Issue #36 Poetry

Selectors: Peter Jeffery OAM and Mike Greenacre

Submissions Manager: Wendy Beach

Kaye Brand

Thoracic Four

Graeme Butler

A Death In The Paddock

David Clayden

Rain

Gary Colombo De Piazzi

Clear Seeing You

Derek Fenton

Donald Duck

Floating Through

Rosalind Franklin

The Lemon Scented Gum

Kevin Gillam

Coppers

For B.P.

Mike Greenacre

Poetry Downpour

The Wave

Ruari Jack Hughes

Coordinates

How Do I Tell You

Ross Jackson

Dingo brand

To Dick Alderson, A Sonnet (Sort Of)

Christopher Konrad

Christopher

The Right Whale

Mardi May

A Holiday In 19 Lines

Scott-Patrick Mitchell

For Aleppo

In Vogue Death Grows

Jan Napier

Beneath The Surface

Julian O’Dea

Music

Heat

Allan Padgett

Buggered

Conversation With A Dying Bird

Barry Sanbrook

The Twittering Machine 

Julie Spence

Age 21, Drowned

Points of Distraction

Rita Tognini

Aerial View Of Venice

Asylum

Gail Willems

Angel

Maggie Van Putten

Breakaway Country


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Thoracic Four

Pain, she came without her bugle call
Not graciously or gentle but bold
An unbridled blade through the thorax
Calm splintering to bended form

Pain, not cascading down waterways
Flowing away but intrinsically pooled
Trapped with tempered permission
Securing a familiar natural abode

Pain, rippling in this holding space
She self-exploring allowing not accepting
This crack just enabling sufficient light
To expose the stark nakedness of pain

            Kaye Brand
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A Death in the Paddock

 

A giant has fallen down by the creek.
It has flattened the fence and imprinted splayed limbs
weighing tons on the soft ploughing.
It has fallen heavy and thick.
Immoveable in its death throe pose,
it lies as if face up to the sun.

Exploring its sheer solidity,
I have climbed over its trunk and limbs,
and felt the weight of cool sap beneath its skin.
Then spying a white ant nest – a desiccated
brain huddled in the foot of its trunk –
I descended for a moment into autopsy. – could
This small nest have caused the fall?
No!
It was the movement of the wind,
and the sodden, sodden soil.

Moved somehow to protect its frosted pink
skin, and solid limbs from the elements,
which I know I cannot do,
I reflect now that Salmon gums are
always lighter, when
standing up as exclamation marks
in the punctuation of the paddock,
than when lying down –
full stopped.

            Graeme Butler
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Rain

 

The promise of rain
Dark clouds are advancing
Wind precedes the path
Leaves and limbs start dancing

Light dims and decreases
Rain curtains now falling
Drops splatter and chatter
As puddles are pooling

Beating drums a constant rhythm
From clouds grey and giving
Window droplets racing and chasing
Wondrous water for the living

Life falling from the skies
Dryness and drought now forgotten
A glimmer of blue, its end is due
All around now, wet and sodden

Passing on into our past
Leaving a fine and dampening mist
Rains song so moves along
We all are so sweetly kissed

            David Clayden
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Clear Seeing You

I find my heart clear and fresh
for the things time cannot kill.
The excitement of birds in the morning
as they weave the sun’s first rays.

The colour of sunrise as it bleeds
away the dark and the touch of fire
as trees erupt in its glow.

The cold shock of dew on bare feet
as grass cradles each step
to leave a soft play of prints.

Yet, these are mere tokens
compared to you beside me.

How your voice trills away
the chatter of birds and your eyes glimmer
mischievous light to flounder my words

scuttle my step.
Your touch with its ice and fire
startles my skin to surrender

scampers  thought
beyond the next breath.
Tethers me to your step

electric as we move.
You shape the path and I secure the rear
as we weather life’s short passage.

