Poetry Blog by John E Marks

Tags from last 12 months

Waiting to be born, again

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From the towering shadows of cloud

A flash of the evening star, a gap through

To the star above the vaulted sky: high so very high,

And faraway, high windows allot a view

Of pinpricks in the blackness. Stars await 

Their conversion to black holes of dense

Compact immensity. Swallow you whole they could 

Spit you out before you were born. Still water

Reflects the stars. Cont...

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Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash


Colours blend in a staccato of sound. Synaesthesia's all around.
Underground: a steepling slide into unconsciousness.
Mixing senses, genders, dreams, moulding the male, it seems,
In this hat-trick-hubris-chit-chat mode women don’t grow old.
Poets bleed, speak-in-tongues, fiddle with their fingers, long
To compose the lyrics of a song.
Pain is ...

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Alderman dies at funeral

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The grave was so full [of other burila], that the uppermost coffin was within a few feet of the surface. The grave-digger shovelled in the earth; stamped it loosely down with his feet: shouldered his spade; and walked off, followed by the boys, who murmured very loud complaints at the fun being over so soon. 'Oliver Twist', Charlie Dickens.


Flies buzz around the ground, again, that clangin...

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Kicking leaves through dappled sunlight

Iraq's Christians 'close to extinction' after 2000 years. 

The British fell on the Somme, Verdun, Passchendaele,
Their luckier cousins long ago set off across the broad Atlantic
Convicts moved straight on to the antipodes
To the Swan River of Western Australia
Convict scum of the East End born to live again.
The ragged Scots, after Culloden
So many Irish everywhere in the Empire
After th...

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You are my moment, as you read
Your eyes are full of tact, unembarrassed, laughing
And my dream is just of continuing.
We cannot add up or divide words, as we can numbers,
Yet,  humans can be equally intractable.
Friends die in the blinking of an eye.
You cannot eat your words
Nor can you précis feelings
But we can certainly stretch the truth
At a blooming, with our first tooth,
Or at  o...

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A collection of aphorisms

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Some people worship reason. So many more worship money. Even more worship themselves.

Fly past those nets. Race. Nationality. Religion. Hang me by the neck

But only if I ever, ever,  get free of that bloody penguin. 

♥ Ways of seeing things: nature is so beautiful. Is she in love with herself? She was. Now she cries

As dust motes settle and breathing becomes slower and heavier and less...

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Dust motes for Dante Alighieri 1265 - 1321

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Love and l are gentle

As dust motes fly

And sparkle in the air

Of a rare day in Florence.

It is September and already

The cornflowers fade. Grain

Laid up in store on the road to Pisa.

All things are one thing on this day

I heard Dante Alighieri say.

You and I must continue to be gentle.

The old man says the rent is not paid

Rent poses no problem but to be without y...

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Die Wahrheit macht frei ('The truth sets you free')

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We are
Visiting Austchwitz
We read 'Arbeit macht frei'
That terrible lie 
For Jewish eyes

We enter
The gates of hell.

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Warmer than blood

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Where we drift and call it dreaming
We can weep and call it singing. Iron & Wine. 


Now, I'm old and going grey
It's surely time to put dreams away.
Really! That surprises me..
I'd have thought 
That as I've nought to lose,
And really do not mind, at all, 
If I'm called a fool.
I'll stick with dreams;
So thanks, but 
Immediately, and without delay,
Let me dream
If only for this ...

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Doppleganger contagion

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In a world without compassion,

In a world of continuing AI,

No ripples come from a stone unthrown,

In the blink of a human eye.


No ripples come from the dumb

Unwritten blank slates of some

Tabula Rasa of Clones 

Lying under their bones.


Colourless, without scent, designed but never meant 

Decidely, not, heaven-sent, a cycle of life abated.

An ill-fated sojou...

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Northern Sky

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The silk road into Macclesfield,
These sundry stops, and stinks,
This rising into fury
The sinking into think.
This edge of trees and wildings
This glazing of the sun
The spreading stench of wolverine,
Missy Moon beneath the Sun,
This stink of flesh uneaten
This rising up of love
This game of death and stillness
This sighing of the dove
The beginning of the end,
My friend:
Quite dest...

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Coffin ships

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Words  seem to be without meaning. 
Genocide bears a human face. A human heart. I cannot part with my half-secret, hungry heart. I crossed the broad Atlantic to Americky but left my heart in Ireland, in a village churchyard by the sea.

Warehouses stuffed with grain in Bristol. We suffered the potato blight. Starvation in plain sight. Walking skeletons. Families dumped out on the road by land...

