Poem of the Week: Summertimes

Summer is getting close! That it’s a beautiful season (at least at my latitude) is a given; that it can be a state of mind is a cliché. Still, I combined both sentiments under the same confessional-meets-inspirational attitude I’ve approached the form with lately and produced what follows.

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Sunset across the Central Park Reservoir, 6/6/2015

Summertimes

If seasons are sentiments,

summer is nostalgia,

even when the memories aren’t ours.

 

Halloween heralds a dry spell,

the last vestige of sugared debauchery

and test-pattern provocation

before winterwear and wool hats

shelter spontaneity.

Not to dismiss Christmas,

but the chances we treasure were taken

outdoors.

Yet this side of the solstice,

it’s too hot to be insincere

in body or mind.

 

By morning, the smog’s a balm,

calmly salving skyscrapers

and alleyways in sleepy haze.

And, adulthood aside,

the city’s so pretty at night:

A leviathan Lite-Brite patchwork

that, tracing the seams by sidewalk or subway,

all but pushes you to take center manhole

and twirl mid-intersection,

taking in a panorama of possibilities,

unburdened by overcoats.

Karaoke. Barcades. Broadway. Stargazing.

Sweat sticks, prickles the scalp,

but anything’s ignorable when you’ve got one thing

to look forward to.

 

But one year, waking in single digits to blinding curtains,

packing week on week with tours and to-dos like a tight suitcase,

changing the bassline of every newfound tune into car horns,

verses to cursing,

the beat to forty thousand footsteps

never headed my direction,

I pined for

 

a pine forest

and cabin in foggy solitude.

The film-pitch future

a dozen Tumblrs promised us Millennials:

A little loft; bereft of box spring,

a mattress buttressed by boughs of Christmas lights

and a standing fan.

Hardback classics scatter ‘cross the shelves and hardwood

in improbable stacks.

A skylight, so glow-in-the-dark stars

can compete with the real ones.

And a throwback van, foldout couch its cargo,

to park and ponder in crystal-cool Vancouver,

the doors as wide as our minds.

 

We could swim

(of course there’s a lake adjacent),

shadows casting sky

on the water, swaying ‘round our ears like a flipped pillow

that relaxes the intermittent chitter of insects unseen

into a cool throb.

Like childhood just went on vacation

and came back with perfect clarity.

 

And, in abstract,

companionship.

A clammy collage of models and male entitlement.

I said I’d settle for a metalhead belle

with a key for a necklace, a nervous system

of mandalic tattoos, Chucks shoes,

a wardrobe full of flannel and beanies,

a septum piercing, hair down to her gauges,

and a look of withering eroticism that says

I have been around the block, boy,

and you are nothing special,

but if I offered to eat a whole pack of Air Heads and then make out,

she’d reply your favorite flavor first.

 

A closet quarter-life crisis.

Development not arrested but under surveillance,

we tell ourselves it could happen.

#LifeGoal. #RelationshipGoal. #Dream.

Pepperoni pizza and Netflix.

Soft-focus photography as a five-year plan,

if only we can finally get on that penny-farthing of conversation.

Can we go forward to the time when…

Ironic it’s the ambient heat and happiness

that out our ennui.

 

 

I writhed under deadlines,

dull stares, and thoughts of forever

at crowded post-semester pregames that left my skin singed

and tank tinged with scents of cannabis and flip-cup flecks.

Partying as pantomime.

When someone asked why I wasn’t more upbeat, I replied

I’m just a different kind of person.

 

Yet, waiting for the wind, I realized

caution can be thrown without it.

Looking back

over the fence, to that growing grass, I decided

I wasn’t buried but planted.

And now, sunglasses on, shorts at the ready,

three months can mean something

more than either amusement or acting it.

Some summers may be legendary,

others mundane,

but there’s no shade to take in desperation.

In flying to the future,

some baggage must stay at the gate.

 

So with the regrets, frets, and what-ifs left to bleach—

all things not considered—

I guess, if I could keep one memory

for when the sun is high and the sky is Kool-Aid blue,

 

It’d be the fire pits.

Campouts, as a kid.

The smells: the blackly savory taste

of a BBQ lit anew, the bellicose tang

of fallen fireworks across my grandparents’ lawn.

