Crack the Spine - Issue 37

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Crack the Spine Issue Thirty-Seven

Crack The Spine Issue Thirty-Seven August 13, 2012 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2012 by Crack the Spine

Contents Mila Anhielo In Case I Never See You Again Different Hands Matthew Morris-Cook In Queue Alan Britt One Life to Live Rebecca Gummere Bug Brain Jack Caseros Talkin’ Twenty-First Century Blues Olivia Somes Anti-Ode for the Boss Trevor Alexander No Place

Cover Art “Indifference” 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.

Mila Anhielo In Case I Never See You Again

It’s the way I stand at the entrance, explaining to the security guard that I lost all identification and I no longer exist but I'll spend a third of my trust fund because this is my last night in town. The way I walk in and see you with a half smoked cigarette planted between your fingers sitting on top of your favorite billiard table, because you're a local here. You're bouncing between social circles while I order a drink that's too sweet, and my friend gets angry because someone says her pupils are small. Static from the speaker lulls us and dilutes my anxiety, so I can really listen to you when you approach my silhouette lit up by neon spotlights. The way I draw a picture from Slaughterhouse 5 underneath my phone number, on your wrist and you ask me who Kurt Vonnegut is.

The way you tell me to memorize the poetry always lingering on the tops of my shaky teeth, so I can grind my way to honesty. In a dive bar, under hot lights You and I are tucked under the city skyline, knowing neither of us will ever call the other.

Mila Anhielo Different Hands When I'm holding my daughter's hand through a crowded L.A street I fantasize I am wearing a straw hat from the dollar store, rolled up khaki pants over a pair of swollen ankles. I am deemed unfashionable by the people who sit in the patios of trendy coffee shops casually dragging cigarettes. Frumpy, they could call me and I could assume we have nothing in common anyway. I would stroll into my sparkling mini-van with a car seat waiting on the left hand side, though the law says my daughter doesn't need one at her age. She could wipe her snot on my canvas colored blouse while sailboats spew fishing lines into an indigo ocean And of course, there would be an undeniable connection that I would be clear-headed enough to notice. Afterward, I could bring her to the weekend long carnivals in Manhattan beach, with a husband who wears moccasins and neither of us would complain about corporate greed the entire time.

Just purchase cotton candy with a credit card that I make payments on, monthly or something. Just a baggy mother vessel, proud, pumping ovaries Purely functional, with no vanity. Living through frills and tu-tu's and Sunday school Vicariously. But, when I walk down these busy L.A streets, holding my daughter's hand, I am 21 years old lugging text books Hopping Fences Snubbing mini-vans on a bicycle at a so-called prime.

“My name is Mila Anhielo, I'm a 21 year old girl from Los Angeles, like everyone else. My work revolves around the various findings and realizations that make me just like everyone else, except I like to dress up my experiences and tell the world about 'em. I think being a poet is about creating connections, if you can relate to my stupidity, then I have done my job.�

Matthew Morris-Cook In Queue They still fought, even after the break-up and six months of blocked calls, email spam filters, and putting the old haunts to death. Thom’s “Recently Watched” list on Netflix was backed -up with movie title innuendo. Muriel’s latest dig, Muriel’s Wedding, was hastily countered with My Best Friend’s Wedding, a selection Thom could not erase from Netflix’s adamantine “Recent History.” She had, of course, pulled a Diane Lane with said “friend,” gotten in touch with her inner Glenn Close, and was engaged a paltry three months after disembarking from their domestic harbor—the shore of his bed being only two-and-one-half nautical months distant—but Thom was certain he had crossed paddleboats in the night with their mutual acquaintance, Mark. That the absurd image was fitting gave him pause, but then the story of Thom and Muriel resembled an extended summer camp or a brief, second childhood. Adults, in their arrogant reflections, tell the children they once were, “Your world was so big. Everything lasted. Everything meant so much.” Like the times Thom fell in love with the out-of-town girls at county fairs, sharing the same few hours with scuttled parents and vigilantly bored carnies, to whom this time would fold and fold into the oblivion of routine. Free of the hardline cliques of their hometowns, they were a couple for half a day, walked barefoot on the flint edges of warm gravel, kissed in the shade between vendors, felt the same sun between twined fingers, and watched it age behind the tractor pull arena until it sank behind a grave horizo n. They shared blue sugar cobwebs in the out-of-season glow of Christmas bulbs, pressed their bodies together with Gravitron force, swayed in a Zipper cage at the ride’s zenith overlooking the black shards of a distant town, and exchanged numbers they would never dial. Thom imagined he might later date one of his half-day girlfriends and on their fifth date realize their love was already a decade old. The world was not bigger then, his heart mused, but I was. Youth can take open endings, beginnings, and the loose threads of hours and feel them into entirety. Muriel was a litterer. Thom sifted through the minor trash in her living room before his commute, as it would offend her sense of womanliness to see herself as a slob. Muriel, like her