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A silence

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A Trappist monk told me, with his eyes -

Disguise what you know in an image of the eyes

Of a walking - talking human corpse,

Or of flowers, pretty,  of differing sorts.

People will spend hours,

Literally hours, to unravel the conceit; to invent

Some nefarious connection that'll let

Them smile at their deep - down


We know it's a Fiction designed to ...

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September's rain

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(for Vautaw)

This rose for all the world for you
These tears for all the dead,
Those empty words of morningtide
This ever-present dread..

Those cloying smells of perfume
On the dresses of the rich,
This workman stumbling homeward
His body in a ditch.

September’s moon still shining
On this old planet’s doom,
Her wind and tide conspiring;
A chill invades the room.


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Holy Brokenness

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Missing the wildness of my younger self
I degenerate into words. Waiting, between
sentences, for the muse to catch up with me,
I fulminate, flash like lightning, explode;
So that I catch myself thinking this
Is all an act to compensate for the time
Brian climbed that tree before disappearing
To Japan, for all eternity. O! I wish Haiku was true.
An apple blossom flash of inspiration
To can...

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Bright star

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"The last of your kisses was even the sweetest; the last smile the brightest; the last movement the gracefullest.”

Letters, John Keats to Fanny Brawne


His headstone verses were not writ in water,

They merely draw the eye unto the fact of death.

Bereft are the lines that love-and-only-love remembers.

All he knew was the deepest blue of sky 

In this one woman’s eyes. Love was ...

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Ring of bright water


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Days of stormy autumn come
Mother, child, brother, son;
Memories, like dust, infect my eyes,
Swirling, like a Turner sky,
Land, sky, water, ripple by.
Like water under wind,
I begin to sing
Mixing grays and blacks and whites and blues,
With guitar chords to pull us through.
Chiaroscuro skies, tussling these monochromes
Into a piebald heavens...

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Photo by Steven Su on Unsplash


Regardless of friendship — you and I cannot leave; I will not part from you tonight — that is too hard. A long night with a hangover: thick heart ache, sermons upon manners and morals delivered to thyself by thyself. Thank God it will soon be over. Latif was kind and brought the executioner to meet me and we spent some time together. He, like me, is a Suf...

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Love song

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.


After the war and the Spanish flu
When I came back from Oxford,
To America,  looking for you,
I was met...

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Hedd Wyn

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Hedd Wyn was a Welsh-language poet who was killed on the second day of the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I. He was posthumously awarded the bard’s chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod.

The magic of Hedd’s aspiration of youth….
an elixir only the young can truly taste ….
but this old man can. 
When a late summer breeze blows from the south and west,
catch, in the very air itself,...

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Skies turn grey, and later rosé

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How clear, now, the brightime sky of youth
How lovely-fair that pursuit of an eternal truth.
Those sunbeams of our morning life's clarity
Laugh out, now, with a truly thoughless charity       
That sets free a man longchained to violence
Appalled at vicious crimes performed in silence.
Evil soars through these dimming days of hope. 
As we see the world slide down the slippery slope:
O! why...

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Tabula Rasa

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It’ll take the breath clean away from you

When you think the implications through.

Tabula Rasa: a complerely blank slate:

No memory, no desire, nothing too soon, nothing too late

Nothing to bend you in any direction,

Nothing to send you lower or raise your expectations.

No future envisaged, no secret desire. A blank slate.

No prescience required  concerning the future 

No p...

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The Hardest Day

When you go home, tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow... We gave our today...


Eighty years ago, on August 18th 1940, the hardest day,
A  twenty year old, pilot set out upon a mission, from which he never returned                                              (His remains were recovered, which was not always the case, fire saw to that.)
Born eleven years before his sister, he'd had ...

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Morning maniac music

Shakes me awake

Those who brought hope

Now mired in hate.


Over the mountains

clouds scud away,

blood on the floor

not fade away.


Blood over the water,

blood over the seas

lots of poor people

down on their knees.


Christendom fallen,

collapsed from within,

In our hearts,

Nothing but sin,

Rotted from within...

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i.m. Vasily Zaystev


Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev was a Soviet sniper during World War II. Between 10 November 1942 and 17 December 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad, he killed 225 enemy soldiers, including 11 SS snipers

Who controls the past controls the future:
Said an anonymous red army soldier,
With a slightly Asiatic glint to his eye,
Just like Vasily, at the ...