            Gary Colombo De Piazzi
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Donald Duck

Donald, when will you learn to duck
slings and arrows coming your way.
Soon you’re going to run out of luck.
Donald, when will you learn to duck
and avoid being covered in muck;
hubris will never stop the spray.
Donald, when will you learn to duck,
if you weren’t God, you’d start to pray.

            Derek Fenton

Floating Through

It’s not the real way to travel,
this reliance on ships’ cruising.
No time for places to unravel.
It’s not the real way to travel –
like driving on tar not gravel,
it lacks an authentic bruising.
It’s not the real way to travel,
this pale imitation, cruising.

            Derek Fenton
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The Lemon Scented Gum

Ah! The lemon scented gum
Beauty of the Australian bush.

Tall and majestic are you with your aromatic foliage.
People run their hands down the smooth bark of your towering trunk.
Your graceful twisted limbs dance against the delicate blue sky
Shaking your fingers of slim pointed leaves at the drifting clouds.
So delicate are your fragile branches when the strong winds tear through
Twisting and twirling them until they come crashing to the earth below.
But even in their dying days your leaves send forth a mixed aroma
Eucalypt and lemon fragrance tantalise passers by.

Ah! Yes the lemon scented gum
An artists delight – an unforgettable perfume lingering on.

            Rosalind Franklin
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Coppers

seen him, around ten, dossing down beside
the ponderous limestone foundations of St Mary’s Cathedral

watched him, at seven, hovering outside Centro Cafe,
waiting for his gratis ‘boss didn’t see’ long black

stumbled upon him, must have been six, rummaging
through a Sulo bin in the lane behind our showrooms

name is Frank (so the Centro barista told me),
once “a someone, a big-wig in merchant banking”

now, bin-bag for wardrobe, eyes forever darting, chin and
fingers shaking, librating, like he’s swallowed the moon

reminder, remainder, flotsam of debt equity seas,
nomad roaming paved and tarred tundra

gone to speak, but each time when I’ve opened my
wallet of words, nothing but coppers and buttons

            Kevin Gillam

For B.P.

so I watched his mouth, not the
cup, watched for words that would come

out of his bright, white toothed mouth
and though (he claims) to house both

hush and glee, for us, who’d come
to sit in the room of one

bulb and hear this one man tell
of how to rub dirt from our

one brick to build our days, his
words weren’t quick or stay, weren’t bird

or stone, no, his words were shelf
and snatch, were bleat and cash, so

yes, soaked but not wet, we left
to snort a line of clean sky

            Kevin Gillam
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Poetry Downpour

I located the drip
above our heads
at The Moon Café
and we moved our words
along to the next chair

as if droplets were
tapping us on the shoulder
like subtle reminders
of who has the last say.

Before lightning struck
thunder roared it’s warning
as metaphor drowning
out the surface meaning
of words with complex
orchestrations

then rain began to
thump down on the roof
like a heavy 12-bar blues beat
swallowing frustrated voices
caught in a poetry downpour.

            Mike Greenacre

The Wave

There’s many words in a wave –
the hand an articulator
of things not said

from greetings to farewell
the hand is a beacon
that reflects/directs feelings

of welcoming arms to
departures last gaze , messages
signalled and meanings made.

For many years, our parents
have been waving us goodbye,
parts of their lives

driven away, casting a
network of re-groupings
from the droppings off and retrievals

of grandchildren more than three decades long,
to family gatherings
bridging those islands of age.

There’s many words in a wave –
the hand an articulator,
the last say.

            Mike Greenacre
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Coordinates

 

There was a time when I knew with utter assurance where I was.
When I awoke in the morning and looked from my window,
All was as expected; the scene fed back to me what I had seen
Last night, different only in the early light, sharper than the dusk.

Along the street the same number of houses, each a home
For people who were familiar, neighbours, others like me
Who were there in the evenings, the weekends, the holidays,
Or so it seemed, perhaps I was wrong about that, perhaps I was.

___________________________

There was a time when the pattern of my days was unvarying.
When I returned in the evening and walked from the station,
Every step was familiar; the nodding neighbours nodded to me
As ever, and when the lights in their houses went out, so did mine.

