What I Want. An ekphrastic poem by Dawn Promislow

dawn promislow

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"Mobile garden dress" by Nicole Dextras, as seen in installation at Todmorden Mills, Toronto, July 2014.

 What I want
 What i want to know is, yellow lady, light midsummer light
 yes you, yellow-skirt
 dandelion, lionness
 potted pothead 
 on Pottery Road
 potting pots
 potting about lady
 skirting there
 yes, you
 mellow yellow-dappled hoop
 under pleated wear
 bodice bodied
 basket-boned, pot-bellied pot
 how many children under there
 madame, my dame?
 i want to know how many children
 under skirts
 under wear
 wasp-waisted yet
 earthen-ware mother
 potted mum
 yellow mums
 mum's nasturtiums, you say?
 i jus'
 want to know wish to know

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Dawn Promislow is the author of Jewels and Other Stories (Mawenzi House, 2010), which was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2011, and named one of the 8 best fiction debuts of 2011 by The Globe and Mail. She has a novel forthcoming in 2022. She lives in Toronto.

3 Poems by Juan Chemes

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Wishful Wishing
 Tell me something I don’t know,
 that the mirror has three faces, if not more.
 Or that easy does not necessarily does it. 
 It does not!
 That the good outweighs the bad,
 perhaps, for all we know.
 Tell me again, if you’ve learned
 that your thoughts are worth more than a cent,
 that to fuck up is divine and it’s human to repent,
 that well said can be even better than well done.
 That the good outweighs the bad, not doubt
 for all we care.
 Tell me more now. Just say yes:
 Can I call a spade a dove, or just a spade?
 Can I hope for something new under the sun?
 Aren’t things almost always what they seem?
 Does the good outweigh the bad?
 We know it does! For all we stand.
Originally published on March 2018 in the anthology “Persian Sugar in English Tea” by Soodabeh Saeidnia

             I indent myself to be present to the things 
 that I see with my eyes closed when my hope becomes
 hopelessly idle, (shut tight) in closed parenthesis. 
 It’s my own impostor syndrome at its best: 
 urging me off the ledge, talking to me
 the way false prophets prophesy
 fasle prophets. 
 It’s the promise of me that I failed, 
 going nowhere in a hurry, running
 from past thing that aren’t worth words; 
 words from the book of —who cares now?
 It’s not a matter of changing
 but editing out your endlessness.
 It’s my image in your countenance. 
 It’s a fuck of sorts.
 It’s my weak, but necessary restraint
 from jumping into pieces.
 It’s the blinders on the horse.
 It’s whatever it is that it’s a “yes.”
 But not today, and not right now.
 Hell no. Not inside this prayer.

 Originally published on August 2008 in The Blue Nib Literary Magazine.

 Epiphanies may affect these hours
 I've been (for much too long)  
 Siting on a box in Pittsburgh,
 living on a Gesell Dome.
 minding the wind, and the time (lost).
 Discounting the warm and decay,
 but fiercely trusting the sons
 (of ghosts); sluggishly forgiving
 my unforgiven rootlessness.
 There will be hookers in our history books, and urine,
 and fast food, pornography (and its stars).There will be
 genre trappings, and bad endings and trees and reason 
 (disguised as such). Open 24 /7. Open for debate and
 global wholesales, but not for harmony, nice haircuts,
 or wildflowers.
 But Epiphanies will affect these hours!
 And if they can’t, I’ll give it all up.
 Because I’ve been (for much to long)
 trying to belong.

Originally published on July 2019 in Miletus Literary Magazine 

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Juan Chemes is an American writer born in Argentina. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Adelphi University in New York in 2018. His stories and poems have appeared in Miletus Literary Magazine, Bloggerty, What Rough Beast (Indolent Books), Cagibi, the anthology Persian Sugar in English Tea, and The Blue Nib. Mr. Chemes is currently residing in Colombia, working on his first fiction novel: The Shame of the Shameless.

2 Poems by Denise O’Hagan

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 Every hospital has a Charlie
 Someone who’s slipped through society’s cracks
 And sits obstinately on the outside
 A grit in the eye of every passerby
 And a reproof to government healthcare.
 He was sitting there today
 By the thick glass sliding doors
 A great raw trunk of a man
 Marooned in his chair 
 By bewilderment and swollen ankles,
 A latter-day Humpty-Dumpty.
 His eyes rake you in as you walk past 
 Slit windows to a private hell
 As he wages his daily battle with self-expression
 But his sentences dangle, words mangled
 Limp as the cigarette in his mouth.
 You nod and smile:
 It’s the least you can do
 Hoping this tiniest of overtures
 Won’t lead to more
 Then wishing you didn’t feel that way
 Because you know, deep down,
 Irrelevance plays no part in it – 
 There is meaning in the fall of a sparrow
 And Charlie has something to tell us.
 So you plug up the holes in your heart
 With well-practised, comforting pity,
 Blink away the tears in his eyes
 And wave goodbye to something in yourself
 As you walk on to the rest of your life
 Scarcely daring to wonder 
 If things had been different
 Could you have been him?
 First published in Other Terrain Journal, Issue 7, 16 June 2019
 I walk on seashells
 (Petrarchan sonnet)
 I walk on seashells, I walk on oyster shells
 And tread the fine-grained sand between,
 Gaze at the rippling water’s pearly sheen
 Stretching to waterfront lawns of grand hotels,
 The ebb and flow of the tide, the swells,
 And wonder again what might have been.
 For I lost it all, yet still I dream
 Of castles, bells and citadels.
 I gather my skirts, hold my head up high:
 He bruised my body but not my mind,
 My penurious family turned a blind eye
 Pray tell me, on whom could I rely?
 My husband is seen as wealthy and kind –
 But I’d rather the boarding house nearby!