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Charlie & the Thunder

(for Tom, with love)


So scared tonight, he made me feel as helpless
As I am. He’s looking at me as I write
Cataracts on his eyes, panting. Fear. No disguise.
The fear he feels at the strangeness of the universe,
The inexplicability of life. The Thunder....
But he knows I love him and he takes heart
As I tempt him into a cave under my desk
And Yes! He has finally settled down –
At l...

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Rainbows of the night

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When sadnesses besiege me,

At the dying of the light,

And starlight illuminates,

The ending of the day, 

Then fractious star-crossed lovers

Just quietly drift away.


We sigh silently, out of sight

Of mirrors, water, eyes, light,

And find, momentarily,

Man loses his disguise.


We spin and whirl and dance,

Like hemlock in the hay;

We are Witch, W...

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April morning

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That early April morn, dewy and cool,

Charlie was still lunging on the leash

As we walked up Quaker bridge towards the field.

Charlie was born wise: he did not suffer fools gladly.

How he put up with me, God alone knows. Anyroadup, 

This memorable morning Charlie fulfilled 

His 'retriever' appellation - he brought a ball back with a flourish of his tail and with great aplomb. Ton...

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Noises off

He was paralysed for much of his life
Trapped by indecision, he searched for the chimera
Of stability, of security.
He did not commit many crimes
But sometimes, after work,
His hand became covered with poetry.

All that he expected was undone:
His marriages crumbled
His family dispersed
All the expected epics and rhapsodies of his life:
Gone. Cancelled.

In his childhood, he had expec...

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An August midnight

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Between these walls we spend our time
Forming words we turn to rhyme.
Glimpsing glimmers held close in mind,
Closing over the gatden door,
Mumbling, pleading 'what is life for?'
Something's left, without a roof,
Hinting at a deeper truth?
Something quick, or something slow?
Rhymes with rumblings, swirls below.

We see the stars, beyond the sky,
So many stars that pass us by,
All bedeck...

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“Christian, Jew, Muslim, Shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged”― Jalal ad-Din Rumi


Like imagination is to the poet
This, this, is in the centre of my heart.
You bathe my wounds with words, ointment, kisses
You have the key to the door that is always closed
You want me to stick to simple stories ...

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Now we rise, and we are eveywhere

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Tall, stooped, a quintessentially English presence. I listen to how those flat Fenland vowels swirl into melodies melded with the staccato RP of Cambridge.

So many minor key explorations of sadness; pull at the scabs of loneliness and regret. Your songs made plangent by the melancholic timbre of your voice. Your abiding mood irresolution, your secret regret. A troubadour of old.

You don't ha...

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3rd August, 2014

Six years since the latest round of  genocide against the Yezedi people began

That murderous monstrous onslaught

Upon the peaceful  Yezedi people, for the crime

Of following their own religion and culture

That has been in Mesopotamia since before

The crucifixion in Jerusalem and since before the hot wind

Of intolerance blew up from the scorching sands of  Arabia. 

Thousands of...

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Big Bill Broonzy

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He  gotta beat box,

In his beating heart,

Beats it out, on guitar,

Tears him apart. 



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WHO, when I scream, will hear me?
Maybe an angel? Or, a man of firmer regulation?
That’s the chance you take with screaming.
Could I put myself in the shoes of s/he
Who hears a scream at close quarters?
I fear not. It would take a leap of the heart
Which is beyond my means. Nobody comes to mind.
Nobody suddenly comes into my heart:

I pass into this stronger existence.
In this ancient ho...

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No Surrender

We learned more from a 3-minute record, baby, Than we ever learned in school. Bruce Springsteen


No surrender to the glib complacent,
The shielders, and the worried-well,
Those for whom life is 'simply hell.'
Those who measure out their life
In coffee spoons, when everything
Is too late or too soon. Let's call out
Those who conduct their life on zoom,
Who assume a mask will protect t...

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"If you're feeling sad, just remember that the world is over four billion years old and yet you managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie."

In the Apple Market
Your south London twang,
Accompanied the many undulations
Of time.

Your wild androgyny
Mirrored the mirror
Of yourself

David Bowie, name bought off the shelf.
Now, skimming  the water
Of childhood,
Like a dog sha...

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The air that kills

Abbeförderung ('dispatching, removal') – euphemism for mass murder.

The air that kills, miasmic fogs
Disperse the pollutions of the past
Into the ever-present

Nothing lasts, they say.
Fasts, self-denying ordnances,
All the ferocities
Of religion, ideology
Do not matter a jot.
Mortality is our lot.