In the city the buildings speared upwards, glass and steel straining
For height in a frenzy of change, competitors, vaulting like athletes
Who leap to the top for a moment, and then must fall to the ground,
Or so it seemed, perhaps I was wrong about that, perhaps I was.

___________________________

There was a time when I started with immediate reference points.
When I was tied with the long cord between navels until cut and tied,
To be separate, something alone, yet not independent, not yet
Because there’s a name, a branding of possession and lineage.

Other ties provided other recognitions, connected to other memories
Where the years toppled as dominos, the places we occupied linked
In delineating chains, marking territory in time and space,
Or so it seemed, perhaps I was wrong about that, perhaps I was.

___________________________

There was a time when everything was wonderful possibility.
When I cast about to find a companion, a mate bound in mystery,
Coming quietly alongside, falling into step on a common journey
Along the years, in the days of grace, pausing only to give thanks.

Where I lived was somewhere else, a place occupied by someone
Else, that person I met in a dream, a time and a circumstance
Back there, back beyond the years I remember only as echoes,
Or so it seemed, perhaps I was wrong about that, perhaps I was.

 

            Ruari Jack Hughes

 

How Do I Tell You

 

How do I tell you of this longing, my love, this awful grinding need
Soars upwards like great forest trees blindly seeking the sun
Dives deep, an ocean bathysphere reaching down to utter darkness

Our first meeting was a moment of aggression, pointless, reflexive
Nothing to it except the primal urge to challenge anyone new
The perceived intruder in your territory, a bounder over boundaries

In itself the teasing — it felt like bullying — was ordinary
Even in friendship males express their affection in rough antics
Though I’ve never wanted that sort of contact, never gave it out

I felt no attraction to you, not then, the binding would come later
Companionship arrived before love, the mutual comfort of together
No indication of the thunderbolt, striking me down, agony and ecstasy

A shout across the space, a turn of the head, a captured vision
Such commonplace circumstance, boys changing gear in a shed
But one boy standing there, upright god in wanton erotic challenge

Everything changed, not for the first time, but so differently, so final
In the instant, the waters broke, tears of joy fell, act of grace
I stood on a new shore, muddy floor of a changeroom, a paradise

            Ruari Jack Hughes
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Dingo brand

Where the colossal red dingo stands
with ears pricked
its back flat against
the wall of the flour mill

one shower of cloud
falls down the broad blue sky
and meets the dingo
forty metres up

and at night
the branded dingo sees
right through the glass
of the apartments

opposite
to where the black net
cast over Indian Ocean
shivers with star lit fish.

            Ross Jackson

To Dick Alderson, a sonnet (sort of)

under a late night desk lamp

you’ve engraved

elusive commonplace feelings

we didn’t realise we had

and revealed bits of

moon, lemons, grief, crows, snow…

others overlooked

there were your Martian insights

how all people in coats

look like Leningrad*

about so many things

you were right

to the last millimetre

Ross Jackson

*a quote from D.A’s poem, Snow.

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Christopher

The young man says, ‘Good night, Alan.’
Alan follows him with admiring eyes, loving eyes. Alan Turing breaks Enigma.
The war chokes in the throats of those who are tired;
Enigma is broken, the war is won. Alan’s secret, his own personal code, was broken too
by a bobby who was curious to …             who was desperate to break his puzzle.
Turing is gay and he is given a choice.
Prison or chemical castration, choices we will never be asked to make.
He could not live in a cage. Alan kills himself.
He has won the war for them, but it was a war they did not wish to win.

