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a literary nonprofit with a handful of ongoing projects,
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sparkle + blink 84
© 2017 Quiet Lightning

cover © Peter Max Lawrence

The first part of “Like an Orca” by Katie Wheeler-Dubin first
appeared in The Opposite Of
“After” by Goldie Negelev is forthcoming in Metatron’s blog,

book design by j. brandon loberg
set in Absara

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su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g
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Peter Max Lawrence |

ADAM MOSKOWITZ Red Lizard Dream 1


KAZUMI CHIN Kazumi as Sailor Moon 7
The Very Last New Year’s
Resolution 9
Occupation 11
Becoming Mermaid 13
Becoming Kazumi 15
PETER BULLEN Questionable Charms
of the Handwritten Card 17



GOLDIE NEGELEV Two bedtimes ago 29
After 31

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produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on
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e v an @ qui et light nin g . o rg

I’ve been dreaming of all kinds of animals. All kinds of
animals doing all kinds of things. All up in my dream
realm. How’s this for a dream. There were two red
lizards. Identical in size. Big claws. Small bodies. But let
me tell you those lizard bodies were muscular. Bulging
muscle bodies like tiny tyrannosaurs. I’m not talking
reddish, I’m talking all red. Like red plastic toys that
were shining in the light of the dream. These lizards
didn’t see me at all but I was looking right at them.
They were battling. Battling like crazy. Their muscles
were popping out like crazy. But they were silent.
Silently scratching to the death.

My neighbor was in the dream. What’s funny is she
has this really white house except for this big red door.
That door is big and red. Sometimes I go over there. I
bring her food. We talk. I could go over there anytime
she says. Door’s always open, she says.

I was not the first person in the history of google to
search for red lizard dreams. When the algorithm
finished my phrase I felt less crazy. But then I felt
less special. I’m not sure I mean algorithm.

Here’s what’s on page one of many when you
search for red lizards in dreams. They mean something
raw. Maybe sex. Possibly anger. But I stick to the
interpretations that say good things. I’m going with
this middle-aged hippy lady’s blog because she has
middle-aged hippy lady credentials. Because she says
things like I’m tapping into my inner vitality and
force. That sounds good to me. That sounds better.
Yeah that sounds like me. But then she says only you
can understand your dreams. Damn, I say. I’m done I
say. I’m done with the internet. At least in terms of red
lizard dreams.

But those lizards, they were fighting. In the silence I
could see the fight. See them trying so hard. Trying
so hard to kill. Trying as hard as they could to kill.
I could see it real close. I could feel that fight. Feel it big
time. They fought silently but I could hear something.
Something big. The sound the world. The sound of
shock waves. The world ripping. The sound of me.

My neighbor she’s that kind of person. I could just walk
right in. I don’t even know her last name. Just to tell her
my red lizard dream. Not to tell her she was in it. Just
to talk. She would talk to me about it for an hour. She
would give me tea. The mug would be beautiful. We
would laugh about the dream. We would wonder about
the dream and make great big faces of wonder. We
would talk about the world and yell about bad things.
We would laugh. In the quiet we would both know
how little we know one another. But she would know
about my dream. I would leave and she’d remember.



I’m in booty shorts, I’m on my front porch. My booty
hanging out, but I don’t give a fuck. People walking by
and I got hairy legs, but let them look. Go head. I got a
fungus toe too, but they don’t see it. Let them, I don’t
give a fuck. It’s hot, and I’m no skinny bitch. My booty
looks fine.

The asphalt flushing my face all rosy, it’s warm and
I even got sweat rolling. I’m almost naked and I got
meat on me. I could fuck an orca whale.

I’m gonna stay here till I’m sticky, flushing. Listen up.
I got sharp teeth on me. It’s hot and I’m getting more
fine by the moment.

On my front porch and it’s fine and hot. My secrets
aren’t hidden. Go ahead.


I ask for whale. The butcher wraps it up so fast and
fine. A spark of dawn in his eyes. I hold it under my

arm, singing with greed. Quick, eager steps.

I fry the steaks at the hostel in oil, medium rare. The
smell of a thousand fish filling the kitchen. Garnish
them with salt and pepper. First bite: like beef, softer.
Second bite: like beef, but fishier. I can’t eat it all. I’ll
eat the leftovers on the plane. On the plane I have
menstrual cramps. It’ll be a gift for my family.

