‘The Hollow Man’ by J Snow

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wandering through white nothingness
waning, weary, desultory
heaving puffs of heavy, bitter breath
blooming plumes of smoke
such a poignant allegory
achromatic gloom granting serenity and quietude
to ease the wounds of those clenched within the calloused
fists
of life

at least, for a while

elongated wintry smiles stretched thin the skin
faces of the meek
sneers as mere habits from constant combat against a season loved by none
disdained
save the indolent and the slain

fraught with despair
caged in the embrace of sunshine realms
the weak
fall upon frail and brittle knees, succumb to the hiss of mighty demons
crawling, slithering, twitching
in
subzero
Hell
every degree descending downward
lower levels
shadow-cloaked abyss

winter is a beast, wretched tales of woe

mourning perpetual existence as a solitary being
detached and isolated in sanguine dreams
the wendigo roams

Mayka aches to swallow whole
the raw and meaty bone marrow of those forgotten
as they lure him
from the deep of darkness

drifting stench betrays each forsaken soul
beneath frost-kissed canopies
and
bleak and blurry horrors of naked
opaque wilderness
deprived of life
lay silent
snow-bleached bones litter his hollow, cavern home
and
number six hundred and sixty-six
thousand

cryptic carnivorous catacomb

Continue reading “‘The Hollow Man’ by J Snow”

Three Poems by Prathap Kamath

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God Dialysis

On the screen
Kurosowa’s weeping demon says,
waiting to die is not living.
Japan dreams about nuclear rape –
radiation-torn nature.
Beheaded peaches dance
the dance of death.
Upon the knee-deep snow on mountains
men encounter slumber
and the strangling fairy.
In the corn fields of Arles
Van Gogh walks into the burning horizon of death
where the crows do a swirl dance.
Mutated blossoms cuckold
humans to give them horns.
Those whom death has spared
live in wait of death
among the zombies clamouring for life.

In these halls of suffering,
tubes sown deep into the veins
lie the lambs of sacrifice.
Blood creeps down the tubes
dark with toxic waste,
to be washed and recycled
until it goes threadbare
in this relentless struggle for survival.

Dialysis confronts Dionysus.

Illusions

Just about two hundred metres away
a man shot up from the sea
like a flying fish,
slumped back throwing up
sharpnels of foam.

A meteor crashed through
the blue sky of afternoon sea;
breakers licked our feet.

He didn’t emerge a second time.
Anna told me, “It was an optical illusion
caused by the pressure of the sun
on your retina.”

She began chasing
a measly cat that had just appeared
from beneath an overturned fishing boat
lying like
the carcass of a sperm whale
on the seashore.
She followed it clucking
to the other side of the boat.

She said, “The cat too
is an optical illusion.” Then
she shaded her eyes from the sun,
studied me in great detail
and declared that I was
an optical illusion too.

For the rest of the day
we took care to disbelieve
the urges we felt for each other.

She’s everywhere

The little girl stretches her arm –
kids do when they cry out in fear.

She is white and blood spots her face.
In the frame, a helicopter

dots the sky, a man lies supine
behind her; the half of a fallen wall at

her side. She sits, for she is yet
not the walking age. She calls you

in the loneliness of the war.
Under your gaze she becomes black,

desert is what gives birth to her.
In the sky vultures, behind her

the skeleton of a camel.
She cries for a drink of water

and a grub of bread. Her arm begs
of you to shade her from the sun.

Prathap Kamath is a poet from India. His published works are Ekalavya: a book of poems (2012) and Tableaux: poems of life and creatures (2017). His poems have been anthologized in The Dance of the Peacock: An Anthology of English Poetry from India (Hidden Brook Press, 2013), and published in journals like Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, Chandrabhaga, Muse India, Open Road Review, Modern Literture, Madras Courier, Literary Yard, Tuck Magazine etc. He is Associate Professor and Research Guide of English with University of Kerala in India.

Three Poems by Effy Winter

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For Kenan

Ave Maria

Ave Maria

as he is pouring inside of me,

as I burn a flame for him within this cage,
nurturing the fire with bloody psalms.

