhatched the boat. The younger of the two filled the boat with gas. “Gonna have to be back by six if you want some help reattaching the trailer,” the older man said. He looked to be in his 60s, his face golden brown, strands of white hair covering bald spots. “I can get it myself,” I said. The man looked at me, then at Andy. “Okay,” he said. “Just leave your keys with Bobby and we’ll square up when you get back. Do you have your own life jackets or you gonna need a couple?” I pretended to look in the trunk, knowing damn well I’d forgotten them. “Don’t seem to have them with me.”

“This is awesome!” Andy screamed as I goosed the throttle. Jack’s Shack sliced through the gentle waves, leaving behind a foamy wake. Splashes of salt water sprayed our faces. The engine purred like it was making up for lost time, for the past seven years being nothing but a giant lawn decoration. We had the ocean to ourselves. Andy and I took turns steering the wheel. I had to hold him so he’d be able to see over the windshield, his eyes fixed on the water in front of him, his tongue poking out as he concentrated. “Let’s not tell anyone about you driving today,” I said, mussing Andy’s hair. “Okay,” he said.


I drove Jack’s Shack back to the marina. As we approached, I sounded the horn to signal Bobby. No one came from the small shop. Andy and I floated for five minutes, watching, waiting. “Maybe he’s gone, Dad,” Andy said. “I think so,” I said, gently pressing the throttle. “Don’t you need help getting it on the trailer?” “That’s what you’re for,” I said. I brought Jack’s Shack as close to the dock as I could and hoisted Andy onto the wooden planks before climbing out myself. I backed the trailer into the water as Andy watched from the dock, his hands on his hips, a serious expression across his face. “I’m bringing her in slow,” I told Andy. He nodded his understanding. I pressed the throttle down, felt the boat jolt forward. The gentle ripples pushed Jack’s Shack towards the trailer in a slow drift. The setting sun reflected off the nose. “Maybe a little more gas,” Andy said. I pressed down on the throttle, hearing the engine purr back to life. As soon as I heard the engine, I knew it was too much. The boat lurched forward. The hull Jack’s Shack met the trailer with a grinding screech as it entered the trailer crookedly. I was afraid of the nose going through the back window of the car. I managed to keep my balance, holding onto the steering wheel. Andy had a look of horror on his face, and I knew from looking at him that Jack’s Shack wasn’t looking too good. There was no way for me to get the boat off the trailer without causing more damage. Sharp pain shot through my knee as I jumped from the boat to the dock. “I don’t think we’re getting her down, bud,” I said, hands on my hips. “No,” Andy said. We sat on the dock and stared at the boat, our bare feet swishing on the water. “Are you and Mom going to get a divorce?” Andy asked.


“No, of course not.” “Okay,” Andy said, staring at his feet. “It’s just that you guys fight a lot.” “I know. We need to work on that,” I said, mussing Andy’s hair. “As hard as it is to believe, Dad’s not perfect.” Despite the boat’s condition, a smile crept onto my face. “Let me unhook this trailer so we can get home.” “What about the boat?” “I’ll see what I can do tomorrow. It’s not looking too good though.” I ran my hand under the boat, the metal scratches cutting deep into Jack’s Shack. As we pulled out of the lot, the nose of the boat grew smaller in front of the setting sun. I kept my eyes on the rearview mirror until I turned the corner onto the road.

Andy slept most of the ride home. He didn’t budge when I pulled into our driveway. His body was limp with exhaustion when I extracted him from his seatbelt and pulled him close to my chest, surprised at how heavy he’d gotten. Julie was downstairs watching TV. I put my index finger to my mouth, pointing with my head to Andy. I laid him face down on his bed, took off his shoes, and pulled the covers up to his shoulders. I kissed his forehead and shut the door. “You could have left a note,” Julie said from the couch. “I didn’t know where you were going either. We were just taking the boat out for a spin.” “I knew you were doing something stupid like that.” “It was a beautiful day,” I said. I reached into the refrigerator and took out a beer. “I’ll be outside,” I said, opening the patio door, feeling the cool breeze caress my neck. I sat in my chair and propped my feet on Julie’s chair and leaned my head back like Uncle Jack. I felt a slight shiver, the night chill a reminder that summer was not yet here.


Brian Kayser is a writer who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Brian’s fiction has appeared in 34th Parallel Magazine, Alliterati Magazine, Down Dirty Word, Writing Raw, and Bursting Plethora and forthcoming in The Orris Journal, Bartleby Snopes, and Eunoia Review. He has been editor-in-chief at HipHopGame.com since 2003, where he has interviewed and written about a variety of hip-hop artists. His writings about music have also appeared in The Source and various websites and magazines.