The give and pull of comfort,

brother and I racing around the flame to flee the breeze.

Family on mossy, knobby logs, monitoring impaled marshmallows

that’ll either alchemize to gold

or go up in the embers like the Terminator.

The greasy security of copious sunblock still intact:

Head, shoulders, shins and nose.

Two yellow jackets trying my patience in tides.

Smoke and bare knees.

Quiet. Close.

No worries except the Mario level I’m stuck on

and if I ate too many hot dogs.

 

A composite,

probably.

Selective reflection, a doctored Polaroid

in the corner of my mental mirror.

But one unhindered by trying

to right a wrong, race a clock,

or chase a secondhand fantasy.

And that’s warm enough for me.

“Return to the Earth” – Creepypasta Reading

With Earth Day just around the corner, I did another dramatic reading, this time of another of my favorite anonymous creepypastas: “Return to the Earth.”

Original story can be found here.

Photograph by me. See more on Instagram!

The BeeBQ (True Story)

And now for something completely different: The short and comedic true story of the time I sort of helped save the family over Thanksgiving dinner (the same day of that blog background you see before you!).

. . .

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November 26, 2015. As is traditional, my parents invited the lot of our immediate family—including but not limited to me and my brother, dual grandparents, a great aunt and uncle, cousin, and assorted honorable relatives (which may include two old cats)—to our home in the countryside for Thanksgiving. The house rests on a manmade hill but, around us, shaggy fields and thinned forests stretch for acres. It was a chilly day; the morning sun had looked more like a shrunken moon, and the horizon blushed in the high-altitude breeze.

The meal was a late lunch which extended into dinner, and it covered enough food for both: Tender rows of light and dark meat, salads of both the fruit and vegetable variety, deviled eggs, and a whole sugary spectrum of pastries waiting in the wings. Over amiable conversation, the hours passed as swiftly as my grandmother’s homemade rolls ‘round the table.

To the right of our cramped but lavish dining room, a broad archway led to the living room where many of us made pre-meal conversation. Now, it was simply a blind spot beside where my mother and I sat near the table’s end. It was around three o’clock when, my appetite concluding, fork corralling what sumptuous scraps remained on my plate, a small, dark shape entered my peripheral vision.

I turned my head, and my eyes widened and then narrowed to see a familiar foe encroaching on our gathering: A bee. Not a honeybee or bumblebee, but a black, yellowjacket-like thing, crossing the jade-colored carpet with purpose. I knew all too well that insects, particularly this manner of bee, had a tendency to emerge in our living room more than the rest of the house. I alerted the family, rose from my seat without hesitation, and smote the insect with the sole of my Nike. The plush carpeting necessitated several stomps, but I eventually returned to the table equally flustered and satisfied.

No sooner had I sat down, though, then I noticed another bee flanking his predecessor’s husk further down the carpet. And yet another, adjacent to the coffee table! I enlisted my brother to deal with the escalated threat, and still the same thing happened: we eliminated the pests, only to turn around and spy another hotfooting it across the carpet, or resting on the windowsill, or staking out a set of drapes.

Our raucous attempts to mitigate the invasion began providing an amusing cap for the waning feast. But the mystery remained: where were they coming from? None were present near the AC ducts, or even the old sliding windows—two chief candidates from lesser breaches prior.

That was when I noticed a disproportionate number occupying the marble tiles that shadowed the fireplace. We crouched before it and, sure enough, bees were fleeing by the handful through the cracks and crevices in the glass gate that ostensibly sealed off the hearth. The bees, it seemed, seeking refuge from the pre-Winter weather, were funneling into our underused chimney and spilling out into the warm living room. Sympathetic as I was to their plight, if this would be the Thanksgiving we were besieged by bees, it would not happen without a fight.

The rest of the family was now on high alert. We quickly assented that closing the flue would be but a temporary solution. And so, careful to minimize the flow of bees, my father pried open the grate and ignited a log atop the ashes of Duraflames past. As he stoked the blaze, my mother went outside to check the chimney, hands on her hips as she scrutinized the roof. Taking over for her later, I could confirm the sight of small black dots frantically circling high above our two-story Tudor.