He is carving scripture
wounds into our skin, petal soft.

Amorea mortuus sum.
Amorea mortuus sum.

I almost die as he splits himself, a raging holiness
tearing through my deathgown.

It is with a putrid heart that I dream

It is with a putrid heart that I dream

of the melting of heaven
sinking into black silky depths,

of succulent virginal fluids weeping from naked lips.

We are ache-ridden, bloodied –
struck by rosary pearls as the breath of God lingers
upon our tender throats.

A flushed hymen breaks softly
and I am sick again,
sore from penetration.

You are sick for cunt blood

You are sick for cunt blood and milk mouth / red for my Russian ballet / I am slipping bondage silk into our clotted wound bath, raging through the bloodmilk reaping and devil-clawing flesh
to cut the sickness from the root.

Your fist down my throat splits the overgrown wilted salvia, sallow chaplet / womb crown.

If your heart is sore, cradle the filth / from my harvested wound cocoon / inside your cum
soiled claws / carry my septic flesh / dead rosary and bone / heavy around your neck,
a noose of sacrificed rot to pray with.

Starved, I reclaim you like wet dirt / pregnant and exhausting corpse perfume.

Effy Winter is a contemporary romantic poet, provocative by nature. Her work explores eroticism and heartache while portraying the spawning of a carnal hunger for witchery, lust and self-sacrifice. Effy’s first novel, Flowers of the Flesh, is set to be released in December 2018. Her poetry is forthcoming in Rust + Moth and other literary journals. You can learn more about Effy and her work at https://www.effywinter.com. Twitter: @fleurwomb

‘The Spring Rain’ by Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar

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The sun is out. It’s a beautiful spring morning for many, but for me it’s the start of another day to fill with busyness.

I pull my uncombed hair into a tight ponytail, roll my jeans up, and start taking out the lawnmowers, cans of lawn chemicals, and tools from the garage to hose winter’s salt and remnants off its floor.

The smell of water on dust, like the rain’s smell, is soothing.

After the garage, I move on to the porch. I am about to press the hose handle when I see her: a baby bird, still and tiny, lying in a pool of blood in the corner. Some grey feathers are strewn around her. Her never-opened, bulgy eyes are shut.

I look above at the swallow nest in the nook of the ceiling. It’s quiet.

Yesterday, I’d heard tiny chirps while weeding the front yard. No sound like a new life’s.

My body had lost a sound last week, at night, only two days after I’d heard it, strong and rhythmic, under the stethoscope. My body had endured shots of vitamin-D ─ thanks to Ohio’s scarce sun ─ for months, and a year-long hormone therapy for that sound.

My eyes are rocks, refusing to blink, and feet granite, mortared to the ground. This featherless, ginger pink body. This silent yellow beak. These lines of claws.

I want to protect her, stand guard against buzzards, but what if the mother is watching from somewhere, waiting for me to leave? With that thought, I lift my feet, and sit inside by the window, eyes fixed on her. I don’t even take a bathroom break.

It’s noon. Still, no mother or visitor.

The Ohio early May sun is gaining strength, casting heat on the bare body. I should do something, but how do I know how to handle someone else’s baby?

I had let my own baby whirl and drown in a pool of blood in the toilet bowl in front of my eyes.

My legs carry me out to the yard; my hands grab a trowel from the tools strewn outside the garage, and dig a shallow hole between the patch of tulips and the rosebush. Both are still budding. My left hand scoops the baby bird up into my right hand which lays her down.

This right hand had flushed the toilet that night, like an automaton, without even asking me.

After covering her with mud, I poke an orange-black metal butterfly, mounted on a thin metal post, into the earth.

There’s no marker for my baby.

The bloodstain on the porch where she fell is still there: an open wound. I look away and get busy with edging the flower beds.

Soon, gray, rumbling, clouds push out the sun. I quickly restore the garage’s contents and walk towards the front door, but my feet pause in the porch:  the brown stain is being erased by the spring rain.

The rains, which I hold inside, start.

Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American. She was born in a middle-class family in India and will forever be indebted to her parents for educating her beyond their means. She now lives in the United States. She is a Pushcart nominee and her work has been published in The Ellipsis zine, The Former Cactus, Lunch Ticket, Star82 Review, Cabinet of Heed, and also in print anthologies. She blogs at Puny Fingers and can be reached at twitter @PunyFingers.

‘Food for Thought’ by Andrew J. Park

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She served it all up on a plate, the words still warm, clinging to the edges in a clumsy disarray.

I blinked, then blinked again. “You’re sure you’ve gone through this twice?”

“Yep! It turned out a lot better than the last one.”

I was skeptical. Already, I could see a sentence–runny, run-on, dangling along the rim like an unappealing line of snot.

I thrust my fork into the pile, and I swear, it yawned back at me. But before I could bring it to my mouth, she stayed my hand with a delicate touch. “Wait! Let me just add a dash of style.” Rummaging through her apron, she took out a small vial filled with semi-colons and shook it with a sly grin.

I winced. “Be careful with that,” I said. “You’re only supposed to use those sparingly and they’re really only for—”

She had already dumped the damn thing; all of it; bunched along the sides of the plate, like day-old chocolate sprinkles; unnecessary; overpowering.

I took a bite. It wasn’t to my taste. It tasted as unoriginal as it looked.

“How is it? I used more commas this time.”

“Um,” I said. I bit and chewed, tried to make sense of the notes and tones. There was a tough piece of sentence fragment that kept springing back and forth between my back teeth. My jaws flared, but it was a tough sentence to swallow. And what? Was? That? Sudden? Influx? Of?

“Do you think I used too many questions? I can cut some out, if you’d like!”

Poor girl. I tried my best to smile, I really did. But my mouth was so full of empty phrases and cliches that, mixed with the litany of commas, zeugmas, and semi-colons, was starting to form a paste of something altogether redundant, unnecessarily long, and too complicated for me to even comprehend in the slightest bit of space and time that was here and now.

“It’s good,” I said.

“Really?” Her brow furrowed, lips trembled.

“Mhmm. Yep. Um, really good.”

What else could I say? I’m not normally one to mince words, but this was hers, something she presented in burgeoning confidence. The critics will have their say, but must I be the one to dish it out?

“Good work. You must have worked really hard.”

There. The classic ‘worked hard’ deflection. That should do it.

But it didn’t. Her eyes glistening, she plopped another bit of the mess –literal, literary mess—on the plate before even bothering to ask if I wanted helping.

Nothing could register, and before I knew it, I threw it up all over the table.

It was the worst word vomit I had ever seen.

Andrew J. Park is a full-time medical student and part-time writer. A cleverly-disguised introvert, he enjoys collecting watches and rejections, the latter which he stores in a mason jar. His work has appeared in FlashFiction Magazine and 101 Words. On days when his shoulder does not ache, he enjoys surfing and writing fiction. He currently lives in San Diego, CA.

Three Poems by Maya Williams

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Thank You

You said you understood
why I cried
as I let you

hold me

for what felt like
five minutes
when it could have just been two.

We don’t have to explain
why we changed
our plans about the movie.

Honestly, I had no intention of
watching one anyway.

You probably didn’t either.

You let me lean
against
you and hold

your hand.

Your fingers
trace my neck
and shoulders.

Honestly, it’s been so lonely
on my end.

You’ve probably been lonely yourself.

We kiss.

We bite.

We lock tongues.

Honestly, it all tickles in a good way;
it helps me sometimes think of him.

You probably thought of her sometimes too.

For Granny’s Hot Combs No Longer in Use

My maternal grandmother does not own
hot combs
anymore.

Updated technology in straightening out
kinks
and
curls
makes the hot comb practically non-existent.

No more fascination with the metal device
heating
on top of the stove.

The hair grease seated nearby
for emphasizing the heat’s smoothing from
her roots
to
her ends.

No more allowing time to settle
as she waits for the temporary
redness
of the comb.

Instead of an hour and thirty minutes
to two hours,
flat irons cut the time in half.

We are hustling more nowadays.

I should have the natural instinct to view the
hot comb
and other tools after it
as a weapon
against the
resistance
to norms we call our hair.

