Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Tribe of Dreamers

“Art thou not of the dreamer tribe?”
John Keats, The Fall of Hyperion

At their best, poets can see into the heart of a beggar,
his extended hand withered and bare like a sycamore branch in fall.

They can define the wherewithal of hookers and harlequins
as they go through the motions, painted and dressed to the oblivious nines.

Seers and prophets, they build a kingdom of syllables
that cannot be toppled by the Tower of Babel’s foreign syntax.

Their words flow from Hippocrene's pure and fathomless spring,
pens poised eternally above blank parchment, ready to bleed new wine.

They know whether Schrödinger’s cat is alive or dead,
particle and wave always dancing at reality’s elusive cotillion.

How vast and ingenious is the universe that the poet dreams,
where lovers always pirouette back to promissory schemes,

to the subatomic spin that entangles trivial and lofty things.
Their lines of verse run across pages to create a newfound scripture

so holy and divine, rooted in the earth yet also knowing
the glory of rhyme and reason, of untethered feathered wings
and the nightingale that forever in the dark our collective poetry sings.

~William Hammett

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Friday, September 8, 2023

Salvation Army Band

Fifth Avenue is festooned in Yuletide oompah
and shades of unpolished brass, faded blue swaddling and epaulets.
The soldiers on the front line of heavenly peace have thinned,

and joyous exhalations, streams of vapor, were once angelic wings.
Copper coins drop into the red kettle like so many bits of hale.
Old men and women wheeze into trumpets while the bass drum

fires a friendly shot of holiday cheer on the downbeat.
There’s the rub. The street corner is always going under
because the ragtag army has little ammunition.

Once again, Good King Wenceslas, fat as Santa Claus,
dines with meager winter fuel on the feast of Stephen.
Sunshine paints the intersection with yellow satin ribbons

until the mournful gray evening sweeps the street,
pushing the babe across pavement until it is tucked away
a thousand miles from the minds of men,

from demons in wool overcoats racing by the French horn
while ripping notes from the clef of military comfort and joy.
Bright lights die in the wake of dark zephyrs, Christmas past.

Noel, noel.
The manger on display begins to sink, wise men falling from the deck
while the band plays “Nearer My God to Thee.”

~William Hammett

Thursday, August 24, 2023

All Saints' Day

In the Bowery, sweet Belinda tries to kick the harder stuff.
No one sees her sleeping beneath the paper-thin Dow Jones
scrolling behind the dumpster in the alley known as Hallows Eve.

The New York Central runs down her forearm three times a day,
but the dark gray hoodie conceals the more prominent whistlestops.
Window boxes bloom in the brown tenements of Harlem,

marigolds taking first place in color and the Darwinian will to survive.
There is stickball in the shadows as Moses goes on the nod.
An empty grocery cart is driven by a ghost.

Lovers stroll in Battery Park and kiss from sea to shining sea,
and the linden tree still sways from Jenny’s operatic wind and wave.
In 1850, everyone applauded the Swedish Nightingale’s full-throated ease.

There are good days and bad, broken concrete above promising earth.
Sometimes Eve strolls through the Apple but doesn’t drop the sin.
A Pratt and Whitney cuts the twins off at the knees,

but Belinda wakes and decides to lose the lighter and the spoon.
A week later, while the moon washes the streets, she’s perfectly clean.
Sheep and goats, wheat and chaff—they can change late or soon,

so it’s wise to keep the scorecard close to the vest.
A wise man told me that everyone’s a saint if you read the final page.
All these years later, I think I know what he means.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, August 16, 2023


In my youth, I didn’t see the coin, only heads or tails,
and I could not see the forest for the trees.
I walked the narrow path of enigma and cliché

with no room for the super-colliding electron’s decay
or a subatomic particle’s brief foray into space and time.
I had stumbling meter, but not a couplet’s rhyme.

Now I see neither the forest nor the trees,
only the ever-present likelihood of green.
The either-or is such a silly prom night theme.

It is the fool who tries to separate the river from the sea,
to divide lovers in the act of love into he or she
or to split particle and wave, erasing the ecstasy of light.

But, I hear you ask, what happens to the ocean
when the tide washes ashore and sinks into the sand?
I have been where you are standing, but now

I do not see such a beginning or an end,
for the shoreline is seamless in a cosmos on the mend.
I divine the wholeness of Earth and star and galaxy.

I feel, but do not see, that time, like love,
forever folds upon itself, forever bends.
It is said that the most memorable of kisses never ends.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, August 9, 2023


Suppose that a dry leaf
falls into a clear brook that runs to the sea
and circles the world a full seven times
before being read by a thankful maiden,
a letter that simply says “Yes, yes, oh yes!”