When I land at SFO, I text my sister I have a surprise. I
say, “I have a gift for you from Iceland!” I know she’ll
love it. I make us open-faced whale steak sandwiches
on sourdough with tomato. We sit on our back porch
with our shirts off, California setting us off. Home
home home, that settling. That singing under my

“It’s kind of too intense for me,” she says. “Don’t you
feel bad?”

I eat it all. My sandwich first, then hers. I really don’t
want to but I have to. Waste not, want not. I’m a hero.


I just took a bird bath in a public bathroom. I’m all
prime, like ovulation. When I’m single, it is always the
full moon.

My teacher Kathy tells me I can be whoever I want
to be. I can be a different person every day. Lunge at

possibilities like an orca. I’m better because of other

On Sunday, I asked a pirate if he wanted to make-out.
At the lake, I started drooling. The kiss approached
and I licked my lips. He threw back his head and
laughed. He touched my hand with his fingertips so
gentle. I wasn’t naked, and my secrets were hidden. He
went ahead.

I don’t know my future. I believe in it.

Kat i e Wh e e le r- Du bi n 5

At night, my glowing limbs stretch thin,
clamp my straight lashes beneath the moon,
my petals pressed between mascara

masks, tuxedoed in black. This drawing
of a rose, and roses. It is no sin to slip
one glowing hand inside

myself, bleach the petals stitched to my chest
like dark crystals into oblivion. I know how
to whiten my hair, my skin.

I’ve soldiered through
these flames and called it Justice. Kept my hands
inside my gloves, never touched

my crown, or the true warmth of it.
But pause. I want to touch my skin
like this, Tuxedo, the slight tip of a finger across

leavening limbs. To know that my body is my own
eternal princess, cold, hard edge of a crescent—
to know I am more than petal,

more than thorn.
I am teaching myself
what love is. Pomp and primp, won’t lock my lips,

I can’t falter, can’t miss, you can’t stop to frisk this—
Oh Masked Man, Prince, oh Straight White Cis Lead,
oh Hollywood, America, Japan—I am tired

of living your rules. Follow me, I’ll teach you to love
properly. You don’t want to know
what an angry alien

can do. Stand with me,
or in the name of the moon,
I will punish you.


The very last mammoth was just like the others,
except more lonely. The very last tortilla chip
makes me feel guilty. The very last line
of the poem changes everything about
what came before. On the very last day
of any semester, if I liked my class, I buy them
cookies. Every year, someone hears the very last
words of any given language, and then
it sinks into the mud of colonialism. White
soldiers gave every last Indian at Fort Pitt
a blanket, to keep them warm. The very last
samurai was white. The very last thing
I wanted this poem to be about was white
people. But that didn’t last too long. Last
year, I wavered between whispering
and screaming. The very latest from
the western front: a lasting quiet. The radio
was never much of a conversationalist.
The very last tape I ever listened to
scrambled like an egg at brunch

Ka zu mi Ch i n 9
in Pittsburgh on a Sunday, with
the very last people I’d ever expected
to be at brunch with. Who knew I’ve loved
so many white people. The very last story
my grandmother told me was about a boy
named Tsutomo. He was born from a peach
called America. The very last place his father
thought he’d ever be. The very last ornament
we hang from our tree each year is a face.
The very last year I spent Christmas with
my whole family was in 6th grade. I hated
my whole family that year. To the very last
drop of blood in my body, I wanted them
out. Now I want to bring all these Pittsburgh
people home with me. Take them to meet
my family. With every pixel of every word
I bleed. I never wanted to hate my family.
Or anything at all. I want last year to be
the very last time that I ever hate anything.
Even when white people are killing black
people and sealing off the street. I will hold
so many hands. To the very last finger
resting on every last trigger of every
last gun. Listen to me, I am loving, I am loving,
I am giving so much fucking love to you.


You got to be kitten me right meow, said the not-funny
coach to mammoth, who was not amused. Language
escapes me, he spat back. You mistake me for a human.