So, listen to the beautiful airs of music,
Be tolerant of unforeseen strictures of f...

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Droplets, flicked off the waving trees,            Shower me with wet. The abundant trees           Full-throated bastions of wet in the nest.           The birds are soaked but cheerfully quiet         Their breeding has been done, fledglings       Scattering raindrops as they show off              Their wings. I look on bedraggled, envious.         Rain is such a comfort on these crowded     Isl...

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It is not the cruelty of children that angers me
But that my hesitation to commit the word to air
And, aye, maybe, to the ear, even the heart,
Was treated as an affliction
By those with the polished shoes and starched aprons which set them apart.

Sometimes I was not even there when they mocked me but I knew
What they did and ‘never-a-bother-it-was-to-me’.
But it was, I was...

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Near is very far
Space, time,
Dark star
Black hole
Wandering soul.

There’s a vastness that appals
White walls.

Scurrying through
The corridors
Of the Christie, this Monday morning
Meeting Emile, yes, named after Jean Jacque’s eponymous hero.

Married at the weekend, it has spread,
He fears he’ll soon be dead.

His Caribbean lilt

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Northern morning

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Morning rain soaks my clothes, my hair, my skin,

I do not care.  I am not there.

I stare at the mortar between the crumbling bricks in this old

Wall built by the calloused hands of men who’d survived

The Somme. Who’d been called ‘dirty scabs’

In 1929 by striking Salford dockers. They’d hung their heads in shame

But they’d had mouths to feed. They’d taken any work they could obtai...

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Blown Away

The ease and simple grace
Of this man who’s died
Cannot be lied about

Cannot be denied.
His echoing presence
Still sings in my head
Still sings in my heart

We’re never alone, never apart
Like the mocking bird’s song:
These mimus polyglottos,
Speakers of a hidden art,
Which sings and recreates

Moments that survive
When we were all alive.
Oh! it’s a sin to kill a mocking bird

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Photo by Max LaRochelle on Unsplash


Words you don’t remember,
Winds rising in the sky,
Your soul, I poke with fortitude,
Sparks fly!


Coals flare into pettiness
Heat, suddenly, replete, golden sands,
Crystal brooks, silken lines, silver hooks.


Glimpsing what’s already there,
I begin to mount the stairs.
Who cares?


A friend you trust implicitly,

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Break out from the asylum

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Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.
Longest way round is the shortest way home.

Joyce, Ulysses



T’was the night before Christmas,
It was dark and cold and dreary.
Coal fires were alight on a cold, black night
For lettered, and unlettered, alike

The young woman broke free from the asylum
suffering from stress, post natal depression, 
and an untold, fearful anxiety


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from swerve of shaw to bend of bray



catch my death
an English melody
travelling from heat to freezing cold
trans-this, sans-that, groan old.

Mealy-mouthed moaning means nothing to me,
people volunteer eat, shit, eat shit, they do,
they’re that stupid.

Put a gun in a man’s hands
this murderer wears a funny hat
no smiles, no this, no that
no men o’pause, just the bare necessities.

Freeze, moan, groan, be...

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You came to me, through an open window,

All the sealed envelopes of me

Came into your hands,

There was nothing in them —

 just the love that you could throw away or understand –

You threw it straight back to me, I caught it,

You gave me a lot of praise with your eyes

Kissed me for being alive

I thought you were desiring reciprocation, but you weren’t

You we...

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Those rich metaphors drawn from the sky and sea
Rich funereal language, baptism, burial, birth,
Blossom and harvest, wise ones, Witan's children.
From the lips of children we learn that clinging
To life is not enough.

Smoke over Mosul. Mosul's churches, where once
The Jacobite heart of Christian belief was celebrated,
Among the ruins of Nineveh along the same back paths,
Alleys, that we Je...

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Jagged gashes on my skin,
blood spurts from within;
fractured brain, a silent cry,
another day jus'passing me by.

Jagged notches, screaming edges,
people sleeping in the hedges
under bridges, tearing flesh,
sticking spikes, right and left.

Many things make me bereft..

When I'm rushing, on my run,
do I feel like Jesus' son ?
Or am I a mere blank slate 
wrestling with fate?


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Messing about in boats


Ah, the tip of the straw gripped by your teeth
I move you gently. You are asleep.
You have a little money but enormous dignity.

You live in a caravan and poach for the pot.
You are silent about the past.
Let sleeping dogs lie.

You were born into misfortune 
But that was in another country and, besides, the wench is dead.
Your arrows for your bow,  a boat made from old furniture,

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