Stephen Byrne Let’s Recollect the Madness You are the spawn of raging river and wild moon and when I speak of you my throat clenches like a fist wrestles the air from my heart. My sweet mind sails west in a raft of dreams setting foot on the shore of the Frisco Bay laying down and bowing to the great September sky, smelling Trieste coffee tasting the olive flavored nights of Columbus Avenue my memories are slayed by the blade of your negativity and the world you created from the cave of your smoke shrouded mind. How the juice of the grape wept rivers upon my tongue and the wings of the Hummingbird tap danced the music of life, while you with the fist of a native warrior stood naked in Napa valley and cast poisoned arrows at the Sun. Where was the rain, the broken limbs,


the trips to the desert the battles beneath the Golden Bridge, you hid in a mist of pills and smoke meandering along the blues alleys of the Tenderloin creating your own jigsaw puzzle. The beating heart of that city, the dancing vibe of its shoes, soaked the wings of the dove that perched on the edge of my soul. The flower of Haight Ashbury, the colors of Castro the tonic breath of the evening fog reminds river and moon your memories stew in the cooking pot and together shall spit forth a recollection of the madness.

Stephen Byrne is originally from Dublin who now lives in Galway west Ireland and is a chef for his sins. His work has been published in various places in Ireland and Canada and recently in Emerge Literary Journal. He was a featured reader at Over the Edge readings in November and was shortlisted for last year's Over the Edge Poetry competition 2011.


Mila Anhielo Blown

“I see beyond astral recognition, the veils are starting to thin,” Evelyn told herself while squatting over a toilet seat with both palms flat on either side of the bathroom walls. She closed her eyes to prepare herself for another uncomfortable meditation, to disassociate from her claustrophobia and the smell, a mixture of microwavable corn dogs and meth amphetamine. Also the sink, which was a total eyesore, because someone had shaved over it and the hairy rubbish just sat there over the water and none of it seemed to be going anywhere. The place needed a plumber, and more toilet paper. She concentrated on allowing the urine to leave her bladder, but it wouldn’t. “There are fields wide as skies, and I control my existence with highly cultivated intention.” She repeated the affirmations her therapist had suggested under nauseated breaths, “Wide open spaces.” There was an abrupt knock at the door, she jumped, and piss splattered onto her flower patterned leggings. “Cops?” She asked, shaking. “It’s Jonathan, dork.” Evelyn sighed and wiped. The sun began to set and she knew because the hairs on her thighs were no longer lit up blonde by sunshine. The cracked window above her was mostly boarded up but she could still hear the pigeons of San Pedro cooing and pecking and conversing under the power lines. “You’ve been in there for almost thirty minutes. I have to shit.” Jonathan said. “I can’t pee.” Evelyn said back to him. “Sounds like a slightly personal issue, probably to be talked about with your doctor, or mother.” Jonathan replied. “I hate your bathroom, and I hate your studio. It’s filthy.” “How can I paint without drugs, booze, and filth surrounding me at all times during the day?” “The artist finds inspiration in crap!” Evelyn emerged from the bathroom. “I’ll romance you gently and make love to you with my tumescent man-sword on our imaginary porch swing after I take this shit, I promise!” Jonathan kissed her cheek and slipped a tiny bag of speed into her back pocket.


“Sex is no good without speed.” Evelyn kissed him back. She flicked the bag of speed and put a straw in it and held it up to her left nostril. She sniffed. Jonathan squeezed his way past old canvas and scrap metal, into the bathroom. “Romance on non-existent porch swings is no good without speed. Sex is good regardless.” Jonathan said from inside the door, then sneezed and farted simultaneously. “Are you eating my kettle chips in there?” Evelyn asked while pouring herself a cup of coffee. She looked at Jonathan’s latest painting of his only ex-girlfriend; she mixed some green with yellow on the palette next to it and painted an elegant moustache over the ex-girl’s upper lip. The bathroom door opened and she jumped again. “I have a surprise for the jumpy woman who owns my heart.” Jonathan said. He held Evelyn by the torso gently and led her into another room. “Blow up dolls.” Evelyn announced. Her eyes did widen but she was not awfully surprised to see the rows of blow up dolls standing in front of her. Different structures, builds, and peculiarities were all there in Jonathan’s studio. They stared at Evelyn gleefully, except for the few who wore puckered lips and drawn-on frowns that looked sensual and not unpleasant. There were twenty of them, standing firmly in their plastic grace, on the cold concrete. “Don’t be jealous, your organic form does satisfy me.” Jonathan laughed. “But men are not monogamous by nature, is that what you are illustrating with your creative disposition?” Evelyn asked with genuine concern. “Don’t you ever grow tired of fucking my existence?” Jonathan’s expression saddened. “No, but I do crave variety, which I still insist is the problem.” Evelyn replied. “If I wanted variety, would I not have chosen something warmer? Like a hooker or a pizza?” “Or both.” said Evelyn. “Every night when you get home from school, between the hours of 5:30 and 7 PM, you take a piss, you snort some lines, you pour yourself some coffee, and you proceed to have sex with my very being and extension of my past lives! My ancestral history! It is like your routine.” “So it’s my routine you are protesting?” “You take it so lightly! You do it so cool! So disgustingly cavalier! I guess I’m not as cool as you, I’m not John Travolta!” Jonathan began to shout.