That space journey cat took with the coach had
turned cat into a mammoth, though it never really
felt right in cat’s head. Meow, the mammoth would
hum in his head. Meow, meow, meow.

But the Japanese were ripping the coach’s playbook
to shreds. And were teaching mammoth to mew. Like
a proper Japanese kitten, they said.

To be kitten, apply one strip of wallpaper at a time.
Purr and frolic in the floral print. Language cannot
grow when we don’t teach it the ways of civilization, the
Japanese star said.

So mammoth used language. He loved the idea of
farms and cities. You got me, he said to coach, as
the star held the remains of cat’s bloody body in its
mouth. Right, said coach.

Meow, mammoth said, before realizing his mistake.

Ka zu mi Ch i n 11
He tried to repent for his sins. Mew, mew, mew. But
the soldiers had already heard. They shot him and
turned him into a piano.

You mistake me for a piano, the piano said. You got to be
kitten me. Right, the star said. You got me. Meow. And
the piano sang a sad song about a fish who lost his
head and grew a human female.


This body bears no resemblance to the bodies
of the past. This body is only here, as it is,
right now, and so this history
of other bodies does not concern it.

There has never been another swimmer
inside the body, not as this body swims,
not as this one.

But when I move an arm, there is another arm
And inside that arm, another, and so on. This is how
I understand it. Child, you,

immigrant not yet arrived.
You will see the shore and wonder why it is
that you came. You will be offered six seeds

and no acre of land. And the seeds will not be
what they say they are. They bloom only
in winter, and only in your hands.

Sometimes at night the eels sneak inside me
and they find her, the child,
and I emerge from my dreams

Ka zu mi Ch i n 13
of a past life. I was a girl who loved
to dress up for parties. She was left-handed,
and did not belong to them. She painted her nails
every day and her favorite color was purple.

She came from a town not far off the coast.
She was not beautiful. She looked like me.

If it appears to you as the sun, it is most likely the
If it appears as rain, it is most likely rain.

I wanted it all. I have burned countless dresses
and set them on clotheslines to hang,
but each time they float away.

To cross a border with a dress. To cross-dress.
Who died on a cross, who lived by the cross,
who crossed their heart and hoped to die,
I am crossing the street to you now,

tell me you will take me,
tell me you will take me home.


There’s a phone ringing in the back of my mind
that I refuse to pick up. And I swallowed the receiver
years ago, anyway, during one of those fits
where I throw my whole life into the dryer
and come out static and

I’m balling up my clothes again,
it always feels like laundry time, and I’m just writing
a stupid poem that doesn’t say anything.

The gloves on the table are not mine. The words
that spear my tongue somehow bubble out of me
without my having done anything.

I want to live inside someone else’s poems
but I only have my own. And in mine, my father

appears, but today he texted me about the -8 degree
weather, because he loves me. That’s the thing,
we always say stuff in the stupidest of ways.
Here I am, singing like Ariana

even though I’ll never be. There is no one to be
but myself, worrying that I’m this genie

Ka zu mi Ch i n 15
in a bottle made of diamonds that even diamonds

can’t cut through.
I’m not a mermaid. I’m not a pop star. I’m a little kid
swimming in the body of a man. This is the poem
that’s supposed
to get me out of this mess. But I just keep diving in.

So let me love the diving. Let me never know.
I, too, can wear my own crown.

I, too, can part the waves and call them sand.
And I’ll sit on this imaginary beach which is also
an ocean. And I’ll be a fish, singing,
because why the fuck not. And everything
will swirl around me like a giant cocoon

and I’ll be here, chilling, looking everyone in the eye
as I’m treading water, or sand, or schools of little
silver fish,
or giant puddles of jelly, I’ll just stare everyone down,
super hard,

and be like, what.


Have you ever worried about the scale of your
exclamation points, like if you for instance were to
make the dot particularly large but the line above
it uncannily short. And let’s say you did this while
writing to a new lady friend, say for instance you place
a poorly balanced exclamation point of this sort at
the end of a sentence like: “I really enjoyed our time
together.” And that seemed like the perfect place, its
rightful home so to speak, because of how it added
emphasis to your report of the time you two had spent
together, which was so enjoyable, and at which you
had in fact felt at home. Because with another person,
you know, it could have been horrible, seeing as how
horrible is always hovering someplace close by. And
had you been with someone horrible, which you very
much weren’t, and if you were going to write that
someone about the dreadfulness of your time with
them, which you wouldn’t, but if you did, a statement
such as “I really hated our time together” might also
benefit from an exclamation point, so it’s hard to
argue with the versatility of this bit of punctuation.

