Poetry Blog by Randy Horton

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The Dire Consequences of Room-Temperature Tea

When I was a teenager, I stopped putting ice
in my “iced” tea, and started drinking it right
out of the pitcher at room temperature. After an
initial phase of alarm on the part of my family, they
sort of just decided that if I was too lazy to put ice
in my tea, then I deserved to suffer all the
consequences that might entail, which,
I have to tell you, weren’t very serious
consequences in ...

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Interminable Questions and the Invariable Dimensions of Certain Coffees

I don’t like answering a lot of questions.

Like when I go to Starbucks and order a
flat white, and the cashier asks what size
I want, and I say there is only one size of
flat white, pointing at the menu, but the
cashier says, no sir, you can have whatever
size you want, and I say, yes, but any other
size is not a flat white, is it? It’s just some
milk with coffee in it, and the barista i...

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coffeequestionsstarbucks

Oblique Confessional Poems and Holiday Cheer

If I wanted this poem to be more intimate,
I would address the reader directly, and
invite the reader into my inner world.

I would use second-person pronouns and
share the deeper and darker aspects of
my personality. I would regale the reader
with stories of elation and spiritual fulfillment
along with brutally honest accounts of
self-doubt, anxiety, fear, and loathing.

I might make i...

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confessional poetrydepressionholiday

How to Start a Revolution

To begin,
you must become aware
of your privilege,
your blessedness.

Something in the stars
has granted you access
to power, knowledge,
and minions who grovel
at your knees,
regaling you with stories
of your greatness.

Next, remember
the others have also earned
their cosmic misfortune
and have received only
what they are due.

Your indifference is essential
to maintaining ord...

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Back in the Middle Again

She’d always walk up and start talking
as if you were already in the middle
of a conversation. At first, I’d ask her
what the Hell she was talking about,
but I soon learned her explanations
were too long and circuitous to be of
any value. Best to just wait it out,
and eventually the picture would
come into focus. You’d suddenly
get it—like a Faulkner novel,
and then you’d start thinking ...

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faulknerfreudstream of consciousness

Paradoxical Epiphany

entry picture

A lakeside photo was intentionally
displayed upside down,
and it took forever for
me to come to terms
with my feeling of
unreality.

The muted reflection
established my Truth
of the world at that
moment, while I
struggled to accept
the clear and sharp
presentation of
existence upside down.

I thought of the paradox,
momentarily,
and suddenly realized
what Plato must have meant.

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divided linePlatoreflections

Ingress without Invitation

The bulwark is protection
from him, not for him.
He sidles along
the perimeter,
Touching the sides,
looking about furtively,
imagining tunnels and
catapults that could,
in another time and
circumstance, be his aids.

He’s come this far,
but in his old age
he has no choice
but to keep searching
for an opening,
for he’ll have no
ingress without invitation.

And at last, he finds
...

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deathdying

Where Authors Whine About The Poor Quality Of Their Readers

Nothing is explicit.
It’s all implication
and innuendo.
Layers of irony
lay waiting for
anyone willing to
claw their way
down to the core.

But these things
take time and
people read quickly.

So they just look up,
bemused, and ask,
“How is this even a poem?”

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In Which Orgasms are Compared to Musical Elation

Sometimes when musicians finish
A piece that has gone well, they let out a
Combination sigh and laugh that
Expresses relief and pure joy.

It’s the same laugh you hear from
Women who have had a satisfying
Orgasm, enhanced by a slight tinge
Of guilt for being unduly blessed.

Of course, these laughs are never
Unwarranted. In both cases,
Substantial effort is required
To produce an even...

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ecstacyelationjoymusicmusicians

Dominatrix, Doyenne, Shaman

She held fast to truth, this
Grim taskmaster, serving
Lashes to the mendacious,
And kisses to the veracious.

And all wanted to serve her,
Uncovering the wounds of
Brutal honesty, one kick to the
Crotch or messy cuddle at a time.

No one asks for enlightenment
In a Dungeon until the dominatrix
Shines through moral fog and
Removes both fear and reticence.

And secrets are sloughed of...