name, cultivated those old fashioned affectations that balanced her excesses. She would smoke pot and knit. Swig freezer cold Scotch in a Betty Crocker apron. Bake pies after a white line. She loved him with piecemeal intensity, leaving affections around the house like her litter. Untidy was a term for Thom and Muriel. Happily frayed another, but it felt whole, perhaps because he still had the old heart of his youth. The next day Muriel's Wii (Thom had programmed it over Christmas to watch Home Alone) crafted a 5-7-5 haiku that went unnoticed for five days: My Future Boyfriend. Handsome Harry. Gigante. The Exploding Girl! He could have changed his password. Instead, he watched Lust, Caution and After the Wedding. Mark and Muriel weren't official, under God's Peeper's, but Thom could hear her whispering the same vaguely forever phrases to him as she had on lazy weekend mornings when her body yawned into his: "I'm going to keep you, sweet man," or, "We will make beautiful babies." Thom rented To Catch a Thief at Blockbuster. They never had the chance to watch it. Cary Grant and Grace Kelly quipped while the French Riviera floated too calmly behind, the sky an overexposed blue. The sun over Monaco seemed so constant. He thought of Grace Kelly, curled like one of her careful strands of hair on a set couch, napping at lunch between takes, crescented with facade, tripods, and hot lamps that felt like a noonday sun.

Matthew Morris-Cook is attempting to secure his place in history through what he terms the Literary Remnant Principle, whereby his works are mediocre enough to elude book burning and well-enough received to reside in the farthest depths of university archives, where they will be sheltered from nuclear fallout. He hopes future archaeologists will appreciate his work and assume it is the best humanity has to offer. His poems have appeared in Poesia, The Muse, and Plain Spoke. He is currently a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Alan Brit One Life to Live

It could be treason or a white-haired angel perched atop the dewdrop magnifying a swallowtail's iodine mascara. It could be that. Then again, it could be treason or a politician dressed as treason; hard to tell. Or it could be nothing at all, just a repositioning of plates, tectonic or cerebellum. It could be the separation of marrow from bone, how unfortunate, but as soon as one speculates, one has the suspicion that one wouldn’t know one if one saw one. So, rain-soaked, red accordion ribs switching thumbs in a crow infested, stubble field, Vincent slouched his canvas chair & gawked at the world of his choosing.

Teal lips with hint of lime cross the room & brush against mine, teal lips of hairless Chihuahuas & nitro glycerin tectonic plates about to shift again, about to recalculate the geometry of existence in one giant snort from its equestrian nostril, & that’s all there is. Sorry to say, but life is one long equestrian snort, sometimes the size of a flea, sometimes the size of a manatee.