It changes the world
as all leaves and lovers change the world,
as all words and poems
fold grass into stars and bend time
upon itself so that now-and-then
kiss with wine dripping from their lips.

Entanglement, quanta parsed into pairs,
summons the royal wedding to court.
Lute and harp bless the world
now married to the virgin ready to unfold
and give birth to compassionate winds
that awaken a sleeping mother’s son.

Love and jubilee pirouette
on the head of an eternal pin
while pouring forth the virtue
of dolphins keeping the mariner safe at sea.
The mystical sum lies to the right
of the equals sign, the omega fulfilled.

It is the beating heart of a robin,
the song of the humpback whale.
It is my love poured into a cup
so that I may drink with each breath.
It is the light of lovingkindness
falling across the hardwood floor.

~William Hammett

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Monday, July 31, 2023


“For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
~From “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman

The mitochondrial needle stitches green into a leaf
that branches and blooms into a forest of plant.
In Gotham, the hooker steps off the curb

into a sea of a hundred million tailor-made sins.
I cannot sift them all or know in this flesh and flow
where one ends and another begins

any more than I can divide raindrops that fall in sheets
to cleanse the bruising sidewalks and sloping gutters
that form a single grid of a thousand streets.

The stardust of Hera’s milk spans the sky,
an entwined ribbon of nuclear fire and fusion
giving birth to chalk-white bones in your legs and mine.

Together, we walk as one,
stitching days hyphenated by the rising and falling sun
into a single stream, a book with a single theme of time.

There is the you of me and the me of you,
a bonnie lad and a more-than-fetching lass
bound as an epic poem from lasting leaves of grass.

~William Hammett

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Monday, July 24, 2023

Sacred Moment

Sitting in the kitchen, I look out the window
at the green meadow, the tree line, the mountain range beyond.
The scene is painted freshly each morning with a new color palette

by an impressionist who has a vested interest in the landscape.
The clock in the downstairs hall chimes,
a call to prayer as I sip morning coffee,

added inspiration lest my brain show up late.
In the poplar, two birds debate philosophy,
St. Thomas versus Hawking, the wind of their debate

flapping leaves like Buddhist prayer flags.
The rising sun changes angles of light by degrees,
and I am bathed in a yellow beam

for a minute or two, or perhaps eternity.
It is good to be here, transfigured for a sacred moment in time.
Did I mention that it was good to be here?

~William Hammett

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Friday, July 14, 2023


The impossible glaciers, the icy slopes,
the serpentine path through the Himalayas—
they fall behind me like a season
that has outlived its days and dies.
The snow blindness, white corridors of darkness,
are cured by the High Lama’s touch
and ministrations in the Valley of the Blue Moon.
The Sherpas make camp while doves,
bells flying on their tail feathers,
serenade the air and pluck the Aeolian harp.
I sit in the library of the grand palace
surrounded by the holy incense of silence,
leatherbound volumes sweeping away
the confusion of distant megabytes.
I read of millennia’s glories and delights,
the madding crowd fading, fading
like the harbor’s last light
before sunrise ruffles new water
with Florentine wavelets of gold.
I lay my glasses on the desk, rise,
and put a kettle on for evening tea.
Later, I go for a walk up and down the block,
the wonders of Shangri-La spinning in my mind
before I ascend the porch stairs, weary,
lock the door, and set the ticking clock.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Mona Lisa and the Buddha

It is a square peg in a round hole,
the fat, ascetic Buddha
with a barely-perceptible smile
spreading across his lips
like a slender crescent moon.
He was as crooked and gaunt
as the walking stick
that led him to break
and collapse like kindling
beneath the sumptuous shade
of the wise and merciful bodhi tree.
Perhaps he had calories
hidden beneath his saffron robe,
a Hershey bar with or without nuts.
Perhaps he was a puffer fish
bloated with enlightenment
when kundalini turned his spine
into a bipolar serpent of fire.
Maybe there was a wrinkle in time,
a wrinkle in space,
the Buddha stealing away
from his karma at midnight
for a tryst with Mona Lisa
in a Florence feather bed,
for she is smiling too, barely,
and hiding an extra pound or two
beneath her Florentine dress.
Here is how it all went down:
the lovers consumed tea and oranges,
chocolate kisses smeared like a swoosh
on their thin and lusty lips.
In the absence of take-your-own-photo booths,
they sat for wandering artists
skilled in paint and bronze.
Oh, what fireworks and transcendence transpired
between the sheets to produce images
of the eternal, smiling afterglow
when the sacred Ganges
made it with the frescoed Renaissance.
What a show.
What a show.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Carpenter

The carpenter chooses carefully from his tool chest,
the event horizon from which he creates a universe
of wood measured and sanded into divine satisfaction.
He sits by a brook to consult a blueprint of dreams

and other ethereal load-bearing schemes.
I rifle through the overflow drawer,
the one that contains bric-a-brac that has no phylum,
an Ellis Island of the immigrant mind.