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bdsmliberationmendacityveracity

In Unironic Praise of Older Women

I was lucky, he said.
A sexy baby sitter took
My virginity off me before
It became a burden.
I became a man before
I finished being a child.
I knew my way around,
Worldly in the ways of women,
But lost in the wild abandon of boys.

The others were filled with envy.
If only they had had a nanny
With a name like big, fat Fanny!
They could have walked the world
With pride, chest out and...

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Being and Ridiculousness

In that book, Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre’s
Antoine Roquentin gets kind of freaked
Out just looking at the root of a chestnut tree.
I thought it was pretty weird at first,
Because how can you get through life
If you freak out every time you see a
Tree root or some fool thing like a tree root?

You couldn’t go on, could you? It’d just be
One crisis after another until you went
Insane and did...

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AnxietyCamusDreadExistentialismSartre

Why You Can't Find a Master Class on Death

You can find volumes of information
On how to die, but the materials are
All prepared by interns and trainees.
The true masters on the art of dying
Have all lost interest in our struggles
With mortality and how to be shed of it.

Still, we want as much information as
Possible, so we can be prepared when
The time comes. We hang eagerly on
The words of those who nearly died,
Just so maybe...

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deathhappy deathnear deaththe art of dying

Very Reasonable People Write The Apocalypse

Very Reasonable People scolded us
For our childish outbursts,
Our irrational fear of the dark.

We could rest in the knowledge
That the adults would see to our
Affairs and avert any apocalypse.

They chuckled at our concern
And assured us they had balanced
Checks in place for stability.

The Very Bad Things we’d heard
Of before didn’t happen in places
Like this to people like us.

...

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Twisting the Hermenuetic Turn

She said, “Jesus wept”
Was her favourite Bible verse,
Because it showed Jesus
Was human and shared
Our human feelings.

I suspected it was her
Favourite because it was
The easiest to remember,
But I guess it isn’t so bad.

It’s better than the ones
That command genocide,
Stoning children, or taking
Virgin girls as spoils of war.

But it isn’t as good as the ones
That say to turn a...

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biblehermeneuticslovepeace

Icarus at the Beach

At 12, I rode my first dirt bike.
Don’t go too far, he said as he
Helped me coordinate the clutch
And throttle and set me down
The beach. I could have turned.
In theory, it should have been easy
On a flat and empty beach,
But what does a boy with this
Kind of power for the first time
Know about turning back?

No one had explained this part,
And I just held on and kept
Twisting the thr...

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Momentary Bliss

He said he wanted to make love
To her momentarily, and she didn’t
Know if he wanted to commence presently
Or only share his passion briefly.

Some people think it bad usage, of course,
To say momentarily to mean something
Will happen directly, in the immediate
Future, but true pedants disagree.

The disparaged usage has been around
Since at least the 19th century,
And use determines us...

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grammargrammar nazimomentarilystyleusage

Someone Identified the Masculine Voice

The male poet overcompensates
With poems of unbridled bravado,
Giving unwanted details of
Disemboweling a deer with
Bare handed desperation.

He counts his sexual conquests
With disquiet and undue clarity,
Each sweaty fumble declared
Victory over inadequacy and
Untold performance anxiety.

Somebody once called him queer
And set him on a course of
Toxic masculinity, but the
Voice tha...

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Whispers of Su Dongpo in Bamboo Sway

The knocking of the bamboo
In the wind
Restores my awareness.

Su Dongpo said he could live
Without meat but not without bamboo.
Bamboo brings life, of course,
As meat destroys it, but
Dongpo had a different
Understanding (he loved eating meat),

Yet his words weave
Through the leaves
With warning and assurance
Of life whose end has not
Arrived so long as bamboo
Sways her promise t...

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bamboodongposu shi

No One Will Be There But Jesus

As friends solemnly told him to call
On them if ever he needed anything,
Only his pastor was candid enough
To tell him Jesus alone would stay.

And so it was as it had always been,
Walking alone on the beach, in town,
Along the highway, and in the upstairs
Hallway with no memory of being carried.

He supposed Jesus was a faithful companion,
But a bit quiet, and not much help when
A fla...

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griefjesuslossreligion

Poetry is Regional

You may think it’s blank—
Or even free—
Verse, but you may be
Unfamiliar with the voice,
The accent, the dialect
Of the author.

