CRASH number 8

editor's column

Yes, in the nick of time, it's your annual CRASH. And I have to say, whatever the multitudinous problems of the Toronto Small Press Fair, it's at least good that I have this goal to aim for, or I would probably never get an issue out again.

Anyway, I was reflecting lately that I may not have chosen the greatest name for this thing. Last year everyone was coming by my table and pointing at the name and going, "Hey, is this a zine about the Cronenberg movie?", and this year I anticipate that they will all be coming by my table going, "Hey, is this a zine about the death of Lady Di?" And this kind of thing will go on forever. So I thought I would use my Editor's Introduction this time to explain the actual origin of the name.

The idea of this zine first entered my mind mid-l991, at the late lamented Spadina Hotel, where I was listening to a gig by the late lamented (at least by me) band Four Words. (Does anyone else remember Four Words? Maybe we could form a tiny retrospective fan club). I also thought of calling it a "litzine", which is a word that I at least had never heard before, so I've always thought that it's possible that I invented it, though more probably it was one of those things where lots of people think of the same idea at the same time, like with the theory of evolution and so on. The immediate stimulus was the fact that someone had just given me an old Gestetner machine. I never used the Gestetner for the zine or for anything else except decoration, but it got me thinking.

Anyway, the primary, and actually almost the only, consideration in my mind when I thought of CRASH: a litzine was that I liked the sound of the word. I have always liked "k" sounds. This is really true. The meaning of the word was relatively unimportant to me. In fact I liked it in part because of the comparative lack of meaning. I also had this sort of mental picture of the zine crashing through someone's wall like Krypto the Superdog "CRASH!" go the sound effects. "A litzine!" someone shouts.

The secondary reference was to computer systems crashes, a regular feature in the lives of myself and everyone else who uses decrepit old equipment such as most zines are done on.

I hadn't read, and still haven't read, the Ballard novel which everyone has always assumed I took the name from, although I am sure I have nothing against it. I also haven't seen the movie. I'm very out of touch.

So now you know. By the way it's supposed to be all caps, boldface, no italics, no exclamation point. Big deal, you say. Well, I used to work as a typesetter, so orthography matters to me.

Enjoy! Write to me! Send me stuff so the next issue is not all little and thin like this one ! Look at my web page where I don' t actually update anything at all except pictures of my daughter! Drink lots of fluids and get lots of rest!

peace love and anarchy, yr editor, Maggie Helwig

CRASH: a litzine
PO Box 562, Station P Toronto, Ont M5S 2Tl

Plane-sick plain-song

This is a day when,
watching water suck and bubble 'round the plants,
a face emerging from the potted earth
would not surprise me.

You think that I'm being poetic;
that i've found myself
grounded on some specific side-road of emotion, thought,
some border-crossing between states of mind,
and cleverly arranged a pattern in dust and gravel
that your plane might make for.

small wonder

i must say

everything twice

all that i did was finally remember
to give your poor thalidomidget cacti water
and as i watched the earth
drawing it in
(a quickie preview: what the roots are up to, slower and in private)
would not surprise me.

& if a sign to you at all, then just my thumb out on this shoulder,
yet another detail blurred in fly-past.

Death of Katherine Mansfield

These cows' loud smell
Is their garments' hem
An antique peasants' cure
So says Gurdjieff,

Who made the other patients
Build this balcony for me
A gallery of wood that juts
Above the stable floor.

If only I climb up here,
Breathing deeply daily weekly
Simply pump this green gas
Through my crumbling lungs

Then I'll be healed;
Reborn, perhaps a crocodile
(So I read: the only beast
God built which never coughs...)

What God? Where? I wonder if
Is God Gurdjieff? My god
He looks like he sells dayold
Rugs in Portobello Road!

I know: his so-called "Russian"
Is a bag of broken bones
And every time you say his name,
You sneeze

But I'm a drowning man now
Can't be ill another year.
One look or word from him will
Bake my bloody breath to bread.