            Christopher Konrad

 

The Right Whale

Along the Derwent inlet wavelets coruscate
hope elongates with each reaching step as I run its length;
silence accompanies me like when Mayakovski ended it all
in Paris as the sound of his pistol going off brought Nora running
back into the room too late; too late also for the Right whales here
at the wrong time and adequately named for the right amount of oil
in their blubber to let the dead beast float  too late for a lot of things
the brie, wallaby or scallop pie

I can only just remember the faces of friends left far behind
the sound of the tap dripping in the outside laundry
the copper broiling away in tinder scorch of western sun in the old backyard laundry;
I’d forgive myself if I could, I’d break my eyeballs just to see
those things once again

I have a penchant for disappearing, like traces or the smell of roses
like the way KD sang Hallelujah at Vancouver, but this here inlet, watery mausoleum
but who I am to complain
to get syrupy and wet about it all, sweated up, scratched out
like a lottery ticket; you win some, lose some kind-of-thing

            Christopher Konrad
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A Holiday In 19 Lines

Packing what I might need
taking it out again
close the zipper
too late to change
the tickets        the house key
a locked door
airport, the case on its way
an obese man I hope is not beside me
a meal of packets that don’t ‘tear here’
and I am there              wheels down
meet, greet and eat
sights and sounds        fast forward
airport, case on its way home
an obese woman with tatts
have been lucky so far
wheels up        more packets
I feel for the house key
unzip the case
full of things I did not need.

            Mardi May
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For Aleppo

if you up periscope
in aleppo, streets
are red, a carnage
of the dying & the
dead

filling the lens. to
think that those
screams once
uttered dreams as
big

as yours, but now
claw at survival as
if they can. what is
happening is this
: humans

as important as me
& you are being shown
how not to live anymore
. irrespective of faith or
race

all lives have importance
. yet the visions make me
impotent, only able to give
them poem. around corner
, christmas

waits & the only gift i can
muster is some vague hope
there will be an end to all
this killing. suddenly, our
presence

seems trivial, like them, invisible

            Scott-Patrick Mitchell

 

In Vogue Death Grows

i remember once being so
obsessed with being thin
that i spent my last 10EN
dollars on a vogue magazine
when hunger panged like
fangs digging into sallow
skin i flicked through the
pages, admiring architectural
feats of face so beat, carved
out of human affluence using
the special effects one acquires
from photoshop & good genes

the bland beige shapes of that
seasons overcoats weighed like
self-hate in the pit of my guts
: if it had been spring i could have
been dining on the silks & chiffons
of hyperreal florals, how the fabric
would waft out from the hug of the
model’s bones & boning, billowing

but it was winter & my bile was
a splinter of the latest trends told
over & over again along with price
tags that in my throat would snag

backstage at fashion shows we’d
laugh & chuckle as some model
would return from the toilet, lips
wet, saying it’s not bulimia if you
don’t use your fingers
while we’d
count the calories in the free
albeit very expensive champagne
: we were so fashionable we were
cliché, teeth vomit-stained, eroding

such pretty names for such ugly
habits : anorexia nervosa : body
dysmorphia : almost as pretty as
the names that cover them : prada
: louis vuitton : balanciaga : mui mui

& in the cover of that magazine i
could see the things i wanted to be
but so thin i could do nothing but
starve myself, become non-existing

the day i began to eat again, like a
real human, was the same day i put
away all my vogue magazines &
all the half-fed, half-dead preteen
models in fashion fed on good
intentions & pay cheques as big
as my student debt : malnutrition
can make money, can bankrupt
a body. eating is costly, necessary

            Scott-Patrick Mitchell
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Beneath The Surface

outside it’s wheatbelt            stubble blonding to grey      sky burnt blue

country of crow and lonely      air clear as a future

told by the weathering of friends

seasons erode features       hair leaches to that salt lake tint

skin slouches to dunes at belly and breast      hips click rickety

and cheeks lichened by psoriasis or sun plump their billows

only when contours mapped on the faces of children grown

into their own geographies hint that hidden beneath

that blighted surface       the belle of the woolshed ball still waltzes

the moon down with the banker’s son.

            Jan Napier
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Music

 

I heard a lovely tune
today.
I do not know its name.
It seemed unearthly,
as one heard in
a dream.
I fear I shall not hear
it again, not in this
sublunary realm.
It seemed the Music
of the Spheres
played just once
for me alone.

