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Crack the Spine

Issue fifty-Five

Crack The Spine Issue Fifty-Five February 12, 2013 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2013 by Crack the Spine


Loh Guan Liang Takeaway Choke

Karina van Berkum Earthquake? If I Were the Train as it Crashed

Danielle L. Luebbe Baked Pork Chops with Apples An Essay

Merica Merida Teng Torch & Crown Gowns for Frowns Arthur Davis The Red Bandana Jane Rosenberg LaForge If Water Were Religion Jesse Hayges Don’t Make Me Say It Christopher Lettera The Warmth of That October

Karina van Berkum Earthquake?

Your town heaves its thousand shoulders and lets the china stagger the yard seizes up its collection of roots who patiently die into the long pores they left. You feel now you should have listened to July and her quiet ideas but you are so human. You are most afraid of familiar greatness and cannot know that Earth’s precious shaking is nothing but want to bloom.

Karina van Berkum If I Were the Train as it Crashed

my secrets would pour up not only from the lip like the animal dead but from hundreds of mouths in a row along the ribs. My dreams would show with eelish black bodies who, like lies must charm time to dim. They’d dance then shred in stunning disorder. Later I’d be a blunt hum of Happened to somebody else’s brother; the gray epaulette of lost life But as I crashed, what’s just inside would be my only disease and my own fat spine would live

using just its desperate memory like another hot trout who knows his lip is upstream.

Karina is from small town New Hampshire and now lives in Baltimore, MD where she asks and answers questions. She's not sure she's lived enough to have a bio yet, so consider this one happily "in progress." She loves writing about seasons and the body, and her poems have been published in several literary magazines including Stirring and Vine Leaves Poetry.

Loh Guan Liang Takeaway

Because faith is more than pages torn from scripture like newsprint to separate beating hearts from mushy peas: some of us need our faith returned, some restored between bites, our hopes learning to be hungry again all the same.

Loh Guan Liang Choke Sorry is a hard word to utter, for it requires respiration, and part of what it means to be human is to breathe – an intake of air, a lowered head more often than not completes the apology. But there are those for whom the breath’s exile is forbidden, and so their humanity expires somewhere between the chest and lips. Sorry remains an ossified furball in the throat until one day they claw themselves open out of sheer desperation and discover, in their dying moments, that forgiveness is what has been driving their biology all along.

Loh Guan Liang’s works have appeared in various journals such as Kin Poetry Journal, Mascara Literary Review and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. His first collection of poems, "Transparent Strangers," is published by Math Paper Press. Guan Liang currently lives in Singapore.

Danielle L. Luebbe Baked Pork Chops with Apple

Peel and slice two apples. Remember how you read somewhere that apple seeds contain small doses of cyanide. Not enough to kill you if you eat a few. Suck on a pip while you prepare the rest of the meal. Preheat the oven to three hundred fifty degrees. Think about how you dislike it when people say “three hundred and fifty.” It’s not a decimal. Wonder when you got to be so picky. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet. Brush the back of your hand against the side of the skillet and burn yourself. Brown two pork chops on both sides in the skillet. Lick the burn on your hand as though that will help. Remember that you read somewhere that honey can soothe burns. Put some honey on your hand. Run your hand through your hair and leave sticky traces behind. Try to part the strands as the pork chops sizzle. Put the apple slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Not the large one called for by the recipe, but a small one, eight by eight if it’s square. Remember that you forgot to grease it. Dump out the apples, spray the bottom with Pam, and replace the apple slices, not as neatly as before. Sprinkle a fourth of a cup of brown sugar over the apples. Remember that you forgot to halve the recipe. Try to scoop some of the brown sugar off, so your fingers are now as sticky as your hair. Try to guess how much a fourth of a teaspoon is and sprinkle on that much cinnamon. Put the pork chops in the dish and cover it with foil. Forget to look at the clock, so you have to guess how long an hour and a half is. Take it out at 6:15 and poke at it, trying to decide if it’s done. Change your mind at least twice. Put it back in the oven. At 6:30 take it back out to see that the apples have turned into a mushy, lumpy sauce. Cut open one of the chops and find that it’s overcooked and dry. Make macaroni and cheese for supper and have the salty, sticky, sweet applesauce for dessert.

Danielle Luther Luebbe grew up in the Sandhills of Nebraska. This starkly beautiful place and the people that inhabit it have deeply influenced her writing. She is currently an adjunct professor of English and writes general copy for a university website. She has a cat named Ralphie, enjoys wings and beer, and recently got her first plant, which she is hoping she can keep alive.