Alan Britt read poems at the World Trade Center/Tribute WTC Visitor Center in Manhattan/NYC, April 2012, at the We Are You Project (WeAreYouProject.Org) Wilmer Jennings Gallery, East Village/NYC, April 2012, and at New Jersey City University's Ten Year 9/11 Commemoration in Jersey City, NJ, September 2011. His poem, "September 11, 2001," appeared in International Gallerie: Poetry in Art/Art in Poetry Issue, v13 No.2 (India): 2011. His recent books are “Alone with the Terrible Universe” (2011), “Greatest Hits” (2010), “Hurricane” (2010), “Vegetable Love” (2009), “Vermilion” (2006), “Infinite Days” (2003), “Amnesia Tango” (1998) and “Bodies of Lightning” (1995). Britt’s work also appears in the new anthologies, The Robin Hood Book: Poets in Support of the Robin Hood Tax, by Caparison, United Kingdom, 2012; American Poets Against the War, Metropolitan Arts Press, Chicago/Athens/Dublin: 2009 and Vapor transatlántico (Transatlantic Steamer), a bi-lingual anthology of Latin American and North American writers, Hofstra University Press/Fondo de Cultura Económica de Mexico/Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos de Peru, 2008.

Rebecca Gummere Bug Brain I know a woman. Travels to Nicaragua, a pack on her back. Makes some friends, sleeps on the ground; drinks some rum under an equatorial sun. Comes back with more than memories, a new wrinkle on her old life. Like loud carpenters, busy before dawn. Like the hum of the world passing through her head, a hot river of sand. Don’t eat meat in a third-world country and think you won’t hear about it. I used to waken, saying, "This is not you. There are no larvae hatching in your brain.” But I am she, twice removed, and now I am careful about what I think. I know they are listening, so I rise in the morning with loud thoughts: "I will have some coffee right away. I certainly enjoy the effects of caffeine on my brain!" They like caffeine. They thrash and then settle, and I can finally get some things done. I wash the dishes and pay my bills while I am able to think straight. Most afternoons I lie down for a while, a slight breeze of movement shimmering somewhere behind my left eye. Later it will get worse. The bugs make me know terrible things, memories they bring from the others. I try to erase the images, but just when I am almost forgetting I feel the bugs squirm, turn, send a comment. They travel through my hippocampus and around the amygdala, gypsies on a highway, carrying things I do not wish to know as if they were so many clanging pots and pans. Fresh pictures flash -- the man holding the woman by the wrist, his fist against her mouth; the child's arms like small flags caught in surrender, the pillow hard over her face; the man in the alley pitching forward, the blood and spatter of bone. Since I have to know and know and know, I decide to do something. For example: my neighbor, eighty-seven years old, bakes ginger cookies, loses all her savings in a scam. She never meets the man. Gives him all her information over the phone. He tells her it is a onetime donation for starving children in Africa who live in a town where there is no water and AIDS has killed off half the population, including most of their parents, so now they are orphans who are dying of thirst. If she will give him her account number, he says, she can “make a Godly difference.” He thanks her for her generosity and gives her a blessing.

After the police leave, she tells me through tears that she loves her Lord and was just trying to help. "Poor things," she says, still grieved about the children. Three days later her grandson stops by, lanky arms, dirty shoes. When he hears, he says, "Oh, Nana, this is terrible." Sitting on the floor in front of her chair, a constellation of pimples on the back of his scrawny neck. "This is Avery," she tells me. The bugs set up a ruckus as Avery's pointy fingers pick at the carpet. "We'll get through this, Nana," he says, patting his grandmother's freckled hand, and she smiles, patting back. He sips his lemonade, shoots me a glance and winks. I slip in behind Avery as he leaves, weaving along the sidewalk like I am stitching a pattern on canvas cloth. I loiter toward the front of the Foxxy Lady while the bugs help me listen. I hear Avery's voice. "Man, I got the money, I swear!" I lower my head toward the bar as Avery glides past, blood trickling from his nose. I stitch behind him, making a ragged seam in the sidewalk. He cuts a sharp right into a parking lot, walks toward Nathan's Auto Repair, and I follow, the bugs singing softly down some far corridor of my brain. A man opens the door for him. "How ya' doin', Avery?" His voice is like glass. They walk to the back and into an office. The man has one hand on Avery's shoulder, the other in a pocket. I hear it all. The sharp click of the safety, the drag of his finger across the grip, the trickle of sweat down his back. "I got the money, man," I hear Avery telling him. "Easy-peasey." The door shuts behind them. I help myself to Nathan's cash drawer. Nana's rent is due.