But
there is
intimacy
the hot comb provides.

Did the misunderstandings
lead to faster tools as a way to
escape the
conformity
faster?

But
my grandmother is no
conformist.

Hair picks,
laces,
and wigs
were in her arsenal of
grooming preparations
as well.

The hot comb
has been her longest
go-to
in her
unconventional
style.

And now
it’s gone.

For My Client

Her son gives her these
tiny
pink and purple
flowers.

They’re floating in a mug
printed
with
pink and purple
flowers.

The mug is filled with
more water
than the plants need.

Nevertheless,
she still smiles
so wide.

Her false teeth
are gleaming from the
sunlight
free enough to
break its way
through the window.

Her smile
is
the first sight
of spring.

‘The Back of Her Fat Knees’ by Patty Ayers

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My kindergarten classmates were disorderly and rambunctious, and the wildest of all was my friend Donnie Beck. Even before we entered kindergarten in 1962, Donnie and I were best friends – full-fledged, pinky-swear pals. Because our mothers were lifelong friends, each other’s maid and matron of honor, we thought we should be eternal comrades, too.

Donnie and I made our pinky-swear while crouching under the back porch at my house. In its murky, spider-webbed utopia, Donnie and I found our special place. We jumped forward to yell, “Boo” at the people coming up or down the steps, but mostly we told ghost stories and made up bizarre tales about faraway lands. Donnie and I shared an eager, but perhaps disturbing imagination.

At school, Donnie and I stuck together like the proverbial glue. However, in about twenty minutes, we would witness an event that would shape our lives forever and send us in separate directions. The dark affair would affect all 41 kindergartners at St. Mark’s school, but none as much as Donnie.

Miss Lynda blew the two-minute-warning whistle on the playground as the sun throbbed high overhead. Lynda liked being the whistle-blower; it suited her strict, military style of discipline in controlling her flock of five-year-olds. Two minutes from the warning sound, she would herd us inside to do the “Pick-Up Dance” for end-of-day cleanup.

We called Miss Lynda “Miss Beach Ball.” She was easily twice the size of a normal woman, with Michelin-man rolls of fat on her arms and legs, and one thick tire-tube roll that suggested breasts. Her face sunk into dimples like a hog’s face, with the four chins of an Italian opera singer. An ebony forest of peach-fuzz covered her jaw and upper lip. It didn’t help that she “wasn’t one for fixin’ herself up for company,” as my Daddy said. Uncombed poofs of black hair ended in a banner of frizz over her apple-round body. Lynda buckled strappy white-leather sandals over elephantine ankles and wore a wide, flowery tent-dress – polyester, of course, the latest miracle fabric.

Once I heard Mom say, “Bless her heart, she’ll never marry.”

The kids made jokes about Miss Lynda rolling down a hill like a beach ball, bouncing off boulders and crashing at the bottom. Pretending we were her, we played the game “Look Out Below!” when rolling down the hill on the playground’s side yard.

It was a Tuesday and a sweltering day in East Tennessee, 92 degrees and 87 percent humidity. Sweat from Miss Lynda’s upper lip rolled into her mouth and seeing the liquid salt on its path, I tasted the grit of the liquid salt myself. As I watched, Lynda caught the eye of young Charlene, a temporary teacher who didn’t always follow kindergarten rules. Lynda motioned as if to say, “I’m going in.” Then, not caring who it was, she called the kid standing closest to her.

“Donnie!” she cried. He tried to avoid her eyes, but she waved him forward. Donnie cringed and began a slow walk to our fat, sweaty teacher. None of us liked her, especially her way of talking to us, as if we were soldiers. Too much marching. Not just strict, Miss Lynda could be flat-out mean.

“Come with me, Donnie. The two of us will get started early,” she said. With her pudgy hands on both of Donnie’s shoulders, she turned him to the door and propelled him forward. She whispered in Donnie’s ear and I became suspicious. Though I wished I could have gone inside with them, to “supervise,” I ran around the building to the one window with a view of the playroom. On this hot day, the window was open and four fans blew.