Merica Merida Teng Torch & Crown entering me will cost you, get on the ferry and come see me I’m good. I’m French. I’m rusty. crowned queen they’ve made me commercial when you need tickets to see my peep show up my legs and into my head— you don’t know what I’m thinking all this fire in the palm of my hands but no cigarette. man gave me the matches and now take your tired and hungry and two faces and gentlemen… burn for me—

Merica Merida Teng Gowns for Frowns

We buy dresses we can’t afford, Tucking price tags into places that men have not touched, You want to know the details of my dress Cataloguing my armor for happier days, Because you are sick of being less, And you need a game-plan. Ignoring your requests, I stand, crimson gown gathered at my feet, With all of the right wrinkles. You don’t know the miseries I wear When you ask me, calmly, for ways to knock me down.

Merica Merida Teng is a Cambodian American writer from La Mirada, CA. She received her BA in English - Creative Writing from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2010. She went on to earn her MFA in Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach in 2012. She is a girl that values her family, her friends, loyalty, and really clean mirrors. She has an obsession with art galleries, butterflies, list-making, and reading. Any success that she has earned or will earn is completely due to her spectacular parents, and a wonderful little brother.

Arthur Davis The Red Bandana "It's a shame. “Unfortunate really, when you consider what might have been. "I could have taken you to bright green and yellow fields, to tangerine skies. To places you could never have imagined. Exposed you to colors that would have scarred your heart, warmed your cheeks. That had the potential for extravagance. Shown you emotions too intense to touch and impossible to endure. I could have filled your mouth with conjecture and delight, your soul with nuance and only the most palatable, wondrous necessities. "First, you would have had to wither and die, and shed your tortured skin and been reborn a creature of infinitely greater surface and texture. I would have made this journey with you. Sided your side, held your head, met your need. Guided your hesitancy. You would have expanded, taking in sound and sights and contours that you never saw and if you did, never understood, and if you did, never appreciated. Shaking, soaking, haunted by an ill-conceived past, you would have emerged purged and perfected. "I could have given you the greatest gift; the ability to invert upon yourself and understand the nature that drives you. You would have harnessed your instincts, your heart, your compassion, wringing from them the salt from which you were created. "You would have resisted at first, part of you at least. I would have understood that. But the other part, the one that first heard my siren's song, the one that had been waiting for me, in my blue sweat pants and faded red bandanna, the one who was dry, desiccated, waiting, would have guided and reassured you. Tended softly to your apprehension, wiped the fear from your eyes, the caution from your legs, and made them fleet and attentive. "Relief would have been immediate. Overwhelming. Overcoming. Taxing your system. Confronting your truths and inconsistencies. Drawing off your doubts and energizing your confidence and courage. Wetting your appetite for direction and devotion. For walking off into the night as though God himself had given you a map of the world so you would not bang your toes in the darkness.

"Your body would have tightened, softened, welcomed, laughed, undulated, savored, reclined, twisted and entrapped. Vibrated with anticipation and exultation. Realizing what it might, at a glint or in a frenzy, capture and close upon, it would become whatever it could, wanted, fantasized. “Desire would have become gratification. Experience become abandon, surpassing alchemists and dreamers, you would have dined in a pasture of exotic, unhindered, uninhibited possibilities. You would have become more than you were, more than you imagined, more in my embrace than in a lifetime of your own. "I would have resurrected your spirit, allowed your soul to spring from its self-imposed exile, seeded your body and cherished rivulets of sweat under your breasts, in the untouched, un-graced wet delights between your legs. I would have nurtured your body, watched it change and evolve into its original design and harvested a crop of ruby love and amber sensation. “And I would have watched your surprise. “And you would have watched my contentment. “And you would have grown, multiplied in aspects, constantly, as if pleasure was simply a reward for presence. "Your memory would refine and define. Your tongue master and repeat, your movement swifter and enlivened. And it would be unnoticed. As though it had always been. As though it was as ingrained and substantiated as your need for me. Your sleep enabling you to venture to lands where safety and risk were balanced, where you could journey deeper and higher with a confidence born out of the unconfined reality of your regenerated universe. "When you walked down the street with me, you would have felt more loved, cared for and protected, more beautiful and desirable than you've ever felt before. And in my arms you would be happier and freer to be the spirited woman-child you've hidden for so long. You would be consumed with a natural, outspoken radiance, the substance of the poet's song. The essential essence of joy and realization. The confirmation of what had always been there. What had been searching for a hand, an ally, a partner to caress and comfort. "Life would be reconstituted in your lips. Sensation would return to your hands. Sparkle to your eyes. Dimension and hope to your spirit. Miracle, to the smile that sustains and consoles me. "You would become constant. Become simplicity, originality itself, bending thought to suit our purpose, wrapping us in a theme of girders and mirth, of truths and untroubled times. "I can understand why the prospect, the possibility of such a flight might frighten you. You would have become disconnected, untethered, unnaturally buoyant. How could you look back again? No

