"-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> Frigg | Fall/Winter 2023/24 | What to Look for When You Look for a Spine | Jacob Schepers
artwork for Jacob Schepers' poem What to Look for When You Look for a Spine

What to Look for When You Look for a Spine
Jacob Schepers

O backslide. O chiropractic mishap.
    You leave me misshapen. Not happenstance
            but by and by. By holistic failure.
                   By alternatively derived medicine.
                         I try to stand, thrive on my own two feet,
                   improve my vertebrae-aligned posture
            but falter, gutted, expectedly so,
    for such a spineless thing. I have
           no guts, no spine. I am absolutely
                 prokaryotic and so aspire to
                                      more Essential Oils, Reiki. A holdout
                on prayer, hung juries, I fashion a poultice
                      I apply to every nook and cranny.
    Whatever flagellum propels me
                       in fluid further through the deep Arctic sea,
                             hugs. Sea slugs and squid refine a latent
                       luminescent knack for digesting
            the viscera of a crumpled submarine,
                       field notes written in glow-in-the-dark gel
                                pen. Envious angel fish swim too far
                             down, watching on in packs for body heat
                                          that even my bargain-bin thermal specs
                             pick up. Green in the gills, they sense where
                       they’re coldest. They know better than to trust
            that the pharmaceutical particulates
                    will settle in their beds, their bellies, their
                           shallows. Their bleached reefs growing blonder.
                    Their battered fillets giving sacrifice. These angels
                               have spines for the taking, being
                                         none the wiser as to how many
                              fish hooks might one day shape a makeshift halo.

Jacob Schepers’ Comments

I adore the poetic “O”—the lyrical baggage it carries, its snootiness at times and, at others, its wryness, and, even more foundationally, its beastly holler in the extralinguistic yawp. It’s a silly move, perhaps, to humble the “O” by associating it with back pain, but doing so provided the animus for this poem in this way. From there, the various conditions, symptoms, and treatments that run through the first half of the piece create the space to devolve. The room to transform. To shirk pain and the consequences of being a pain in the neck yourself. To dwell among more primordial life forms that even now suffer and bear the brunt of anthropogenic pollutants. I suppose what I’m gesturing toward is a bleaker, Late-Capitalist rendition of the medievals’ “Great Chain of Being” where hope (or something like it) somehow still subsists.

Table of Contents

Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 62 | Fall/Winter 2023/24