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My father knelt attentively in front of the fire all the while, an emergency blanket-like silver rectangle and rag his sword and shield, monitoring the bees’ departure or demise. As a flattened box of Life cereal dribbled ironic sparks, he implored me and my brother to procure further fuel from the garage. We returned with armfuls of flattened cardboard boxes and newspapers, to be distributed within the inferno. My grandmother paced the vicinity with concern, while others sat amused on the furniture, keeping watch and snagging stray bees with tissues.

Within an hour, the bodies piled millimeters high before the waning flame, we deemed the encroachment neutralized. The evening closed without further incident, and we went our separate ways with our bellies full and primal dominance reaffirmed.

Overall, though, it brought me no pleasure to take time out of my day to set bees on fire. Indeed, I do not wish to linger on the image of their passing.

You’re welcome to, though, because it was still kind of awesome.

 

 

Poem of the Week: “Ennxiety”

As an introvert, I have a history of social anxiety. It’s nothing that needs medicating, thankfully–for better or worse, I’ve generally brought it upon myself. It’s hard to tell if I’ve improved over time, though–once people have known you long enough, changing their image of you is difficult without coming off as desperate. I tried to touch on some of that with this poem.

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From 2013, the year of unnecessarily long hair.

Ennxiety

Time travel is possible

on paper. Life, loose-leafed, smooth

to the touch, invites experimentation.

One can skip, flip forth and back,

or savor prose, mull over mysteries.

We, readers, grow

spoiled with fictive freedom.

 

And so society strikes me

as the poorest story: immutable

as ink, yet ever uneditable.

 

School introduces it.

Classrooms packed with cliques to pick

or corners to coopt.

Day one: glances flit ‘cross the room

like silent fastballs. Mental lists assemble:

Diehard. Tryhard. Potential network contact.

And, I’d assume, friends without ends.

So when like an orchestra warmup, eager impatience in E minor,

zippers and binders close—

people peer in pockets and watch the clock—

I have to decide who to talk to.

 

But eye contact’s a contract, and

if I mind the floor or door, I couldn’t be faulted

for breaching it.

Interaction means reaction, and—elephant-esque—

I remember every errant one I gave and got.

Like a tight helmet, the weight of faux pas past strains my brain.

 

Still, I’d type events in my calendar.

Dress well. Arrive on time.

En route, the swell and quell of motivation:

Earbuds pump optimistic late-night tunes

to diffuse the cloud of an absent Plus-One.

Standing on the fringe of a booming party’s blast radius—

dimmed, dumb—I’d clutch a Solo cup until my hamstrings stabbed

and I searched for a chair.

Token goodbyes in tow,

I’d escape to moonlight,

Fists low and heart rate high.

 

Let’s hear it for the spirit

of the staircase:

Charm, like lead vocals,

sounds so much better in your head—

theorizing all the wry things

I could’ve sprung on a glamorous diameter of acquaintances:

Workplace anecdotes. Political predictions. March Madness brackets.

 

And so discontent enters tradition, a given:

different verse, same as the fifth.

Déjà craint.

The predictability of an inability

to chameleonize.

 

I’d say it was a choice, my long-term voice.

An addict’s rationalization.

I can start any time.

Young independence means the side effects of defection

before you’ve pledged allegiance.

Kicking and screaming isn’t always visible,

 

but the dents and derision are.

Without the pop, culture was my cod liver oil,

but after enough awkward gatherings—

a virtual void of group photos,

the lack of a link to amicable hashtags—

I learned to fear the look on people’s faces when they realized I thrived

on something they couldn’t care less about,

rubbernecking at childish delights.

A babe magnet with the same polarity:

Those go-yonder eyes on a girl

when I laugh too hard, speak too high, prefer chiptunes to R&B.

After that, every casual ask is like I accosted them in an alley,

because the past plasters an invisible nametag

that can make random questions

scarier than silence.

 

First impressions are the deepest.

The social concrete dries fast,

and months later, I cemented in:

Interrupting people’s 2048 games and Duke scores for a hello,

then taking seats for a trio: my pizza and phone.

And when I approach to bore through some boredom,

it’s like my invitation to relation is an exhalation

of tobacco, and they kicked the habit.