            Julian O’Dea

Heat

A hot night becomes a hot day.
The woodland trees, branches
swaying, fan themselves
in the dusty dry gusts.
A parrot peels off and falls like
bright glowing bark, an ember
in the wind spreading the fire
of summer.

            Julian O’Dea
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Buggered

 If it wasn’t for her I’d be buggered.
She, the light of my 67 years,
an aged-care nurse – turned
and tuned through time
and circumstance to manage
and correct incontinence.
Me, wetting myself
for 45 years, told by experts
near and far: ‘It’s all in your
head’. A run of psychiatrists
and fellow well-paid travellers
confirming my psychosis. I knew,
I just felt it deep inside: I was never mad.

And so it came to pass as time unwound across
those long and somewhat troubling two score years and five,
an MRI confirmed a tumour: lower spine. Inoperable.

Behavioural aberration banished in a flash of insight and machine.

Now no longer wetting bed and sliding into slippery
uncontrollable darkness, I push a glassy tube
inside my cock at each four-hour junction
of the night, and pee inside a bottle
with relief tattooed upon my face – and hers.

I turn side-on to sleep
and skates flap by
in the shallow tides
of dreaming.

My lifelong love, you stuck with me and stay close now,
as in this nether reproducing and urinating region
of the lower downs, a cancer glows on a green
and shimmering field, siting an active prostate tumour.
Irradiation takes it on and illuminates my retiring days –
as I fluoresce and faintly grinning,
look on in wonder
at your great love and faith.

It needs to be said again: if it wasn’t for her I’d be buggered.

            Allan Padgett

Conversation With A Dying Bird

I hear that Virginia Woolf
found a dead bird
in her garden.
That wasn’t quite dead.
And they had a little chat
about the meaning of life.

Virginia said: Sing to me your song of life and love
– and death if you must.
And the bird replied: Way above I drifted
wings held broad
midst spiralling currents of despair
since she left me this morning,
flew in the direction of Africa with another man,
while I, held aloft by muscle and energetic stroking
cried on wing till way below in a garden so green
I saw you raking golden dying leaves
and weeping to yourself as the sun bore down
and settled away from your shadow
as lightness was cannibalised
and dusk consumed the day.

I felt a bitter stroke of pain and plummeted
sward-ward, grazing my beak
on ragged edges of a bitter day
so thin that lift evaporated,
my fall to sodden earth accelerated,
till here I am –

spread-eagled upon your carefully laid out napkin,
speaking with you from
a bird’s-eye view of the other side.

So, said bird, in the lonesome throes of dying,
why were you weeping thus?
To which Virginia replied: My heart was torn
as I saw you brawling on the lawn
before she left you and flew skyward
away from your open loving wings
and into the feathered arms of another.
If I could have fallen through my grief
as you have done,
I may well have had the desire
to rake another day.

But I am leaving now, it is time to go,
time to join you on this other side –
and swim toward the lighthouse,
into a new day’s brilliant sun.

            Allan Padgett
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The Twittering Machine
(After viewing Paul Klee’s Twittering Machine 1922)

black and white metal birds
tightly tied to coated steel
connected to a rotating wheel
which, when driven by gusts of wind
move plastic coated cams,
providing
twists and dives that emulate flight
for each saddened former creature.

long lost, like so much
the songs of birds silenced
the creeping sickness spreading
as the heat stricken world
destroys its fauna

until silence……

no wail of a cat
no bark of a dog
no screech of an owl
or roar of a lion

silence …….

the machines start
twittering
mewing
barking
screeching
roaring

substitutes for what was,
a new reality
where the extinct noises
are reassembled
in a Klee like contrivance

I listen to their tinny misery,
mere mechanical imitations,
remembering that time before
when we paid scant attention
and did nothing

Now it is too late
as the sea crawls closer
absorbing my little island,
only the plastic bottles
are left, bobbing