Rebecca Gummere lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains where she works for an agency providing shelter and support services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. She also teaches in the Composition Program at Appalachian State University. Her work has appeared inSkirt! Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Gettysburg Review, and an essay is forthcoming in Alimentum. She holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and is currently collaborating on an anthology about ashes - the stuff that is left after the fire and the grinders have done their work, delicately referred to as “cremains�

Jack Caseros Talkin’ Twenty-First Century Blues Save money, make money, more stock, more calves, more saws, more robot milkers, more blood, more enzymes, more Motrin, more DXM. Less sleep, more talk, more honesty; less constipation, more fiber, more stretching; less cigarettes, more Advil, more soya. Save memories, make memories, have adventures. More clubs, more room service champagne glasses, more skin, more sins, more pleasuring. Less talk, more action, more mourning. Less drama, more nostalgia, more parades. Less silence, more cowbell, more distraction.

Jack Caseros is a Canadian writer whose first novel, “Onwards & Outwards�, was independently published to zero acclaim.

Olivia Somes Anti-Ode For the Boss Every idea belongs in the trophy case every decision could stop an earthquake even the pattern in his tie holds the secret location to the beginning of civilization but I won’t distract you with the details of a man who holds an inventory gun like Wyatt Earp at the O.K Corral, because this is not your living room, this is the real world honey, darling, and he’s got no time for your kid’s pneumonia the husband that disappeared with your car. The tightness of his ship could mangle a swarm of nuns, so be sure to keep your eyes on your own paper, don’t point out the hour he’s late, the typos he pours out like the schnapps in his coffee mug, even the misspelling of his name is just a quirk. This is his mark in life: the stool an inch higher than the rest of the drunks in the bar, the con with an extra ration of canned beef, the bum who’s too good to give blood. Olivia Somes is a thirty-two year old recent graduate of California State University, Long Beach. She earned a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing. In the fall, Oliva starts her first year of graduate school in the MFA program for Creative Wrting, at CSULB. You can find her poetry in Verdad and several issues of Bankheavy Press. In the Spring of 2011, Olivia won the William T. Shadden Scholarship Award for poetry, at CSULB. Her first chapbook, a joint chapbook with Karie McNealy called “Life After Purgatory,” is coming out this summer by Bankheavy Press. Olivia enjoys writing subjective poetry and narratives that reflect voices outside of her own. She hopes to write a graphic novel and television pilot one day. Olivia loves narrative and snarky contemporary poetry, dystopians, small presses, tacos, beer, barbecuing, and laughing at bad television.

Trevor Alexander No Place My buddy told me that I should go to his S & M club because I was always beating off to that panicked looking chick on Foreigner’s Head Games album cover. A ball gag and some stout restraints really add to the whole “damsel in distress” look, man, he said. Oh I’m sure, I said. I have no doubt, but, you know, it’s a shame that I’m planning on being busy whenever you plan on going for the foreseeable future, I said. What I didn’t tell him was that that lady in red’s frightened face wasn’t what raised my flag. She was a dead-fucking-ringer for my ex Candice whose pictures I burned after downing a liter of Old Crow and that that was why I had to flog it to the musty-smelling twelve-by-twelve cardboard Candice substitute. Fucking Head Games was right. I mean, right? That night, as I came, I climbed out of that music-noted skirt and found myself sunk down in my Goodwill couch in my matchbox of a living room. A fly circled a red and white Chinese food carton on the floor. Skinnemax blared from the TV. I was using my clothes from the three previous days as a pillow. The couch and TV comprised the apartment’s remaining furniture since I Craigslisted everything else—including my goddamned turntable—for liquor and premium cable. I was struck by the chicken or the egg conundrum: Did Candice leave because my apartment was a shithole or was my apartment a shithole because Candice left? I couldn’t remember anymore. I looked at the damp cover and thought it was about time to get out to some garage sales and track down a copy and drop a buck on it. My scared, pretty stand-in was surrounded by a thin layer of crusted-over emissions like she was boxed in a frame. I reached out to touch her cheek, and when my index finger met the cover’s surface she screamed, “Keep the fuck away from me you fucken prick!” The dystopian bathroom smelled like urine and spermicide. The tiles were cold and not level under my bare feet. My pants were around my ankles, and I was afraid that the block letters “FOREIGNER head games” suspended in the air above me like red and green Christmas clouds would tumble and smash in my skull. She lost her balance on those red heels and fell into the urinal. When she tried to pull herself out using the flush handle, she flushed water down her back. “Motherfucken beaverlicken assholes,” she said. So the Head Games cover girl actually was Candice. “Motherfucken beaverlicken assholes” was