longer taste what you once thought was worth savoring, worth keeping and passing around to those you believed were worth having to supper? Worth having to your home? As passing, unsatisfying entertainment? As cordial, incomplete reflections of your own charm? "How would you deal with them? Perhaps you would not. There are some things you would have had to leave behind. Some would have been immovable baggage. Some would have been misunderstandings. You would have known which was which. Which was worth keeping, taking with you, with us. "It would have made itself known to you. It would have wanted you to move on, knowing that it may lose you forever, but in that loss allow you to fly and dream and float and wonder as never before. “As though your senses died and were recreated in a burst of colored fragrant glory, reborn for the sake of those you love, for yourself. You would have known. "You would have taken my hand, and known." "I know," she said without lifting her eyes to mine.

Arthur Davis is a management consultant and has taught at the New School University, been quoted in The New York Times, in business journals and interviewed on New York TV News Channel 1, and lectures extensively to CEO’s and entrepreneurs on how to improve leadership skills. He has given testimony as an expert on best practices for the U.S. Senate and appeared as an expert witness on best practices in hearings before The New York State Commission on Corruption in Boxing. He has written 11 novels, and over 130 short stories, twenty-four of which have found a welcome audience in literary magazines.

Jesse Hayges Don’t Make Me Say It

So, a dog walks into a bar, sits up on a tall bar chair and says nothin’—'cause he's a dog. The bartender looks ‘em dead in the eyes and says, "We dunna see much of yer kind in here." The dog still says nothin’—'cause he's a dog. The bartender pauses and says, "Well, dog—speak yer mind." The dog says, "I suppose that is a new trick I could try. I usually just bark when spoken to, because I am after all—a dog." The bartender leans back while polishin’ a glass. "So? Out with it then; what's on yer mind?" The dog looks him in the eyes and says, "Chasing tails and humping legs, naturally." The bartend laughs to himself, "—'Cause you're a dog." The bartender, still not sure as to why the dog is in his bar asks, "So, why are you sittin’ in my bar, thinkin’ 'bout chasin’ tails and humpin’ legs?" The dog spins around in his tall bar chair and says, "Well, your ad said your bar has the best 'tail' in town." The bartender says, "I didn't think you could read newspaper ads." The dog replies, "Why? Because I'm a dog?"

Jesse has lived in many places around the United States including, but not limited to: Ohio, Alaska, Washington, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. He currently is a student who is pursuing a degree in English with a focus on Creative Writing. Care packages are always appreciated.

Jane Rosenberg LaForge If Water Were Religion What if water were religion: not its abundance, as if it were a magnificent finiteness, ream to bolt, fold to bias; or if we celebrated scarcity, for it once bubbled and teased as though its source essence was an insatiable mathematical formula due to an early trauma that tumbled through the mulch. Regardless there would be the weight and depth of it, and acolytes would slave away with chips and chisels, to reach the core of its inverse philosophy, its currency that is shell and center, an enigma within a dichotomy that is both a god and his descendant: Then we would not honor it with petals or ashes, but with the silver redacted from negatives, and when the laundry’s clean and the bones have been swept in by the sons, we would use water for stashing evidence, the disputations and contradictions.

Jane Rosenberg LaForge is the author of the full-length poetry collection, "With Apologies to Mick Jagger, Other Gods, and All Women'' (The Aldrich Press, 2012) and "The Navigation of Loss,'' one of three winners of the Red Ochre Press 2012 chapbook competition. Her experimental novel and memoir, "An Unsuitable Princess: A True Fantasy/A Fantastical Memoir,'' will be published by Jaded Ibis Productions in either fall 2013 or winter 2014.