The smell's not that rank really
Almost sweet (or, rather, fresh)
And a monkey's being trained
To sweep the stalls;

A nearly-famous painter's
Easteregg'd my walls, besides:
A nursery-rhyme garden of aquamarine
And a tree ripe with hippos & cats!

(Nicer to stare at than cow's behinds.)
And o it does get stale up here
And all this breathing in & out
I'd never guessed what raw work living is...

But a divan's been provided
And I lie down quite a lot
And speaking as I was of rugs:
It's covered with a Persian one

Quite ugly but it's real
So I think I'll take it with me when I go.


You can read Stanch as a text file if you have Netscape 2.0 or higher or else as a graphic.

This poem is included in Louise Bak's first major collection of poetry, Gingko Kitchen (Coach House Books) see it at and remember to send her a tip when you do so.

First Day

The others looked up, but said nothing. They didn't know his name, or what to say. He kept walking, nodding as he went by, moving to the desk he'd been told would be his.

When Mike sat down, he pushed his palms across the edge of the desk top. He opened all the drawers, thumbed through the paper he found there. He tested the chair a bit. Flipped the calendar beside the desk pad to the day's date. This was his first day on a new job.

After a while, he started to get nervous. No one had come over to show him the ropes. No one had even come over to say hello, introduce themselves. The people sitting at the desks around him seemed to look at him from the corners of their eyes, with their heads bent over the papers in front of them, like they didn't want him to know they were looking at him.

Mike tapped a pencil against the desk pad. He looked for any manuals or binders he could read to get a head start. He distinctly remembered that, at the job interview, his boss had said there would be a two-week training period. Where was his trainer? Where was his boss? Mike tried to breathe deeply. He had learned this technique in stress class.

Then the boss came, through a door to what Mike imagined was her office. She could be seen from quite a distance, slowly weaving between the desks. Her eyes were glued to a space just before her feet as she moved. When she got near him, she had a tight, shy smile he found appealing, but she did not meet his eyes. She stopped short of his desk.

"Um, what are you doing here?" she asked.

"Did I come on the wrong day? Did I get here too early?" he answered. "I'm sorry if I've caused any confusion. I, I could come back. You know, I yuh .."

She didn't wait for him to finish. "Um, ah, no," she said. Her name was Ruby. She'd been a manager for a couple of years now, but was still getting used to it. She shifted her position, leaned a bit forward to get closer to the corner of the desk where The Far Side calendar lay like an open book. She reached over and pinched the sheaf of paper with the day's date between her fingers, rubbing it like it was Aladdin's lamp. "You changed the date," she said softly.

Mike laughed a bit. "Can't wait to get started." He looked around.

"Look, ah ..."

"Mike," he said.

"Yeah, Mike. I ... don't know how to say this, so I'm just ... going to say it. Mike, we didn't hire you. Two days after your interview, we found someone, who'll be starting Wednesday."


He pushed his shoulders hard into the back of the chair. He felt his muscles go impossibly soft, then recoil into hard tight bands that seemed to bind him to where he was sitting. His breathing became short, his heart strained against his chest. His stomach lurched up then plummeted. Mike thought he was going to be sick, with his head as light as it was and his body rebelling all around him. He prayed he wouldn't start sweating.

"I'm sorry," Ruby said. She meant it. This guy looked like he was in shock. She couldn't imagine what he was going through. It hadn't been a bad interview. She thought it would be okay to work with him.

Finally, he looked up at her. She looked away. "But you hired me. You hired me." He almost whispered.

"No," Ruby said. "There's been some terrible mistake. I never told you you were hired. I hadn't even finished all the interviews, obviously."

"You showed me this desk. Told me I'd be working with her and her and him." He pointed around the room. The others hunched even closer to the paperwork in their desks. "You told me their names. I just can't remember. A lot of people aren't great with names. But you told me them."

"I didn't say you had the job. I talked to you about what the job would be, if you were hired. Who you would work with, if you were hired. This has never happened before."