 

Anxiety is when existence in the plural takes exertion.

It’s feeling a traffic signal redden, like a dry heave,

and taking the crossing a block away instead of being on the driver’s mind

when I enter last-minute.

It’s walking the long way ‘round campus

because repetitive respect feels like weight reps, and I’ve already maxed out

on eyebrow raises and hushed heys for familiar faces.

It’s peering over dancing crowds like a prince

or primatologist, lamenting

how I’d rather hear Van Halen wailin’

than the Bacchanalian beats boxing my eardrums.

And it’s every conversation a tennis rally:

Every yep and sure a nervous volley,

pulse rising with the count;
I got this becomes for how much longer?

Or a lungful of air underwater:

Dark and harsh, pressure mounts—muscles tense—

and it’s only

a matter of time

until

I

gasp and say something stupid.

 

I’ve wondered if there isn’t some part of me

I need to take out,

with a black belt in a back room.

Not self-destructive, but self-constructive.

Because what if we’re just monkeys with a terrible disease?

Afflicted ages ago with an urge to purge

our hurt, flash our worth, put our hopes on hold

with alcohol and skin.

A need for attention while we hide our intentions.

Kicking the can of our own inadequacies

down the road, only

to get stood up on a date with destiny.

 

If so, I guess

education is evolution,

and it’s a futile centrifuge

to try and change how others see you

without checking your own mirror.

If you want to be remembered, chase something

worth showing off, or going home to.

 

The world has no proofreader.

No word cap, no delete key

for slow scenes or broken characters.

But I need to believe there’s another chapter

just pages away.

Poem of the Week: “The Teenage Waste Land”

I first conceived of this poem years ago, when Honors English introduced me to T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and I got an urge to produce a modern version that’d aggressively borrow from my own favorite stirring songs and stories. It sat there until now with only a few lines (that I swiftly deleted), but the tone remains what I had in mind–albeit more worldly now for the self-awareness I’ve gained.

In the interest of treating this like an airlock for my own melancholy, I didn’t listen to any music while writing it or reflect on songs I used to listen to for “inspiration.” If “ISYMFS” was cleaning out my closet, consider this taking the bags to the curb.

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The Teenage Waste Land

This love was out of control.

Tell me, where did it go?

Cold, open—I crawl from the rubble

of bubbly optimism come crashing down

like C4 to a ceiling.

Heels to headboard, bed is a hospital ward,

recuperation indefinite. Now all I can do

is lay in my room, fall asleep, dream of you,

then wake up and do nothing about it.

Songs of ready-made restlessness

spoon-feed solidarity to a tired heart.

 

And yet…

take a number, I guess.

We all have a story to tell, so it might as well

go through a few drafts.

I still remember how I made you feel, once upon a time,

but the market for fairy tales ain’t what it used to be.

I will soon forgot the color of your eyes, but I don’t mind.

Everyone will die and lose,

so what will you do with the moments before it catches you?

Never asked, always implied,

and I am thinking it’s a sign

in the rearview, those lines I cast

before I cut loose and floated away:

Just say how to make things right, and I swear I’ll do

whatever makes you happy,

if it means a lot to you.

Put like that, I get why

guy drama is relationship strychnine.

 

So, know what?

Cast your stones, cast your judgment—

you don’t make me who I am.

I’m a patient man, as you’ve discovered,

and my passion was pen and paper all along.

Are we only damaging what little we have left,

to ever reconnect?

Hell yes.

Nature abhors empty shelves;

the stories of my generation won’t tell themselves.

Let these hazards of love nevermore trouble us.

Growing old’s a fact, but growing up is optional.

 

Yet every line I write’s a cost-benefit analysis.

Is the world better for hearing how morning light looks through my blinds,

or a childhood anecdote recounted in rhythmic alliteration?

And who would know once I do?

Quickly but surely,

circular illogic draws me back to routine:

wait and debate, try and flail,

rush and submit… shit.

One rejection:

a mental injection of barbiturates,

carte blanche to bitch about luck

and how there’s not enough time.

I guess I’ll go home now.

 

But it is plain as anyone can see, we’re simply meant to be

the person we picture when our head touches down—

that gap between dim aspiration and REM respiration.