My fingers fumble for pens, glue, stamps, rubber bands,
and something akin to a blade, that Queen of the South
who rules all endeavors to build our days
ever since cavemen sharpened rock and flint and wooden stakes.

I can find no order, no palace of consequence.
Defeated, I sit with my back against a tree
by the stream that flows from Pangea
to the fertile crescent of my neocortex.

The house takes shape before my focused eyes, serene,
like a Buddha’s gaze into preternatural skies.
And there, as if by magic, you are already seated in the attic.
I stand, ready to climb the stairs.

~William Hammett

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Friday, June 23, 2023

Petal-Yellow Mantras

The audacity of blue sky,
the mystery of deep water,
the pride of certain weeds
to defy all odds
with petal-yellow mantras,
claiming veins
in the concrete—
for the deep glory of color
let all sins be forgiven.

In the alley,
the old black man
plays a cheap guitar,
sings about weeds
and wildflowers,
about Lazarus running naked
through the lilies
though the grave forever
calls him back.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, June 14, 2023


It turns like a Buddhist prayer wheel,
clear liquid psalms sifted by the mill
that makes glassy mountain snow

into the parsed and perennial workings of the world.
I turn and turn and turn,
catching the breeze with lustful lungs

to make royal rain and a breath of beatific sky
into the ceremony of peaceful Taoist tea.
The earth spins like a gyroscope Grail,

catching electromagnetic light and solar wind,
golden orisons from a Pentecost of sun,
a ballet dancer whirling in the rhapsodies of love,

the grandest paroxysm of all, the budding leaf unfurled,
in the workings of what we perceive as world.
The waterwheel turns the seasons

while the moon makes gossamer loops
so that time and tide can be calibrated and sung.
Let all things turn and turn in due time,

for only the effortless workings of the world
can transform the infant vowels of creation
into an epic poem with perfect meter and rhyme.

~William Hammett

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Monday, June 5, 2023


I walk down Fifth Avenue
past steel and glass,
the towers of Babel,
the stone canyon hiding my shadow.
Farther along,
strip malls carve the land
into financial advice,
Italian restaurants, and urgent care,
no appointment needed.

A hundred steps
take me to middle America,
a single stoplight
anchoring the post office,
the feed store, the mercantile
rich with the smell
of khaki and denim.

A white-haired man
sitting on an iron bench
carves a wooden doll
and points to the horizon
and grasslands where the noonday sun
turns the blades silver.
Wildflowers cling to my ankles
before I walk a yellow dirt road
in a scene from North by Northwest.

I step into the adjacent field,
a maze of corn
and drooping green leaves.
There is a waterfall
and a dark, inviting forest.
Crickets and sparrows
speak in tongues.
Holiness abounds.
I sit in moist grass and wait.
Some passerby wearing a robe
will surely come this way.

~William Hammett

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Friday, May 26, 2023

Anchored in Port

The ambassador of my mind has brokered temporary peace.
Up and down, left and right, nature-nurture

will have to step away from the negotiation table.
Sinews and joints have stored winter’s gear

in accordance to the cold season’s lease.
I have polished the handrails and mended the sails

for voyages to be made when the sea invites me
with the gravity of tides from moons yet to rise.

The grass is cut and the palsied sprinkler is ready to rain.
Spring flowers are blooming in reckless array.

Silence holds sway as noon rolls quietly by
like a lollygag wheel with no theorem to try.

My skin is laid in repose on the couch,
arms crossed, a pharaoh who’s down for the count.

I fall into this well-tailored suit with no seams.
For the next hour, or maybe for two,

I will live inside myself and banish all dreams.
Let Ishmael go down to the sea in a ship

to measure his seasonal soul with adventurous tales.
The best way to level the playing field

or settle the score is to chase an afternoon nod, not whales.
Let there be only when, not why or how.
I’ll live in my skin and do nothing for now.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Lucid Dream

The ringneck loon gets a running start on the water,
translucence falling from his landing gear
as he cranes his neck forward, hope reborn,

and pierces the violet and the orange.
White diamonds reflected in the silver lake
evaporate as the sky turns blue and a lone fish

breaks the silent sheen, arches its body,
and dives again into the clear ether below
which it alone can breathe as I turn in my sleep.