Candice’s own, personal, sailor-like swearword compilation. It was Candice all right, but she must not’ve recognized me. I seemed to be the one she was backing away from. This is fucked up, I thought. “You leave me alone!” She panted, and she flushed the urinal again as the regained her feet. “You creep! You better not fucken follow me you fucken creeper,” she yelled as she ran past me out of the bathroom trailing a five foot toilet paper tail. “But Candice, it’s me,” I said, much too late. I had to talk to her, apologize or something, so I followed her through the door and into a familiarseeming, sepia-tinted barroom. There were only a few sepia-tinted people in the bar, and Candice wasn’t among them. She must have ducked out another door or maybe she’d never been in here because this whole thing was a dream. I pinched myself, hoping my eyes would pop open and I’d be back on my couch. Nothing happened. No one even turned to look when I swore. I sat at the bar next to a man in a cream-colored suit and matching fedora. He was head-down hunched over a flaming match book, but when I sat, he looked up at the bartender and touched the brim of his hat. The bartender swished his toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other and then set a carafe of bourbon in front of me. The suited man said, “Have a drink, if you’d like. Seems to help.” “Help?” I asked. “Takes one to know one,” he said. “One what?” “‘Fool in the Rain.’” “That’s a little on the nose, don’t you think?” “Watch yourself, son. Take that drink.” I drank half the carafe, and the whiskey was easy-drinking like water. I didn’t feel drunk, so I drank the other half. “There you go,” the man said. “You see?” “Did a girl come through here? She would have stood out, since she’d’ve been the only one in color.” “You know your pants are down, son.” I wrenched my pants up to my waist. I expected to fumble with my belt after that much bourbon, but I worked the buckle like a surgeon. “No wonder that woman was running from you,” the man in the suit said. I slipped his hat off him and jammed it on my head. He wailed at me as I ran out the front door of the bar, and he sounded like Robert Plant. “Hello,” Judy Garland purred at me as soon as the bar’s door had closed.

I was in a navy blue cube, and Judy wore a robin’s egg evening gown and a matching satin wrap. Judy’s name—Judy—floated in the air. After I noticed the Capitol Records logo in the corner, I recognized this as another of my album covers. I started to get concerned that I was trapped. “I like your hat,” Judy said. Her lips were pursed and were a red that Candice would have paid good money for. Her skin was a Scandinavian baby’s ass. “I’ve always loved this cover, Judy,” I said. “I had it framed, you know, until I sold all my frames.” “Thank you very much. It’s so nice to meet a fan. Although I appreciate the company, it’s very unusual that I’d get two visitors in one day. I’m wondering if there’s a connection. Are you here after that lovely woman that ran through a few minutes ago?” “Yes! Yes, I am. Did you see where she went?” “I’m not sure I should tell you; she seemed insistent on getting quickly away. You seem so nice though. I supposed I could. I sent her toward the Oz soundtrack.” “I don’t own that one. What’s it look like?” “Oh, you own this one. It’s more, I guess, the unofficial soundtrack. You know, you might…” Judy pinched an imaginary joint held up to her pursed lips and squinted her eyes. “And you’d maybe put on my movie and this record. Far out stuff. Anyway, you head through that wall and straight on till morning.” “What?” “I just love Peter Pan, don’t you? A role I’d’ve loved.” I hung the fedora on the hook of the J floating above me. As I walked toward the exit wall, I called out “Give that back to the cream-suited guy if he comes looking for it.” I busted through the blue wall of the cube and had trouble breathing in the warm, humid air. I was surrounded by a green and orange jungle. There was no one in sight, but, fortunately, Candice had crashed willy-fucking-nilly through the unidentifiable undergrowth. Her trail was no trouble to follow. The jungle already had a psychedelic feel, but when I saw the giant red and white polka-dotted mushrooms, I knew where I’d ended up—the centerfold of Eat a Peach. I scanned for the hook-nosed giant I knew lived here, and its hat was just visible beyond the jungle. A jungle buffer suited me fine. I wanted to avoid all the weird critters that populated this cover. I thought about sitting on my couch, drinking a cocktail, smoking a doobie and melting down to “Mountain Jam,” and a tear grew in my eye.