You don’t see the rhyme
If you pronounce things
Differently. And you may miss
The meter, if you speak with
A different cadence.

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cadencemeterrhyme

The Power of Compatible Ignorance

entry picture

After the first date,
She asked if he knew of Gestalt.
He said he only knew tiny bits
But he felt his mind gave him
The whole picture.

He asked if she had read Hegel.
She insisted that she had not,
And they were both amazed
To have discovered such
Compatibility through
Chance encounters.

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datinggestalthegelrelationships

A New riddle of Induction

This poem will mean more if you are familiar with the work David Hume and Nelson Goodman.

We have such unfounded confidence that
The future will be like the past that
We are constantly disappointed in the
Present. The future betrays us daily.

So I can’t be blamed for thinking you’d
Be here still—as you always were.
Thousands of observations told me
You were a survivor and, besides,

...

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David HumeGriefInductionLossNelson Goodman

A Pattern of Substance Misuse in Rural Texas

You were always object lesson,
Never role model, and I only knew
I should never be like you.
Your death was early and tragic,
As expected, your last conscious
Moments spent reaching for the door
Of a home engulfed in flame.

Through tear-filled eyes,
Those who had nothing but
Criticism for you when alive
Expressed their own shock and
Grief with a final tinge of judgment.
“If it had an...

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addictiongriefsubstance abusesubstance misuse

A Belabored Gardening Metaphor

Fertility varies from place to place.
In my hometown, cilantro would take over
The yard if you weren’t careful. Some
People don’t like the smell, but I loved
The fragrant flood of mulch and pollen
Whenever I mowed. (It was the only joy
I found in mowing.) A cilantro haze
Always encircled by volunteer chilis
Standing as spicy sentinels guarding
The perimeter of the lawn with indifference.

...

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ageinggardeningmortality

Whistling in the Dark

God is watching over us,
They say.
When we feel afraid,
Grateful or anxious,
We look to the sky
For reassurance,
Hoping for protection,
Consideration,
Or tender mercy.

Hope lies only in the sky.
Fear burrows under our feet.
The lost wanderer is afraid
To look down and advised to look up.

So believers are blessed
With good posture.

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beliefdespairGodoptimismposture

Meandering Metaphors as Rivers

The Mississippi River is a metaphor for life,
Mostly because Samuel Clemens made it so.
At least that’s what you would’ve learned
In your literature class—that a huge, meandering
River held the secrets of innocence, knowledge,

Guilt, and wisdom. So much is hidden under
The surface, see, and so much changes as you
Drift along. You may start your journey with
A piece of property and end it...

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Climate Catastrophe: Pandemic and Pestilence

Epidemiologists and public health ethicists have been grappling for some time with the near certainly of widespread disease pandemics resulting from climate change. Changes in non-human animal migration and human migration will bring extant pathogens to new populations as warming releases long dormant pathogens on the world once again. Large swaths of the population could be wiped out in an incred...

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bioethicsclimate changeextinctionglobal warmingpandemicpathogenspestilenceplaguepublic health

Climate Catastrophe: The Reckoning

Before the reckoning,
The water was like glass.
We would glide
Across the surface,
Staring into the deep
As naïve as a recently
Birthed Godzilla,
Never knowing what
Destruction our
Mutation might bring.

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climate changeglobal warming

A Bifurcated Analysis of Overly Indulgent Self-Reference and Metacriticism

I don’t like all your self-referential poems and
Confessional narratives where you just go on and
On and on with your boring anxieties and
Insights into a meaningless existence.
I mean, just like the time you said

She floated on an azure sky and
Had lips that made the rain seem dry.
It started as a conventional statement of
A poet who likes women with moist lips,
But then you had to go ...

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Democracy Died

Democracy died in the Senate chamber
When Supreme Court justice was never heard
Through a guileless force of legal obstruction.
Respect for law fell like old holiday garland.
A complacent nation did not demur,
Thinking true fascism could not recur,
Power transferred to a political poseur.
A complacent nation watched it’s legal destruction
And Democracy died.
They quickly forgot what they ...