I rise from the porch, painted blue
and sagging in all the right places
before climbing into the wooden skiff.

As I pull on the oars with unnatural ease,
the water makes its familiar swallowing sounds.
I arrive at the far shore in a matter of seconds,

but I know that I know that I know.
I’m invested in the synaptic throes’ of mystical lucid light.
I hike the forested hill, conifer rich,

that I created before the stage went dark,
branches and leaves painted morning green.
Farther up and farther in, farther up and farther in.

With each passing night, each passing dawn,
I discover new dimensions running perpendicular
to the parallax, viewpoints I auditioned and hired

to play out the wonders of the undiscovered country
to which all men, dreaming or not,
are, in the fullness of time, inexorably drawn.

~William Hammett

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Friday, May 5, 2023

Yoga Hippie Chick

She sways like six feet of twine spiraling in the breeze,
a long-haired wisp of tie-dyed wind.
Flat on the mat, her torso rises to a sun-ascending arch

before twisting like a cobra pardoned from a flea market basket.
She is all hips pumping like sex pistons,
her clothing-optional brain high on green tea and wine.

She is the nemesis of tight-ass jeans and Calvin Klein,
but this Greenpeace warrior long ago retreated
into throw pillows and a solarium in the burbs.

She mixes essential oils so that she may slip through birch trees
by the stream where skinny-dipping is Holistic 101.
When night unshutters the coffeehouse and poet’s mouth,

she tokes a little this, a little that before winding home
so that she may ground herself before evaporating into mantras
that flow naturally from the mushrooms in her stash.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

New Orleans, April 2023

My childhood home is planted in a garden within a garden.
The streetcar two blocks away still rumbles in and out of Doppler shift.
The fertile crescent of St. Charles Avenue, Mesopotamia reborn,

curves gently between the rhythm of a river and a lapping lake.
Everything blossoms, azaleas and crepe myrtles and King Solomon’s fields.
The colors flash friendly beneath the impossibly-blue sky

as I ride by Sacre Coeur, where koi and nuns still swim in veiled prayer.
Cafes and gentrified shotguns are camouflaged by curling green tendrils
that bind Magazine to Prytania faster than power lines and matchstick poles.

I see my ghost on every corner, from childhood to the man,
Wordsworth writing verse while perched in the elbow of a hundred-year oak.
The riverbend slingshots me onto Carrolton Avenue, a straight shot

to Bayou St. John, still waters where I am baptized with memories
of early-morning commutes to open stacks and seminars.
The levees and pines watch Pontchartrain kiss the stone steps of the seawall,

and Mardi Gras Fountain holds the center of gravity for wind and sun and grass.
I wear my ghost like a windbreaker as I watch sails pitch and yaw
on the rolling tide of afternoon, late in the day, late in life.

The city is as I remember it save for cosmetic surgery and Tulane coeds,
all of whom carry small block monoliths so they may speak with Hal.
I backtrack. The cemetery, St. Louis Number Three, is whitewashed

so that skulls and bones no longer frighten me. I sit on a park bench
and hear the freighter’s horn that will carry us all away,
but not yet. I open a book of poems, the lines holding me in place for now.

~William Hammett

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Friday, April 14, 2023


Winter’s bony branch is scratching at the moon again,
and another etches with purpose ancient glyphs

in frost heavy on the second-story windowpane,
reminders of inevitable ruin and decay,

of ice cream’s fabled emperor that always carries the day.
I prefer springtime trees laden with lust and semen-sap

and their unfurling palette of glorious green.
These beginnings and endings, so deliberate and lean,

are a mystery to the middle-aged hand that opens the door
or executes scallions after mopping the floor,

to the brain enamored of rocking routine.
By necessity, our love affair with the spectrum of now
is an interlude at best, a breaking wave on the shore.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, April 4, 2023


It is metaphysical mojo, an invisible stock-in-trade,
part and parcel of everything’s that’s ostensibly made.
It is everywhere and nowhere, enigmatic embryo

dividing into a million puzzles within the brain.
April unwinds steady metrical feet of lilting showers,
but as far as owning the poem or becoming its author,

that is not something that is yours or mine or ours.
Love is touched and untouched, palpable and yet glowing,
photons’ wave-particle ensemble on the highest stage and lowest.

For these matters I confess a decided affinity,
for I love the mystery that only ends in sequel
that may or may not be written in Hadron script

by Heisenberg’s traveling subatomic players.
I love the space-time continuum that surely had a prequel--
singularity, duality, and the complex syntax of trinity.