Miss Lynda laughed on the way in as if she was trying to joke with Donnie. Donnie’s scowl made it obvious he wasn’t interested in joking with fat Miss Lynda, even though it appeared she was in a good mood. She suggested a cleanup game. “To make it more fun,” she said.

A suspicious-looking Donnie asked, “What game?”

Continue reading “‘The Back of Her Fat Knees’ by Patty Ayers”

‘Căsuță’ by Ken Allan Dronsfield

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In a kingdom full of lodges
My knights, I could not awaken.
I crave the happy, historic hut
the green green-way gardening.
I am shorn of my chestnut horse
an echo whispered, ‘weeping willow!’
And so you came gently sauntering.
The trumpet vines glared in orange.
There stood a thorn-less flower child
who could be more purely of faith?
Eagerly I looked for the cottage,
but my mind always strays to tipis,
the ingenue brought such sorrow
I threw its ghost into the root cellar
as I am without my healing ginseng.
‘It’s that wooded sorrel,’ I whispered,
removing the stress from my intent.
The celadon white hut complexing
My thoughts are astray into woodlands
somewhat louder than hounds on a fox.
Back, back into my memories receding
I had dreamed of chambers sharing
Instead you uncovered the ovenware
The small silver birch bowed in the wind
Life in a shaded stained-glass window
Beyond a retro cottage – a little Căsuță.

Ken Allan Dronsfield is a disabled veteran, prize winning poet and fabulist from New Hampshire, now residing on the plains of Oklahoma. He is widely published in magazines, journals, reviews and anthologies throughout the US and abroad. He has three poetry collections, “The Cellaring”, 80 poems of light horror, paranormal, weird and wonderful work. His second book, “A Taint of Pity”, contains 52 Life Poems Written with a Cracked Inflection. Ken’s third poetry collection, “Zephyr’s Whisper”, 64 Poems and Parables of a Seasonal Pretense, and includes his poem, “With Charcoal Black, Version III”, selected as the First Prize Winner in Realistic Poetry International’s recent Nature Poem Contest. Ken won First Prize for his Haiku on Southern Collective Experience. He’s been nominated three times for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net for 2016-2018. Ken loves writing, hiking, thunderstorms, and spending time with his cats Willa and Yumpy.

Three Poems by Kyle Hemmings

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Why Alice Shot Her Handicapped Lover

her phone kept chirping in her pocket

she kept seeing fingerprint smudges
on her dreams, always with the same hand

at night, she could no longer mute
the sad songs of crickets

she believed that her spontaneous nosebleeds
were prophesies

in photos, taken with an old Hogan camera,
he was either too blurry
or too far away

he kept clinging until
she was nothing
but deep inner space

it would be her way
of leaving him
yet
taking that phantom part of him
with her

Alice’s Therapist Compares Depression to a Washed Up Canary

It’s a slow bullet boring through layers of years. It will convince you that tennis is impossible. A snotty Madison Avenue socialite who tells you that you’re a baby elephant in a ridiculously tight tutu. On some days, you’re bulging at the seams or feeling as empty as you did that one summer when Brad Pitt turned you down. Or was it Prince? Or the day the teacher made you write “I must pay attention,” fifty times on the blackboard before you overdosed on the chalk. The horizon keeps shifting. You’re off balance in high heels. Alone before a mirror, you experience a watered down version of stage fright, in tight spaces a cramp of claustrophobia. “Save the fish” is your girlfriend’s doomed moniker, the one with frizzy rust-colored hair and sneakers to match. She’s a chain smoker from her hippie days and claims her mother laid waste to her will to string pearls and make babies. To blame is to be human and to be unmanageable. You start calling friends at all hours but they’re not listening to the subtext in your voice. So you stop calling them. Snooty callous shits. Instead, call yourself an orphan. Call yourself a wound. Call yourself a blind eggshell. Swallow your tongue.