I ran off the trail to a giant mushroom. I crammed big fistfuls of fungal flesh into my mouth, chewing and swallowing at top speed. The whiskey had had no effect. I hoped the mushrooms would work, but I knew it would be a while before I found out. After the fucked up trip I’d been on, I didn’t even know if I could tell the difference. The trail ended on the beach. There were no footprints leading back to the jungle. I’d have to swim. I still didn’t want to ask anyone at Eat a Peach for directions, so I waded out a little way and just dove in. The water wasn’t warm or cold or wet. I rocketed through the air in a blinding light. There was nothing to do but whoop and holler as my hair blew back and my stomach sank deeper and deeper into my belly until I felt like I would be sick and like I would be torn apart. As soon as I hit the prism, I knew I’d found the right cover. I was still in the air, but I’d slowed down as I drifted over the rainbow. The Roy G. Biv under me was luminescent and opalescent but not phosphorescent; at least, I didn’t think so. The rainbow was well, let me put it this way, if you’d seen this rainbow, you’d be telling a story about it too, even if you don’t have a proclivity for yarn-weaving. I realized that as my horizontal progress slowed, my vertical progress was accelerating. Basically, I was a stone falling to the earth. Or what I assumed was the earth. I had no idea what was under the rainbow. I landed on my feet with a sound like a hard strike with a fifteen pound bowling ball. I was in Munchkinland. There wasn’t an album I knew of with Munchkinland as the cover, and it was a relief to me to be out of the world of album covers. It was a relief even though I didn’t know yet whether being in Oz was better or worse than in an album cover. Like Dorothy, I just wanted to go home. I looked down at myself and noticed that I also looked like Dorothy. Blue gingham dress and all, I was the girl from Kansas. I stepped off the porch of a house I’d never seen before and that I didn’t remember riding down from the rainbow. Under the porch was a pair of legs that ended in white bobby socks and red pumps. Those legs belonged to Candice. “Welcome to Munchkinland,” said Glenda—the good witch, you know—who appeared before me surrounded by hundreds of brightly colored tiny people. “We are so pleased to you’ve ridded us of the Wretched Bitch of the Restroom.” “What are you talking about? That’s Candice. Are you saying she’s dead?” “Quite. Stone, you might say. You’re wearing her ruby heels, aren’t you?” I looked down. The shoes had moved from Candice’s feet to my own. Realizing that they were supported only by high heels, my ankles both gave way, and I almost fell. “What the fuck is happening to me? Did those mushrooms kick in or what? Is this real?”

Glenda stepped forward, stumbling a bit on her hugely crinolined skirt. She slapped me in the face with her palm, then across the other cheek with the back of her hand. “Okay, right. Sure. I give up. I give up. I’m trapped in this fucked up place, and I’m alone and tired and want to go to bed. I’m lost. I just want to get Candice back and go home.” “You’ve seen the movie,” Glenda said. “You know how to get home.” “But Candice. She’s gone.” “You’ve got to forget her. She’s dead to you. Let her go. Just let her go.” I nodded. Twice. I sniffled and tried to stop crying. I clicked the heels of my red pumps together. “No place like home.”

Trevor received his MFA from the University of Nebraska Writing Program. His work has appeared in The Mustard Seed Risk and is forthcoming in Fiction365 and Strange Machine. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

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