By morning, I always find the words

when it’s too late to let them slip

and fall, for fear of my stand looking awkward.

Dreams are the only thing smothered above a pillow.

 

So a few weeks, and I’m back

on the horse—a kick, and it’ll stick!

I swear, this time I mean it.

Yet self-set deadlines feel like a vice

of virtue.

So I vow if I don’t follow through…

well, shoot.

Eh, some hell will break loose.

To penciled-in punishment, what a shock when there’s mere pages

for all the ages I’ve celebrated.

 

Maybe we were made for each other,

and maybe the world will look like this forever.

The kind of lie that stretches out hope

like a prisoner on the rack.

Still, palm to palm or ink to page,

it was believable, from a window looking on an alley.

I know I sound crazy—don’t you see what it does to me?

The chance I simply swapped rash ambitions,

the artist’s star in lieu of a lover?

Feathers to gold, the value unbudging?

The pleas for an ingénue cross to an audience:

You’d be good to me, and I’d be so good to you.

Why can’t you just be lonely?

 

This suit, this smile,

this gel-shellacked hair, this friendly Facebook exchange

is just a part I portray.

And I know exactly how it got this way:

Everybody needs some time all alone,

but if you left it up to me,

every day would be a holiday from reality:

a freestyle frenzy of riffs, rides, cliffside hikes,

artificial flavors for the screen and stomach.

It could be seventy-two degrees, zero chance of rain

—a perfect day—

and I’d still take ten thousand gigs of digital infinity.

Too much of anything is too much,

except when the alternative is failing

at the only work I ever chose.

 

I always get in my own way,

but dammit, that means I’ll hit myself on the way to the ground

and keep fighting on.

I can’t change the way I see the world,

and I can’t justify my reasons, but

 

if life is a sea,

then a living is a boat,

and hope is the shoals to which I sail:

some distant, shining semblance of fulfillment.

But it’s so far away,

and the rowing is so tiresome.

It’d be so simple to just go overboard, sink into an ocean

of promotions and prefixed expectations—

boxes to check, T’s to cross, watches to gild—

and let crash the waves of rationalization and procrastination:

action movies, YouTube, Steam, doodles and daydreams.

I need your discipline.

 Just tell me the way I ought to feel, what’s right and wrong.

 

A writer’s work is never done,

but I’m addicted to being finished,

and I need comfort like water in my lungs.

So if I ever asked anything

of the ones who’ve seen me this far,

it’s this:

 

be there, my first mates,

lifejacket at the ready

made of bright red faith.

 

Dive in when I’m down.

Save me from myself.

 

Don’t

let

me

drown.

Poem of the Week: “Home Less”

I went back home to Washington State for Spring Break, and… it didn’t feel like it used to. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but I thought I should “write it out.”

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Home Less

People speak of haunted houses,

but never the reverse.

 

We mistake it at first, home,

for the cabinets, countertops, and plastic toys.

That’s, after all, as far as our goals go,

as far as nimble legs can carry us:

to the playground,

TV room,

town bar.

Postcards, plaques, and photographs

hold fast the roof we sleep beneath—

hoarded mortar to the bricks.

All the world’s a game, and

you must be this tall to exit.

 

But over years,

under fees, degrees, double-digit birthday cakes,

expectations asphyxiate—comparisons oppress.

The mind moves but loops, running

not a marathon but a track:

Even if you notice a new patch of grass,

it’s still a circle.

 

And one day, returning turns nothing at all.

Through the front door,

and the past piles on, quarterback-like:

Memories of memories, of thoughtless acts

and thoughts never acted on.

The gravel avenue, the green, greener grass

remain unchanged,

yet the mailbox peels, the Jeep rusts,

and the dusty halls shine quieter.

Mirthful or mournful,

you can’t go back.

 

Every room is an interrogation room,

wrecked by recollections, recursion of diversions.

The bed’s a confessional,

coaxing midnight doubts and dreams

from uncanny comfort.

Bookshelves elevate what once mattered:

Piggy banks, cracked glasses, collector’s editions uncashed.

Half-sketches, bookmarks bisecting paperbacks,

beg questions:

When does a to-do become a once-was?