“Says the man with a room full of blow-up dolls! I need another cup of coffee!” Evelyn threw her hands into the air. “You are some piece of work; you know that? A total wacked out speed freak is what you are.” Evelyn walked back to the front room, where there was a Chamber of Commerce sign stolen from a street festival next to a makeshift bed. She tossed herself on the cot held up by cinder blocks and took another sniff from her bag of speed. She snorted deeply and held her breath while the chemical taste passed through her throat. The painting of Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend mocked her now. What could all of those deeply contemplated color schemes possibly mean? She got up, took another paintbrush and slid it over the moustache, creating stray hairs and pimples. “Did you get your coffee? I’d like to discuss our existential dilemma, if your cool-ness would be so kind.” Jonathan called for her. He stood with his hard-on inside a busty, elastic brunette. He had one hand on her breast and a thin paintbrush in the other. He began to paint intricate, black flower petals and vines that climbed upward from the doll’s chest until they reached her forehead. He hummed an older Lou Reed song while he worked, and his hard-on shifted in and out of the brunette’s pussy. “Now she looks real! I imagine she had a rough childhood, which is why she walks around naked all day. You know, for daddy’s attention.” Evelyn said. “No! Don’t you taint this girl! This is not about imagination. I am not pretending she is some voluptuous hipster chick turned porn star from a tattoo magazine so I can get off on someone other than you. And I am most definitely not pretending she is real! This is about feeling nothing, absolutely nothing.” “Like having sex with your backpack!” Evelyn giggled. “I could run off and have sex with other women, make them part of my routine, make them another random phase in my life. I might hurt them too. But then I’d have to carry them forever, and they would carry me. It’s all one big, haunting guilt trip to me.” Jonathan went on. “And whenever they saw one of your galleries on Gaffey or Googled your name, they would remember all six inches of you.” Evelyn smiled. “I don’t want my jizz to be part of some woman’s story, in any light.” “I remain the exception, because our existences have already merged, in the manifestation of kinky sex, now involving blow-up dolls, and I’ve made you a part of my painful routine.” Evelyn replied. “You’ve condemned me. I am forever your after-school special.” Jonathan sighed.


Jonathan took Evelyn’s hand and placed it inside the brunette doll’s hair, she twirled the yarn and giggled. She felt the clean plastic on her fingertips and inhaled the new-shoe smell. Jonathan had his hard-on in the doll’s rectum while Evelyn played with the pussy. Their hands met on the doll’s rounded hip bones, Evelyn tried to look sexy and nodded at Jonathan like she understood the whole escapade. The doll’s expression remained bare, and so they fondled her body together some more. Evelyn managed to cum because Jonathan looked happy and the sex felt sanitary which turned her on. After, she sniffed some speed and tossed herself into the row of dolls playfully. She pushed a few of them and kicked a red-head with matching pubes into the air. She laughed some more and lit a clove cigarette. Jonathan didn’t get off and was bitter about the money he spent on the women, so he walked toward the front room to ponder his paintings and to refill the pot of coffee. Evelyn felt a silence that was both profound and cumbersome. She thought about the painting of Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend and realized she liked being his second. She had to piss but didn’t feel like meditating. She paused before taking a sip from her Styrofoam cup; she tried to imagine Jonathan making love to the girl from the painting, and wondered if his first love would have done a blow-up doll. “Darling, have you seen my latest painting? Of the moustache girl? It has got to be my greatest yet!” Jonathan said and sat next to her on the floor.

Mila Anhielo is a 21 year old from Los Angeles, an avid blogger, reader, and student. You can find her face-deep inside a notebook after a poetry class, or jotting down thoughts on napkins in the local downtown doughnut shops. Mila hopes to publish more poetry, connect further with her literature-loving colleagues, and continue to work toward a promising career.