Do you worry though that she might then read

things into the way you formed your exclamation
point, because of course she will know it was you
who formed it. No one brings in an outsider to form
their exclamation points for them, do they? And you
have always worried about an unintended misstep in
the early part of a relationship, being that your goal is
to get to the later part of the relationship. And that’s
normal enough, isn’t it? Do those worries of yours
now cover punctuation, because the card with the
shrunken line floating despairingly above the bulbous
dot is now on its way through the mail, and there is
no opportunity for you to extend the line. Will you
get like beside yourself with self-recrimination and
even rage because a line is so easy to elongate, in a way
that there is no evidence whatsoever of tampering?
Lengthening the line of an exclamation point is almost
certainly the easiest, most full-proof adjustment you
might ever make to a decision you’d like to go back
on or modify. I mean how many things in life are that
simple to change? But it’s in the mail and that’s a fact
that can’t be altered. She will get your card and there
is no way to steer her possible interpretation of your
exclamation point away from whatever her possible
interpretation turns out to be.

Will you then think about calling her? It’s a stretch
isn’t it, to call a woman you are just getting to know
and bringing up this business of your unfinished
exclamation point, the one that closes out an important
sentence in relation to your feelings about her, the
most important sentence of the whole correspondence

now that you come to think about it.

But what if she’s not big on exclamation point
interpretation, what if it’s never been an area of
interest to her?

Let’s say that’s true on a conscious level, but an
undeveloped, shrunken, defeated, possibly even
traumatized exclamation point line could well be
sending a message to her unconscious, the very last
unconscious on this earth you want it to be sending
a message to. So do you go ahead and call her because
only a call can mitigate a false and possibly damaging
interpretation of your diminutive line, to say nothing
of the places her unconscious might be forced to travel
in its attempt to unravel the meaning of the huge dot
beneath it.

Yes you do call her.

And what does she do? She picks up the phone and
says “hi.” You ask her how she’s doing and she pauses.
You wish she wouldn’t pause because a pause means
she’s actually liable to answer your question honestly.
And then the worst thing happens; instead of saying
how she is doing, she says: “I got your card.” And she
stops there, not another word, and how can that be
good? There’s no way that can be good, and now it’s
your turn to say something.

“You did?” you say with a tone of excitement, which

P e t e r Bu lle n 19
couldn’t be further from your actual feeling, but it’s a
tone you believe will have her take it from there. She
doesn’t take it anywhere. She says: “I did,” and leaves it
at that. You are going to have to own up to your worry
because you called her in order to deal with your
worry, and while it might be helpful to now speak
with her about anything but your worry, the matter of
the card has come up and is now the leading topic of
your conversation.

“Well Sue,” you say, first because her name is Sue, and
second because you need a little warm-up time before
you broach the situation, a situation you’re not even
sure is a situation.

“You see the thing is there was something I wanted to
say about the card, well not the actual card, more the
contents of the actual card.”

“The contents of the actual card?” she says.

“Yes,” you say.

“And to what part of the contents do you refer?” she
asks like a suddenly stern taskmaster, which makes you
wonder if she has started to hate you. That would be
so weird, because really, can some message emanating
from an un-finalized piece of punctuation bring about
this kind of hostility?

Maybe she’s just having a tough day. We all have them.

You yourself are having one.

“How’s your day going?” you say.

“My day, I thought we were talking about the card
you sent,” she replies. You are starting to think she
may never be a person who reports on her day to you,
possibly because of the effect your exclamation point
has had on her. And the truth is you were really hoping
she would become someone who reported on her day
to you because there are no other candidates for day-
reporting in your life, and there is no guarantee there
will ever be.

“This may sound odd Sue. Even I think it sounds odd
and I haven’t even said it yet. The thing of it is, I was
worried about my exclamation point.”

“Your exclamation point?” she says. “I don’t see one,”
she says, “is it hiding?” she asks.