When does an ambition become an anecdote?

Branch out enough, and the limb will snap

at the base.

 

So it scares me, like a trust fall in transit,

that with so much behind, I don’t know where I’m headed.

Not depressed but compressed, lifted up

and weighed down at once

by the prospect of prospects.

 

Sure, stability is a privilege,

with a cap on laments.

Still, it’s unrelenting, this discontent

when the contents of my mind

mirror the zip code of my former universe.

A false sense of insecurity must come from somewhere.

 

 

When the beginning of your world starts feeling like its end,

the lucid dream becomes sleep paralysis—

a vacation becomes tourism through history.

There’s no cure for maturity,

but there is a placebo.

Just know

 

home is not a place

but a space, a radius

orbiting wherever we go—

satellites of plans, passions, and aspirations.

Home is not a building

filled with odds and ends and quiet blind spots.

It is building:

A life, a wife, a gig, something big,

or at least bigger than you were

the day before.

 

And until I lay those bricks—

wrap those drafts, earn that office,

let a ring follow a call for once—

there’s no place to rest.

But I’m fine being home less.

 

Poem of the Week: “See, I Can Do It Too”

This poem sat on my computer in various scraps for years. It started out bitter and detached but became inspirational… I think.

Maybe it’s still scraps. But I feel like it works.

See I Can Do it 2

See, I Can Do It Too

 

Beauty is a cold war

 

of cold creams and old dreams.

We’re in an arms race of allurement,

knee-deep in Vaseline and expectations,

dangling a lit match and whispering

you get indifferent first.

 

So no self-effacing, a selfie facing

those well-strung masks.

We can adopt Comedy, poise paralytic:

every post a pick-me-up,

every Snap a sell,

thumbs covering

the drunken nights and irreverent fetishes

so no one can confuse our appearance with our images.

Or, Tragic, revel in dishevelment,

photos filtered but cigarettes not,

for sadness the brand: Preaching peak minimum,

swaddled in ripped jeans, flannel,

and hashtag security blankets

knit in pocket supercomputers.

But either way,

 

fame is cheap.

 

Inflation does that.

It takes lots of work

to be concertedly ignored, or stir guilt

when glossed over.

Caked in Adobe clay, some wait

for the reblog of a lifetime,

the intentional accident,

the headshot launched, Voyager-like,

that’ll unlock their day job,

riding a stream of unconsciousness.

 

And the hope grows but flickers:

batting at shadows, Plato’s Allegory

of the gravely misjudged chances.

Freak flags lower to half mast.

 

But if the internet’s a big sweets machine,

I’d rather be a cake than a cog.

When it comes to popularity, I’m ashamed

to say I’m shameless—Better hell in the Top 40

than heaven with Pitchfork.

So I follow

models, vloggers, icons, artists,

and tell myself I’m a conscientious objectifier:

ready to Like unto others

as they Heart unto me.

 

But at the end of the day,

you’re still only ones and zeroes in my screens,

if not for minds then behinds,

set to amuse on the pot or the bus,

or when my desktop’s froze up,

en route to real life.

Pitch a show, rock a suit, tell a joke—

it’s all been done before,

there’s just quicker memes and more greenscreens now.

And it goes to show how

 

love is contagious,

 

not airborne.

The admiration to spur a fan page rampage;

to call a dox or charity drive with equal ease;

to lob a line or look into a crowd and have catchphrases

echo back at you like grenades full of validation.

And every comments section squabble, an exercise

in mutually assured instruction:

Pity or competition.

Learn your place or take his.

 

I’ve stared at UFOs less spellbound

than those accounts.

Beauty? Fame? Love?

What’s it take,

what strand to grasp

to untie this Gordian knot

or simply cut and run?

I could be you if I wanted to

the sloth’s refrain.

But the truth remains:

 

Bodies can be airbrushed,

voices autotuned,

words ghostwritten,

fashion provided,

and pasts smoothed over.

 

You’re known?

Good for you.

Address to the electric ether

or a mirror, depending

on my motivation.

Because I tell myself

 

it’s all about who you know.

 

Which means it’s all about who

you have the luck to be born of

 

or, just maybe,

the courage to call.

 

 

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