Caroline Muise Devoured

On days when my stomach is empty and shaking for food I will not allow, I begin to eat myself. I go from the inside out—nibbling on a corner of one of my kidneys, the underside of my heart—a constant and noiseless chewing under my skin. Soon, I have eaten so much of my stomach that anything I manage to shove down my throat merely floats through my body, suspended around my ever-shrinking organs like astronauts around planets. The other day a piece of pretzel got caught in the hole at the base of my right lung, and I dry-heaved for ten minutes. I have to shake my legs to keep lost food particles from settling in my feet. When my cerebellum begins to disintegrate, my body twitches convulsively. I hold onto my knees to prevent myself from kicking shins under the table. I consider it exercise. By the time my brain is just a dry, shrunken core rolling around in my skull, I start on my fingers. My already short nails are easy to pry loose, and the bloody remains can easily be hidden under band-aids and closed fists. My canines dive into each of the sensitive wounds until my teeth touch a familial material. I suck them all clean. No one wonders why I am wearing thick scarves and long sleeves in the summer or why my hands are always searching in my pockets because I look so good and what is my secret? Tell me, tell me, tell me, they chant, their eyes boring into mine. I wonder if they can tell from my slight squint that I have started to gnaw on the back of my corneas. I don’t know, I mean, I eat everything! I laugh nervously as the bone that was my index finger taps my femur through my pants. The skin between their eyebrows wrinkles into a V. They are jealous. They guess that if they cannot join me, they will have to beat me. They return to their treadmills and 100-calorie snack bags.


It becomes a nightly ritual to pick at the thin layer of skin covering my kneecaps as my legs hang in right angles over the side of my bed. I quickly graduate to peeling strips of muscle down my calf, the blend of reds vibrant against white. The days are getting shorter; night always comes earlier and soon it feels dark at five o’clock. The week that I finish my legs, I don’t even get out of bed. After that, there is nothing to do. I am at a loss. I scan for forgotten bits of muscle in the crook of my elbow, an abandoned square of skin hidden in a curve of vertebrae, but all I find is pure glowing bone. My jaw bites compulsively on my thumb.

Caroline Muise goes to Hampshire College and studies psychology and creative writing. Caroline makes the same face in every photograph and, on occasion, will look up words in the dictionary and then mispronounce them.


David Spicer Daphne, Charley the Billy Goat, and My Wife My wife was a child who loved animals and threw temper tantrums when her parents failed to meet pet demands. One time, a photographer knocked on the door at suppertime and asked Nancy if she wanted to pose while riding Pistol the Palomino, and she screamed and bawled until her parents relented. Another day she found a chicken on the road and held it while she swung higher and higher on the backyard swing. The chicken squawked and threw up on her. When the Johnsons moved in next door with a twenty-year-old daughter, Daphne, Nancy fell in love with their billy goat, calling him Charley. Nancy borrowed Charley every day to dance with him on the trampoline in the back yard. She tried to ride him, a little guy with a goatee and a body the color of a truffle, but Charley was too small. One day, a couple of months later, Nancy’s mother told her Daphne had died. Of what? Nancy asked. The flu, her mother answered. Later, Nancy overheard her mother inform a friend in the dining room: Oh, Daphne couldn’t handle her boyfriend breaking their engagement, and to top that off, her father sold the silver from her grandmother for drinking money, so she hanged herself. After hearing this, Nancy began to throw another tantrum, but her legs fumed outside and she danced on the trampoline with Charley until the sun slid down and the day went dark.

David Spicer has, over the years and in pursuit of the word, worked as a paper boy, dishwasher, bottle loader, record warehouser, carpet roll dragger, burger flopper, ditch digger, weather observer, furniture mover, Manpower flunky, gas pumper, bookseller, tutor, 11th & 12th grader babysitter, magazine and book editor and publisher, typesetter, proofreader, carney barker, chocolate twister, artist's model, and last and certainly least, clinical trial subject for a laxative. He is the author of one full-length collection of poems, Everybody Has a Story, and four chapbooks plus six unpublished manuscripts of poems. He has two poems in Crack the Spine 7. His poems have appeared or will appear in Alcatraz, Nitty Gritty, Aura, Brown God, Hinchas de Poesia, shuf, Dirtflask, Spudgun, Mad Rush, Used Furniture Review, Fur-Lined Ghettos, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Resurgo, and elsewhere.