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fascismmerrick garlandmitch mcconnelltrump

On Perusing a Dictionary of Modern English Usage as It Pertains to Suffering

Deferring to the OED, Fowler’s* tells us not
To spell “inure” as “enure” for variant
Spellings are not needed; even if “inure”
Has two meanings, it is still only one word.
But who ever heard of “inure” relating to
Anything but some form of suffering?

Something quite beautiful and useful
Might well be put “in ure,” which just
Means we like this well enough to
Make a habit of it, and that...

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fowler'sinureusage

Poetry and the Cross-Pollination of Artistic Platforms

When people see a spectacular dancer,
They say, “Oh, that’s poetry in motion!”

And then they might see a moving painting,
And say, “That painting says it all—It’s like a poem!”

And good musicians are just considered poets.
I mean, Bob Dylan won a God-damned Nobel Prize
In literature, didn’t he?

But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve heard motorcycle
Races described at “pure poetry in action...

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dancepaintingpoetry

The Best Way to Grieve for a Child

They never changed that room.
Dolls, teddy bears, trains,
And transformers all hold space,
Lock time in perpetual stasis.
When death comes life stops.

Family said they should pack
Things away. It’s too hard
To be reminded day after day
Of a future lost in the past,
But a room can be a memorial.

It’s a museum of childhood,
Until a child of a later
Generation discovers it with
Glee....

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childhoodglopowrimogriefmemoriesnapowrimo

On Bodily Autonomy and Geriatric Femininity

They never ask, the old ladies.
They just hug, pinch, kiss and
Cuddle at will. Babies are theirs,
You know, and they do love them
So much. I guess it isn’t their fault,
No one ever told them they aren’t
Free to touch at will. I once told
A woman to get her hands out of
My hair, and she said no man
Had ever asked her to stop
Touching him before. As an old
Lady, I’m sure she became anothe...

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babiesbodily autonomyconsentfemininityfeminismtouching

The Burdened Bookshelf as Will and Representation

Each mover, save one Renaissance man
Of fellow feeling, complained of the books
And the bookshelves to display them.
Why would anyone move these thousands
Of miles and from house to house when
They are so obviously rarely used?

But the bookshelves, fully loaded, serve a purpose:

For starters, they tell anyone curious enough to look
Where and how my intellectual development has unfolded...

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booksbookshelfglopowrimoidentitynapowrimo

The Impact of Utilitarianism on Unsuspecting Feet

The NaPoWriMo prompt today was to use a homophone or homonym. I can’t take credit for the example, which was offered by a former student.

After her purported reading
Of Jeremy Bentham,
She said he believed
She should do whatever
Made her happy.
For example,
She should spend
Her paycheck on new shoes,
Because they will be good
For her sole.

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greatest happiness principlejeremy benthamutilitarianism

The Magic and Mystery of Ministry

entry picture

Know how in the 1970s the televangelists
All had perfectly sculpted and blow-dried hair?
Well, my Daddy was at least partly responsible
For all that glitz and fancy get-up.

He didn’t do hair for anyone as famous
As Pat Robertson or Jim Bakker, but
Styled hair for some big traveling evangelists
Like Gene Williams. These guys would take the
Word of God around the world, but come back
To G...

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christianityevangelistsglopowrimohair stylingnapowrimoreligion

On the Disastrous Art of Losing

entry picture

On our first meeting, she

Described me as a “near Buddhist,”

Meaning, of course, that I had

The ascetic qualities of a monk.

 

And it was true that Siddhartha

Helped me lose my appreciation

For things. You learn first that

Attachment is suffering.

 

But Elizabeth Bishop was more

On my mind. Like her, I had

Lost things every day, and

Most of them didn’t matter...

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BuddhaElizabeth BishopOne ArtSiddhartha

Texas Tornadoes and the Power of Prayer

entry picture

Oh, Good Lord, y’all, I thank we better git in the house. That sky is darker than Brother Jimmy’s sermon last Sunday, and it’s flashing like a God-damned disco. It’s gonna be a gully washer, all right, but Ronnie’s got the big truck if we git in any trouble, and we can surely trust Jesus will be with us. The last time we had a toad strangler like this, a big ol’ twister turned Alma’s roof inta too...