Christopher Lettera The Warmth of That October for Anthony Lettera Carl Tomlin, fifty-seven, followed the rules with few exceptions so-help-him-his-God. On October tenth, nineteen ninety-four, he covered the outdoor grill behind the Buckhorn hunting lodge, set his gold wrist-watch, and took pleasure in how an extra fifteen minutes of heat would burn away residual Ballpark grease and grime. World-smell was: cherry cigarillo smoke; musky, dried leaves; dour lime emanating from the half-open outhouse on the back of the property. The bottom story of the Buckhorn wore a fresh coat of maroon paint. The punctured heart of the backyard Styrofoam archery target had been replaced. This all brought a comfort and lightness to Carl’s broad chest and shoulders. So when Dick Voss backed down the drive, when the wheels on his Custom Deluxe 10 kicked up gravel (a crackling, Carl internalized that afternoon, like bird bones breaking under boot-heel), when Voss unlatched the back of the truck and clapped his hands twice and flashed a toothy grin at the emaciated buck splayed across the bed, Carl made his way into the Buckhorn kitchen and sat in relative darkness for what felt like a long while. What Voss had said was a four-pointer he’d rightly put out of its misery had grown, on studying the creature for no more than a glance, perhaps three miniscule points on its rack and what looked like an aggravated pimple jutting from the upward curve where the right antler met a base of skull and soft fur. Carl wondered where the creature might have been taken and if Voss had sprung for a license this season. That would make three years going that Voss had not and all during which he had taken advantage of: his lodge-mates who sprung $15.70 for in-state tags; the goodwill and authority of the Pennsylvania Game Commission; the sanctity and beauty of the beast itself. Carl palmed the Buckhorn rotary dial. The pad of his index never fit. He extended his pinky, dialed one of two grown children from his first marriage. When his oldest boy picked up, Carl delicately replaced the phone to its cradle. The counter-top supported: a microwave oven, the dim-lit insides of which Carl had 409’d not an hour after fixing his lunch; two decks of playing cards – one standard Hoyle set and the other a Desert Storm issue pack, Saddam the Ace of Spades and Buckhorn-boy Folgers staining his King and Queen; a Sports Illustrated (“Former NFL star Lyle Alzado now admits to massive use of steroids”); a Dixie cup,

clustered rubber bands spilling from its rim; outside light morphed blue by its travel through kitchen window-glass. Above the counter Voss had taped a black and white paper cartoon of an inquisitive buck standing on its hind legs and holding a t-handled, round blade to the curly-haired belly of one of four nude outdoorsmen, their dangling bodies arranged upside-down from a tree branch by order of the length of their cocks. Carl Tomlin thought of the black-steel butt of his Winchester Model 70, of how it felt packed in the slot of muscle where right shoulder met chest, of how Voss might raise his eyebrows when he saw Carl had sighted him and was pacing towards him. The rifle would swing 180 from Carl’s shoulder and its butt would strike Voss whose devil smile would burst into teeth loosed and a rainbow spray of dark blood and spit and inky Red Man Original. As Voss fell, the creature in the Chevy bed would tremor and its wound would first inhale oxygen, then exhale a great supping of blood that hardened and sprout skin and short furs and the buck would rise and lope into forest sanctuary. Instead, Carl found his keys and drove to town and to Leeper Market for homemade jerky. His GMC Jimmy coasted down each hill road. He nodded approval to no one in particular for dependable four-wheel drive. Last winter brought six inches of snow on average. Carl paid cash, thanked Gregory’s boy Johnny at the checkout, invited the kid for mountain pies at a Buckhorn campfire. Carl pumped gas, studied cloud. He pumped fuel for the old timer next to him who probably never unhooked his blue-white handicap hanger from his mirror. They took turns talking about the warmth of that October.

Christopher Lettera hears that train a comin'. He received his Master’s in English from Youngstown State University, where he founded and worked as Managing Editor of Jenny Magazine for two years. He is the recipient of the Robert R. Hare Award for fiction and placed as runner-up in the Ohio River Valley chapter of the recent National Society of Arts and Letters short story writing competition. His fiction has appeared in Literary Orphans and Jersey Devil Press. He has taught poetry at SMARTS (Students Motivated by the Arts), a free K-12 art school in Youngstown, and currently teaches Mythology in Literature at YSU.

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Profile for Kerri Foley

Crack the Spine - Issue 55  

Literary Magazine

Crack the Spine - Issue 55  

Literary Magazine