J.B. Hogan An Awesome Poet

You see, I’m this really awesome poet. I really know how to show people the real inner me. My mother says it’s a gift, my calling. All I know is I’ve been through so much I’m overflowing with the need to tell everyone about my super special life. My step-father says I haven’t done anything or been anywhere, but what can you expect from an old insensitive hater. He doesn’t understand me, doesn’t get it all. How could he? He’s old and irrelevant. A loser. But I can’t let that kind of negativity bring me down, man. I’m burning with this vision of the world. I’m unique, my girlfriend Maisie tells me, and she knows what’s happening. I have to tell you about Maisie, what a thing we have going. I even write poems about it. I read one of them down at a local open mic program at a hip coffee house. I introduced all the locals to real slam poetry that night. Maisie was right there in front of me, giving me support and looking like the super-size babe she is. I read them this: Nobody loves like we do, baby, nobody knows how. You’re a full-figured mama and I’m your daddy-man. People don’t understand us, they don’t get who we are. We’re red hot lovin’ poets and that’s the way we roll. When my great big man-ness is all up against your fleshy self, I’m all over you, baby, Like a poet laureate in heat.


When we do it, mama, it’s epic and beyond the pale, nobody does it like us, nobody knows how, ‘cause we’re the real deal, we’re flesh and flood, and juice and sinew, we make love like no one else, ‘cause your my love-making sweet thing and I’m your poet writing, loving man. Oh, yeah, I really blew them away with that one. The crowd was stunned into silence by the power of my love. I’m not trying to be on some ego trip but I know I’m good and they do, too. It’s who I am, it’s how I project, man. When I walked back to my seat, Maisie was all ‘you knocked their socks off, baby,’ with me and we locked spitty lips right there in front of everyone to show them the depth of our love and how we’re not ashamed to show it public. If you got it, flaunt it. That’s a philosophy I go with. Later that night I read the poem to my mother and she was like really impressed and told me I had a real insight into life. “Yeah, like I’m hip to that,” I told her, thinking about some cool poets I’d read about. They were these guys called Kershack and Ginseng or something like that that I had heard somebody talk about who used to be big famous poets back a long time ago. I figured they were guys like me – really hip and way ahead of their time. We suffer a lot because we’re so advanced from your average so and so person but it’s what gives us our deep understanding of life and brings out the great poetry. Oh, yeah, I’m like those guys, man, exactly like them. After my great night at the coffee house, I decided to write another poem. I was really on a roll now. I was burning with poetry. I told Maisie to meet me at the coffee house again like before and that I had a


big surprise for her this time, even bigger than the surprise of my poem about our physical and spiritual love. Before I took off I read the poem to my mother, even though my hater step-dad insisted on listening to it, too. Naturally, my mother knew it was great but the old man started laughing right away and didn’t stop until I did. What a jerk. And then he had the nerve to tell me my poem stunk. What could he know? He was just an old turd who never had a life and was taking it out on everyone around him. Artists like me have to deal with people like that all the time. I had to wait nearly an hour before I went on, but Maisie and I sat there necking off and on and making fun of the lousy poets ahead of me. Finally it was my turn to get up. I gave Maisie a load of tongue and spit and headed up to read. “’They Don’t Get It’ is the name of my poem,” I told the crowd. “I think you’ll maybe get it.” How can I tell you how hard it is to live at home with parents who don’t get you? Can you really feel my pain? Do you know how hard it is? I’m creative, man, I need space to grow and be great. How can you know what it is to be an artist, and misunderstood. Only my loving girlfriend knows, only she appreciates the depth of my angst. Oh, life is so hard for the true poet, living in a world so cruel and unconcerned. Better that life should end early than go through the hell of un-appreciation and the agony of being ignored.


Well, when I finished a couple of people applauded. They got it. But a couple of old farts pinned me next to a coffee machine and started putting me down. They were obviously unhip, local nobodies. I told them where to get off and stormed out. I could hear laughter as I left but I didn’t care. I’d show them. I’d go home and write a poem about haters like they were. I’d even name the poem that. Yeah, that’s a great title: “Hater’s Hating on Me.” Perfect. It’ll practically write itself. That’ll show everyone my talent, how deep and significant I am as a poet. You bet it will. They’ll all come to understand: I am an awesome poet.

J. B. Hogan was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize for his story “Kerosene Heat.” His dystopian novel New Columbia was published in Aphelion and his prize-winning e-book Near Love Stories is online at Cervena Barva Press. He has many stories and poems in such journals as: Cynic Online Magazine, Istanbul Literary Review, Every Day Poets, Ranfurly Review, and the Dead Mule. His work has been anthologized in Flash of Aphelion andThe Best of Frontier Tales: Volume 1. His book of fiction The Apostate is due out late summer/early fall 2012 from Pen-L Publishing. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


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Crack the Spine - Issue 36  

Literary Magazine

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