“I don’t think it’s hiding,” you say.

“Well where the hell is it?” she says.

“It’s right after the sentence: I really enjoyed our time

“That thing?” she says dismissively.

“Yes, that thing,” you say defeatedly.

P e t e r Bu lle n 21
“You mean that almost invisible, ghostly presence just
above your dominant dot? I never even noticed it.” You
are besieged by two different responses at once, the
first, an unmistakable slice of self-hatred, the second,
a quiet glee resulting from her description of your dot
as ‘dominant’. No one has ever described a dot of yours
that way before.

“Here’s what disturbed me most about your card,”
she says, which is not the kind of sentence you were
hoping for. “You don’t seem to have any relationship
at all with the semi-colon; it’s like it doesn’t exist for
you,” she says.

You wish it weren’t so but you know she’s right, you
never use a semi-colon. Not ever.

“Oh dear,” you say, “I guess you care a lot about

“It’s everything to me,” she says, “everything!”



love absurdity
like a jar of bananas
waiting on the sun.


The lifeguards lecture me. It’s unbearable. I explain
I already know how to swim, that I haven’t eaten
anything in six hours, that I’m happy and have no
interest in drowning; it doesn’t matter. They insist I
wear a lifejacket if I want to swim in the ocean.

“No one else is wearing a lifejacket,” I point out.

“That’s how much we care about you,” they point back.

The ocean beckons, cool and green. I give up the fight,
don the bulky orange lifejacket and tighten the straps
until they pinch. The surfers laugh at me. They can get
eaten by sharks for all I care, if the lifeguards would
only let that happen.

I wade in; I swim out. Miles ahead of me, enormous
ocean liners slowly pass by; above me, biplanes pull
banners for resorts I’ll never visit. I bob on the waves. I
relax and let my lifejacket carry me – maybe a shark of
my own will visit; I don’t notice the tide.

A head pops up in front of me, not another swimmer
– he radiates otherness. He sings and it’s sweet-
sounding, maybe Portuguese. “Are you one of the
lifeguards?” I ask. “I’m not too far out, am I?”

“No,” he says. He bobs up and waves to the lifeguards on
the shore. I wonder if they’re waving back.

“I can take your lifejacket if you no longer want it,” he

“That’s ok,” I say. “I’ll hold onto it for now.”

“I know you don’t respect the work lifeguards do,” he
says, “but have you ever considered how hard they have
to work? I mean your real lifeguards, not the posers
who sign up each summer just for the tan and the
attention. The real lifeguards take life seriously, they
see someone wade out weeping into the ocean, they
blow their whistles and jump in their rowboats; they
try to save everyone.”

“Maybe they shouldn’t,” I mutter.

“Are you sure you want to hold onto that lifejacket?” he

“I’m fine,” I say. I watch the shore, how tiny the kids and
teenagers are, their parents taking it easy. I turn around,
there’s another shore, with just as many tiny kids,
teenagers and parents. I feel disappointed, like half the
ocean has been taken away from me. Intuitively I know
I’m staring at my death, that if I kept swimming in that
direction, I would arrive on that other shore, and my

death would be just like my life. I would get in my car,
and it would be the same car, but it would be my dead
self’s car. I would go to my dead self’s apartment and I’d
be alone. I’d go to work and do the same stupid job I’ve
always done, only I’d be dead so it would be the same
thing forever, not because anyone’s punishing me, but
because that’s who I am and that’s how I’m going to be.

A woman swims hard up to me and the man catches her.
“Please,” she cries, “I just want to be born.”

I watch the two of them struggle, rising up and down,
the woman on the man’s chest. There’s too much grief
in my life.

So I say, “Hey, would it be terrible if I took her with
me instead? Would I be breaking some oath or code or

She’s lighter than I thought she would be. I’m still alive;
I have weight. I’m not the best swimmer in the world,
but I’m wearing a lifejacket.

We turn to shore. It takes a while to get there, and we
don’t have much to say. When we wash up onto the
beach, the lifeguards congratulate me, I might have a
future after all. I should sign up for Red Cross classes.
They give me pamphlets.

The woman and her husband are weeping; they won’t
look at each other. Their kids don’t understand.