Mike didn't move. "You said I'd work with these people, so I thought I'd work with them."

Ruby sighed. "Well, other than saying I'm sorry again, there's not much I can do. You don't have the job. Someone else has it. She's coming in Wednesday. There's nothing else we can do here, Mike."

Mike looked down at his palms. Black lines streaked across them. He looked at the edge of the desk, remembering in a flash that he touched it when he first came in. The edge was filthy. Without thinking, he wiped his hands against his pants. He cursed softly under his breath when he saw the marks had transferred on to the light fabric. His body clung even closer to the chair.

An impossible amount of time seemed to pass. Neither of them moved.

Ruby didn't want to, but she felt she had to say something. "I can't stay here much longer. I've got work to do."

"I'm happy for you."

Ruby was losing her patience. "It would be best if you left now. I can't just leave you here."

"Fine, then," Mike said. He scanned the top of the desk. Reread the day's Far Side. Couldn't focus on what it was about. Dinosaurs and cows. All of them grinning. "Fine," he repeated. He grabbed his briefcase and pulled it on top of his lap. He sprang out of the chair and went straight through the door, keeping the briefcase high against his pants, holding it there with both hands. His elbows shot out at sharp angles. He mashed a thumb viciously into the down button. The elevator arrived in no time, and he was gone.

When Ruby crossed the room and shut the door to her office, there was absolute silence. Then, slowly, a quiet hum arose.

abduction slideshow

Reesa's House

And I'm crying and lying alone on the rug that's shaped like an awful eye. I wait for it to blink but I halfway faint because you think I'm stating you're a vixen of fabric. Possibly Acrylic but just a little more eccentric than our masters (making us martyrs) of Prozac, lithium and Thorazine.

You and I are esoteric in our quintessential beauty. We're each refined to a pure drug of darkened spirit. You sit cross-legged blinking your quiet loneliness. I adore it and mouth quietly how horrible the unending stare of that carpeted eye really is. It seems to stare right though a person, see into their soul like you do. Right through my armour like you've x-ray vision of the heart. My subtle madness is no match for your keen watchfulness.

So when the night's grown long I climb the stairs tip-toe and venture higher into the cornea of this lake of fire where I wonder about you. You stretch somewhere in the everlasting dark, your tassels tear to the wind and the old skin shows through from under your fine rind. You pollinate to the sticky, inky lines running me blindly to the hard wood brown, lower and lower until you find you're not breathing any more.

Here in the watchfulness of you I wonder why you'd ever bother. You've no right looking right through me.

"Am I dreaming?" I catch myself screaming. the whole possibility backs through my mind like a suicide.

"You curl on costly dialogue. You stick to my lips like words never spoken." And you take it all in like a fun house mirror showing me ME all out of shape and awful. I hide away and break words on my sheets like a victorious maiden-head. I stretch on the carpet and fall through the Aztec eye. I'm sure that's what it is. O' poor Montezuma you see so well. They're marching for you and yet you won't run.

And the glorious empire crumbles in the carpet but there are still monsters. More than you ever cared to count. And when I roll over the ice freezes into faces on the windows. It's my lunatic heart opening and yawning my hell-glow hatred. I've sunk in spirit and my purulent body hangs. But like an angel of aggravation you sway in the midst of the hurt eye, focusing, closing and re-opening on my cold shout for fate and loneliness.

You can't tear me. You're my magic trick I pulled from my sleep. You pull across my wrists and hang like the broken heart I've worn to tatters on my sleeve. I may be hygienic as horror and yet you crawl at the walls, you chip out bits of stone to catch me weeping and perplexed in the room next to yours.

I get my form caught under the lip, the great red lip and lash of the serpent's eye. I pull one arm free and cry on your living room floor. The light backs away hesistantly, the demons and the trolls burrow down in the knotted wooden walls.