Alice’s Older Lover Is Uptight about Social Media

If you strip me bare without leaving tiny red nicks on the skin, if you pretend that we can jump-rope over sex as if the word “double-dutch” is forever tattooed to our rumps, if you juggle my minor chords and still make me indecent and flighty in A sharp, if you thread the milk-skin of the moon to our awkward alien silences, aware that I have allergies to both lactose and trolls in the kitchen cupboard, then, perhaps my dear Alice, we can do it again.
In the backseat of a taxi
our words bounce off glass
and break

Kyle Hemmings has work featured in Lunch Ticket, Matchbook, Bones, Burning Word, Sonic Boom, and elsewhere. He loves street photography and obscure garage bands of the 60s. Kyle cannot sing in the shower.

‘My Mama and the Night and Day’ by Brenda Morisse

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1

Mama understands the night
She tells me that the darkest nights have nothing to do with the absence of stars or the two faced moon, that some nights are so full of themselves that nothing can get through them, not starlight or a street light, that the night is as heavy as a ton of bricks, especially in New Jersey when we travel through See-Ca-Cuse and no matter how often she asks me how to pronounce Secaucus, she always says See-Ca-Cuse, and we laugh and she says “it’s so nighttime here, I don’t think the day will find its way back here especially the way they drive in Jersey”, she doesn’t hate Jersey but when we’re there she’s always looking for gardens, and she smirks, “So, where are all the gardens?”, and I say, who knows, maybe down another street.
Mama asks me if this is the darkest night or if yesterday’s night was darker than this one,
I tell her I’m not sure, that although yesterday’s night was as dark as an old man’s umbrella, this night might be the darkest. She tells me not to be silly, night isn’t an umbrella.

2
My Mama examines the night.
She warns me that the night goes blind at night. That’s why he inches after the sun looking for a bit of sight. A halo of light.
See how the foot of the night trips up the steps? See how he walks into stop signs? The night can’t even see his own hand and probably bites his finger when he eats a sandwich.
Mama catches me inspecting my fingers and bleeding cuticles and says “if you keep biting, you’ll grow a lump filled with nails in your stomach and then when you die after the operation, how will I find your grave at night? And you, scared, alone, and dead and all. ”
“And anyway”, Mama says, “You have sloppy hands, and messy hair, just like the night. No matter how you pull, you can’t untangle the night. You can’t braid the night”.

3
Mama talks to the night.
She says that everyone talks to the night, even the dogs. Sometimes she whispers cuddly words to the night, I wouldn’t mind if she kissed the night and smudged lipstick all over his shirt. Other times she screams. When Mama screams at the night, I worry. One time I saw her throw a drink in his face. Another time, she burned his neck with a cigarette. Thankfully, the night backed up until morning. Mama says it doesn’t matter what you say to the night, he’ll never recognize you tomorrow

4
Mama’s had it with the night.
Mama says the night is susceptible to gravity because he’s always falling and can’t get up. See how he collapses out the window, not like the standup day taking its lumps. See how the night clutches the day like a drowning man, and pulls down the sun over the horizon, then, pulls down your panties.
And even though the night apologizes until he’s royal blue in the face, Mama says the night will always be a thief, and she’s taking him to court.

5
Mama is jealous of the night.
“Yes!” Mama says. “Your precious night, the one you love more than me.
The one you’d jump into even though he won’t catch you.”
She watches me sleep wide awake.
She watches me keep eye contact with him.

6
Mama envies my daytime
but I wish I had Mama’s nighttime nose. Mama says I should be smarter because I have the goods to sniff out the bull from the truth, separate the night from the day. But even though I win the nose contest, Mama wins the beautiful feet contest. Mama says she has fancy feet, Cinderella feet, dainty feet made for pedicures and glass slippers and dancing the mambo, not like me with my plain feet and working toes whose only talent is to pick things up, daytime feet meant to be hidden in the Buster Browns with the long tongue.

7
Mama changes her tune about the day.
First she says you can’t trust anybody, not even the sun who carves its fingerprints into skin and slices the buildings in the neighborhood.
But then she switches her mind and says she never said that the sun has eyes in back of her head and will give you the evil eye with one of them.
Mama says one day I will sit in the dark with bandages around my head and then I’ll understand.
She teaches me the Look at My Shoes Dance, followed by the Tilt My Head Up Pose, the one where I peek when I try not to look at the thing I want most.

Brenda Morisse is a poet. She lives in the Bronx.