Soon I will be gone
and a new contraption
must take my place,
an absurd concept
that belies appearance

the twittering machines
rotate
slow
squeak
stop
until even imitation ceases

            Barry Sanbrook
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Age 21, Drowned

A boy once slipped
into the ocean deep
he’d no hands nor feet
they’d drifted from him
while his limbs of paper sheets
folded paper cranes in the tides

his blood followed them
in rivers of rose petals
leaving glittering glass bones
glinting beneath the fisherman’s reach
he called almost hear them, almost
but nobody could hear him
and that was how it ended,
wasn’t it?

no lips to sink the ships
no heart to quell the wake
no final struggle
only a boy.

He went away.

            Julie Spence

 

 

Points of Distraction

My cat climbs over my books and purrs
I pick up a pen and he rubs his tiny face upon it
My handwriting shakes as he bumps the hand
The papers crackle when his paws press them

How stupid it all must seem to him.

He who lives in the moments of food and rest,
Contentment and the afternoon’s fences.
Why scratch aimless lines? Why stare at a wall?
A couch is soft. The warmth is in the floor.

Lazy day, cat. One lazy day. One day.

If work would wander like a cat,
It might leave the room. As he.
His fur slinks across the desk.
My nose itches.

            Julie Spence
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Aerial view of Venice

a gull or sea hawk’s view

two serpents in terracotta mail

jaws nested

waiting to kiss             or bite

membranes limned by sea currents

swelling grandly to canals

that flow past Santa Lucia

                                                            station and patron saint

under bridge tethering to Mestre

                                                mainland          cradle               mother

Venice

snakes’ eggs flung into a lagoon

serenely hatched on Neptune’s torso

             Rita Tognini 

 

 

Asylum
(Driving to the Out of the Asylum writing group.)

between road and sky

a triangle of sapphire sea

ships on the horizon

in line for entry

sand dunes and silos

cranes  rigs     containers

the port’s fauvist paraphernalia

welcoming me

to an asylum

of words

            Rita Tognini 
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Angel

When Angel met the angels they discoursed
on angel looks and sounds and smells
but between their tongues there was a bar
conjured up by dread

Only Ugly understood the canker
the madder red and raisin purple arm
caressed in shadows
pillowed in a blue-black morning

Arm in arm Sweet Lavender and Hyssop
roused from weariness of walking with ghosts
accompanied shades of the newly dead
price of ticket under tongue

When Angel met the angels
they talked to death
left the fetid skin
in the spaces where she’d lived

            Gail Willems
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Breakaway Country            

                       

The land, like our lives, was between seasons, waiting
It became ours as if there was no other place or time.

The glittering edge of a glacier sliced the tundra.
An ancient frozen river, a dangerous playground.
You can cut yourself on ice.
You can disappear into a crevasse.

Strange things can happen on glaciers.
Strange things can happen in love.

At the toe of the glacier, trickles formed streams
Then braided into wide shallow rivers
where agates mixed in gravel, jewelled promise hidden.
Other rivers washed up bright specks of flash and glitter,

coin of the realm of dreams,
fooling some as love can fool.

Water dripped and ran, soaked down deep
diluting colours of earth and sky.
The sodden, marshy tundra sucked at boots
soaked our feet in water, always cold.

At night in front of the fire clothes steamed.
At night wrapped together bodies burned.

Came the first snow, warning of early winter,
the darkened land forced our gaze upward.
In the cold air stars were harsh, brilliant and immediate.
After midnight the aurora began as a false dawn
continued in arcs and waving translucent curtains of colour.
The land like love demanded hard choices
but we had made them long ago.
Waking, we joined separate southward migrations,
not knowing where the journey would end.

Here in summer country the sky is clear,
colours sharp-edged and dry.
Rich red dust puffs up with each step.
Stars with different names fill the night sky
and the Aurora Australis is as rare as a living stream.

Alone in the darkness with the hot wind blowing
I shiver, watch the horizon and think of you.

            Maggie Van Putten
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