Now silence drones me to violence. The phantoms pissing in my hair and would you withstand the intrusion of eyes rubbing obscenely against your soul? You open your petals without invitation, you pollinate the night with sadness and it keeps me company. But when you go quiet my petals fold, I wilt over you and the lights come back. My bare feet curt at the floor luring me to shiver and the eye stares straight up my neck, kissing me sharp and smart as a sliver.


I think we should begin now,
crank the Starship.
                             Soon it will be October,
                             then nude November,
another December were
there is little leave-taking left.

The light of a metaphorical morning?
The light of a metaphorical mourning?
                                                           And the ice
and the geese have flown all  night
to no avail.
                It is hard to find a place
with a cheerful disposition,
                                         either man
                                         or machine,
going East, going West,
driven back to our dens,
losing force,
                  and direction.

Whatever Happened

A long way from Park Avenue: daily trivia
                                                 & words, spoken
                                                 & unspoken.
The point is precisely the point.
I'll be perfectly straightforward with you:
I'll be watching The News at 5 & 6 & 10, sometimes,
                                                                        I admit,
it's confusing, and I don't have a leather chair.

our (nation's) polarization is everywhere.
Fantasy is real, and we're way past 1984, o take
a passage from an old poem and reinvent
    of value.

It's after lunch here
and nothing is authentic.

The Food Page

Click here for the food page (60k gif file).


I always try to put stuff here that you won't just find at the next table at the Small Press Fair anyway, you know? Which is why it's usually from some other country. This issue I'm reprinting a poem from a book by Kelvin Corcoran, a British small-press poet. The book is called TCL and it's published by Pig Press, 7 Cross View Terrace, Neville's Cross, Durham DHI 4JY, England. It costs $8 but you should maybe make it $10 to cover shipping (& actually try to send it in pounds sterling, by money order, to save them a whole lot of trouble converting the currency).


The closed book of the past
speaks your mind clatters
all around the house,
vague European people
haul it up wrapped in ribbons
keep lighted fools in work;
they saw the advantage of northern winters:
surplus dreams, tools and protestant empires.

It sounds like a man in a confined space,
the gulf or a shed with a crow-bar,
smashing furniture in cold blood
splintering the accomplished fact;
contradiction off the record
- call it anything but what it is.

Tilt the rack one way towns rise up
others go down for good,
below the stadium of the sun
happy families stake a plot
giant hoardings stage direct,
bright prospects mine the road
landscape lawns and sharp ideas
bend the future one way.

other things ... other things ...

The latest little odd twist in my life is that I am being paid to write about television for Catholic New Times. Who I am to tell progressive Catholics what to watch on television I do not know, particularly since until the moment they actually hired me to do this, I watched only one tv show (The X-Files. You knew that, right?). But I'll try anything, especially if I'm getting paid.

Anyway I am trying to watch more tv now. It is opening up to me many mysteries, such as:

Books I Liked Lately

(You have to understand that, given the amount of reading I actually get to do these days, I'm using "lately" in a very loose sense.)

William Gibson, Idoru, Putnam, 1996: I mentioned last year that I was reading this one, so I thought I should follow through. Yes, it's worth reading. It's not as groundbreaking as Neuromancer but it's good. Gibson's thoughts about the relationship of the public figure and the fan community are probably particularly relevant to the zine world. And the idea of a rock star trying to marry a computer program has just gotta be interesting.

Carolyn Forche, The Angel of History, Bloodaxe/Harper Collins, 1994: Five long poems and poem sequences of great power, meditations on some of the pivotal events in the history of this century, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. "It is for me the opening of a wound, the muffling and silence of a decade, and it is also a gathering of utterances that have lifted away from the earth and wrapped it in a weather of written words," says the author, who is one of my favourite living poets.

Steve Venright, Straunge Wunder, Tortoiseshell and Black (7 Walmer Rd #707, Toronto M5R 2W8) 1996, $13: Well, every litzine and small press thingy in the region has already printed their rave review of this so there's nothing original left for me to say. Just to let you know you should read it. Pretty cool surrealist stuff. It's fun.

Mary Hutchinson

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