I live inside my skin and bones, content to hammer a threepenny nail
into a wooden post to fix my place in the here and now,
to assure that I, a walk-on player at best, retain my destiny.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Man Who Carried Water

His ghost sits on the tombstone in the churchyard,
the one tilted like a crooked tooth full of decay.
He believes his trips to the river three hundred years ago,

his plodding steps to the river fifty yards away,
were miles and miles tread in vain, in obscurity.
For thirty years he carried water in wooden pails

to the great scaffolding of wood and holy bones,
his humble contribution to the cathedral’s cartilage,
to the cement mortar so that polished beatific blocks

of gray stone from the quarry could rise to the heaven
painted in yellow noonday heat or the blue matin rain.
His joints ached and sang psalms of penitential pain.

Today, tour buses glide along the boulevard,
the cumulus cloud above stitched by the contrails of a jet.
Sunbeams carom from stained glass to the pale eyes above the grave.

His face, his signature, is everywhere reflected from the great walls,
and he knows now that he was an artist, not a slave.
The ghost ascends, cleansed and joyous and saved.

~William Hammett

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Thursday, March 9, 2023


Rank amateur or undiscovered prodigy,
he jangles strings, chords bouncing off tiles
of the gritty subway station a few levels above hell.
The guitar case is open, and at the end of the day
thirty pieces of silver and a few dollar bills
land on its soft green lining like leaves from an invisible tree.
Even Judas likes to listen to a little rhythm and blues
or a rock and roll riff and the tapping of Goodwill shoes.

Sometimes he parries and thrusts his own compositions,
an undiscovered poet who thinks that if Dylan could do it,
then, well, there ya go. It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why.
Other times he rolls with the peeling set list—
Little Susie woke up in the house of the rising sun—
taped to the waist of a guitar as cheap as Mona Lisa wine.
He can pander Pure Prairie League or the Rolling Stones.
Hell, he can do it all even if thumbs have worn away the buffalo nickel shine.

Every fifteen minutes, a silver bullet with gang graffiti takes his music
uptown or downtown, where a studio exec might say,
“Ya know, I heard this guy busking out novenas today,
and maybe something lies beneath the dirty jeans and mop-top shock of hay.
The busker closes shop, climbs the steps from Purgatorio,
and shuffles through a melody in his head, notes littering the street
to the applause of sparrows in a purple twilight tree.
Somewhere during the night in the throes of an electric dream

still pulsing from the twelve-bar subway line,
an angel dressed in white lightning and downlow leather lands the jump.
“Here, write this down, you crazy son of a bitch.”
Love ain’t love until you’ve thrown it all away.
“Been there, right?
Your penance is to play for the moonstruck mix shouting for Barabbas,
for ticket holders, turnstiles, and cave paintings at New Lascaux,
to busk from dawn to dusk, to play and play and play.”

~William Hammett

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Friday, March 3, 2023

Night on the Ocean

It is night on the ocean, and the deep water is calm,
black liquid glass extending in all directions.
I sit in the back of the sloop
and wonder who wears the face of the constellations.
I am the only poem drifting on this sacred sea.
Perhaps I have written these intimate lines,
but it is more likely that a different author has written me.
His face is all around on the placid surface of the watery night,
and I think of the untold depth behind the myriad stars above.
I am only a man lost in lingering thought,
but apparently that is the theme of the poem.

~William Hammett

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Friday, February 24, 2023


He’s a session musician and part of the backup band,
always standing in the penumbra of light to the left of the mic,
never all out, never all in.
He lays down the guide track in the studio,
polishes the rhythm, kickstarts the beat
while raising the entire pulse of a song up a fourth,
fingers sliding up the fretboard of his axe
when a new verse wheels about like a cotillion line.
He’s the backbone of the band, whose epitaph
is always buried six feet under the liner notes.

The old woman pushes a broom and beats a rug
before planting turnips in a three-by-six plot of earth
that will will one day accept the humility of brittle bones
for their long journey into ashes and dust.
She’s little more than window dressing for the neighborhood,
never all out, never all in.
She’s the backbone of the universe,
and only the blackbird on her mailbox
knows how she holds everything together
for a band that plays music so loudly
that it is unheard by the ordinary shuffle and shoe,
unnoticed by the commoner’s vulgar ear
but so close to the journeyman’s soul, and so new.

~William Hammett

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Friday, February 17, 2023


We are all descendants from the mountain behind us,
our children the grass and wildflowers
strewn to the left and right of a path

that cuts through pastures leading to the sea.
And then it all begins again.
We are drops that merge with water over the deep

and become a mirror for the stars
until we are those distant pinpoints hovering in the night air
above the mountaintop from which we came.

~William Hammett

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