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hurricanesprayerreligiontexastornadoes

Life, Love, and Leaving in Livingston, Texas

In a previous century my grandfather died

Only weeks after my great uncle.

A few weeks later, my grandmother

Made a quick trip to the grocery store

And returned to find her house in flames.

 

Having lost her brother, husband, and home

In a matter of weeks, my uncle Skeet

(so known because as a child he was

No bigger than a mosquito or “skeeter")

Tried to comfort his s...

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bigotryfamilygriefLivingstonreligionTexas

On the Destructive Power of Measureable Learning Objectives

entry picture

Day 8 of NaPoWriMo asks us to write poetry using the jargon of our professions (or someone else’s profession). As a philosophy instructor, my only learning objective was to destroy the smug and self-satisfied confidence my students had in their own knowledge. Petty of me, I know.

On the Destructive Power of Measureable Learning Objectives

Your destruction is both
Achievable and measurable
...

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educationGloPoWriMolearning objectivesNaPoWriMooutcome-based assessmentphilosophy

If Gratitude Were Horses, We'd Never Fear A Stampede

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a contemplation on gifts and giving. I read Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on gifts when I was in high school, and it has stayed with me all these years. Emerson definitely had his moments as an essayist.

Prologue

“The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Exposition

The gift is always some sort of recriminati...

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Accepting an Infinite Regression of Causes

entry picture

The prompt for day six of NaPoWriMo was to write a poem dealing with counterfactual conditionals, as it were. Here is mine:

Accepting an Infinite Regression of Causes

If only life had come into being
On different terms, according to a different template.

If pain weren’t the primary motivating factor
For keeping life propelling itself forward,

If the best of all possible worlds weren’...

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day 6glopowrimolovenapowrimoproblem of eviltheodicy

On The Odd Quality of Trumpets in the Mist

There should be the sound of trumpets, thin and mournful

As we emerge in mist and set off on our journey.

We’ll make song, laughter, and love seem normal.

 

It’s only a walk. We won’t be won’t be beaten and forlorn, so

We can rise up and never be brought to our knees.

There should be the sound of trumpets, thin and mournful.

 

We won’t be stopped, though we know we’re only ...

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The Distinct Challenges of Hyperfocus

Straddling a life between town and country,

I remember you once stood on a snake.

You never saw it as we were shouting,

Until you moved and it slithered away.

Once you walked into a concrete column,

As I told you to hurry and catch up.

But you were focused and a little solemn,

Just searching for green anoles close up.

So many times you fell into a pond,

And I had to pull...

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alienationfatherhoodparenthoodsonnet

The Unintended Consequences of Complimentary Behavior

He made a clumsy compliment,

And it was taken for an insult.

Immediately, he tried to explain

The misunderstanding, but

He was told to “stop digging.”

 

And so it was.

He wasn’t in love, exactly,

But he admired her

Constantly and consistently.

He spoke highly of her to colleagues

And mutual acquaintances,

Hoping to eventually mend the rift,

He overcompensated...

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The Unreasonable Demands of April

entry picture

No, it’s true, April does not

Arrive as a grim reaper

Coming to take souls

Off to underground rivers

In the waste land

Or anything like that.

On first glance, April

Is a reprieve, new life

Is in abundance, and

We step out and look up

For the first time in awhile.

 

Now we can rouse ourselves.

Lift ourselves from bed

And go out into the world.

Daffodils,...

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aprildepressionpoetry

Pretty Messy Things

The poetry is pretty perhaps,

And some may appreciate the aesthetics

While being put off by the messiness

Of the content, preferring a tidy theme.

And maybe you could clean it up

A bit to avoid making the prigs uncomfortable.

Say something about flowers by the seaside,

For example, and let us forget people have sex.

And let’s forget about messy conflict

In relationships,...

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lovepoetryprigssex

Not Drowning but Waving (apologies to Stevie Smith)

I saw you in the market

And I gave a little wave

To give you a slight greeting,

But you didn’t see me,

So I gave an exaggerated wave

To get your attention, which worked.

You saw me and thought I was

Motioning for help, so you shouted,

“Help! Someone please help that man.

He may be having a heart attack.”

In horror, I started waving both arms

Excitedly to indicate t...

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drowningstevie smithwavingwe're okay

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