Hu gh Be h m- St e i nbe rg 27

Sorry I am late again
I was dealing with my organs
they are enlarged with expectation and night sweat
I have many excessive growths
and a commitment to being so secretly ugly get close
to me


I stole:

paper towel red wine bottle opener
coffee filters zip lock bags

now I’m here in this fantastic sand
as usual I don’t want any of it only sleep
how to be full grown
my barely moving lips
get so low to the pain
I spend all day against the chain link fence
looking as if I were alive


I know how to take care of myself
I take a shower once a day
brush my teeth
never floss then do
my gums ache they are such sad things


this cage is so public I discover the cow’s true feelings

for example, he gets excited by thoughts of turning

sunlight bores him the cow has no desire to
go out into the world

the cow smiles waiting to die

inside metal inside unfolding quilt of green.

At my desk, I am fascinated and depressed by asphalt
plastic cups optimism

what my feelings were I cannot remember how I
got so suddenly un-alone

this fucking rattle only one moment left
every surface is full of noise

I avoid the internet each screen a ghost in my room

to find the flower opening, slowly I mourn
and manage to go nowhere

Goldi e Ne ge le v 31

Avó Maria’s house was falling. The earthquake had hit
Faial a few years before leaving her house near collapse.
Avó was dead. She died before the earthquake. She died
before her body. When I saw her in Lisbon for the last
time, the only thing I recognized in her eyes was the
watery blue color she had passed on to me.

A blank book came in the mail, and all I wanted to do
with it was write a letter to my tribe and confess that I
am illiterate in my first language.

The tsunami ruins in Khao Lak are all gone replaced
with teak resorts facing the clear blue sea and small
shops selling noodles, silk, hand-tailored suits, milky
massages and Singha beer. When the shop keeper smiles
at me and says “welcome, welcome,” I look up. In the
corner there will be photos of grandmothers, babies,
daughters. There will be fruit and incense burning.
Most foreigners do not look up. The brochures call
Thailand “the Land of Smiles.”

Here’s the truth. The last time I had been at Avó’s
house I was a little girl. There was an abandoned
store in the basement, and my brother and I played

with the dusty scales. My brother wore a straw cowboy
hat that said “Benfica” on it. We stayed out playing for
long days, and I never imagined he would ever be sick.

I use the word tribe like we are some sort of family.
However, some of you I have never met, and some of
you I have had moments of wishing not to know.

The tsunami gave me tones I can mouth to say “I am
fine,” “Have you eaten rice yet?” The tsunami gave me
a lover who carved my name into a coconut shell then
had a baby with someone else. The tsunami gave me a
friend who died in a motorcycle accident and children
who will call me Sayama, teacher, until I am old.

My Tio helped me up the rickety front stairs. “Cuidado.”
Be careful, he told me. There was debris everywhere
in Avó’s sala. That was the room where I first saw a
woman breast-feeding. My mom had to have a talk
with me to explain it, as if it was something dirty. Now,
there were pigeons nesting on top of Avó’s armoir, and
they flew away kicking up dust. I opened a drawer and
saw Avó’s linens, carefully, crisply folded.

My teacher said, “no one cares about your dear, dead
grandmother.” My friend Tony winced. This is my
friend who hates the word saudade because everyone
says it has no translation, then they translate it.

I can say in Thai, “Bad economy.” I can say in Thai,
“My heart is broken.” I can tell my Tia in Portuguese

all about meeting Jacinto Lucas Pires and discuss
the movements in Portuguese literature related to
the revolution. I can tell her about the friend I made
in Portugal who grew up a mile away from me in
California. When I want to leave her a note that I have
gone for a walk, I sound out the words. Then I draw a
foot just to make sure.

I have said, “I missed you” when the correct words
would have been “I love you.” I was speaking English.

I went into Avó’s house for the first time since she
had died, but after the earthquake, to take things. As
I fingered locks of hair wrapped in embroidery and
found boxes of sepia toned pictures, my Tio handed
me some sewing thimbles. I looked at him and said,
“por que? why?” He said in a low voice, “she wore these
on her body, on her fingers, next to her.” I took one
and put it on mine.

It still felt warm.

Li ne t t e Esc oba r 35
- april 3, 2017 -

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