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Denise O’Hagan was born in Rome and based in Sydney. She has a background in commercial book publishing, and worked as an editor for Collins, Heinemann, Routledge and Cambridge University Press, and was consulting editor for the State Library of NSW. In 2015 she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, through which she assists authors wishing to publish independently. She is also Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib. Her poetry is widely published and awarded Her awards include the Dalkey Poetry Prize (2020), first prize in the Adelaide Plains Poetry Competition (2019), second prize in the Sutherland Shire Literary Competition, shortlisting in the Saolta Arts Poetry Competition, the Booranga Literary Prizes and the Robert Graves Poetry Prize. The Beating Heart is her debut poetry collection (Ginninderra Press 2020).

3 Poems by Mansour Noorbakhsh

Jan. 8th 
 (To 167 passengers and 9 crews perished in flight 752 Tehran on 8th of January 2020)
 And still I am waiting for
 something to happen somewhere
 without knowing what and how.
 One year has passed since
 the downing of Flight PS752, and
 still cruel politicians are
 spending millions 
 to protect themselves
 and spread the meaningless words
 in press conferences 
 to make an announcement 
 about how just they are
 while they are in power 
 by unjust relations
 and their holy words are only
 haggling the priceless lives
 and loves that were
 perished by them.  
 Since they bargain for
 more modern weapons too. 
 I am waiting like my ancestors
 and like their handprints
 on the cave’s wall, that are 
 still waiting like me, 
 for the essence of morality.
 A Carefree Poem
                           “The Scream” a painting by Edvard Munch
 Any scream is a loneliness
 echoed in an afternoon coffee
 on the patio of a survived café 
 waved on your eyes
 looking at the shining waves
 of the coffee that are
 moving warm and exulted / exulting 
 toward the strong wall of cup
 and turn back and start again 
 want something to happen
 as you slowly turn the cup in your hand 
 and move your eyes around 
 the silent people who buy a coffee too
 and take a seat apart of each other too
 and looking, hoping for an exulted /exulting
 shining waves.
 You chose metaphors
 as a shelter, a parapet,
 you knew how lies and daggers
 are cruel together
 and so, unafraid lies 
 and unthoughtful stabs.
 You invented the poem, then 
 as a shelter for your heart
 in the days of roving loves 
 and you chose metaphors 
 in the famine of thoughts.
 But I need to inhale a carefree poem.

 Around the World
 Commotion is a shattered silence
 still silent, but comprehensible.
 Are all silences, 
 let say shattered silences, 
 or commotions, alike?
 like a puzzle with infinite parts
 but all similar in shape?
 Like the puzzle of city windows
 at the background of the breaking news
 infinite flickering spots
 fill the world with similar pieces,
 replicating and perplexing
 piece with peace.
 Your poem protects our differences
 while the idealists’ prayers sink into
 the global warming of stock market.
 Come, you will find me
 from a burning dance
 hung up on a window
 resembling your poem.
 I will be waiting for you 
 while you are ascending
 word by word.

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Mansour Noorbakhsh writes and translates poems in both English and Farsi, his first language. He tries to be a voice for freedom, human rights and environment in his writings. He believes a dialog between people around the world is an essential need for developing a peaceful world, and poetry helps this dialog echoes the human rights. Currently he is featuring The Contemporary Canadian Poets in a weekly Persian radio program https://persianradio.net/. The poet’s bio and poems are translated into Farsi and read to the Persian-Canadian audiences. Both English (by the poets) and Farsi (by him) readings are on air. This is a project of his to build bridges between the Persian-Canadian communities by way of introducing them to contemporary Canadian poets. His book about the life and work of Sohrab Sepehri entitled, “Be Soragh e Man Agar Miaeed” (trans. “If you come to visit me”) is published in 1997 in Iran. And his English book length poem; “In Search of Shared Wishes” is published in 2017 in Canada. His English poems are published in “WordCity monthly” and “Infinite Passages” (anthology 2020 by The Ontario Poetry Society). He is a member of The Ontario Poetry Society and he is an Electrical Engineer, P.Eng. He lives with his wife, his daughter and his son in Toronto, Canada.

3 Poems by John Casquarelli

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he Sign on the Dead End Road Says Reunion 
 “The illusion of detachment,” a chronicler once said,
 hand leaning on sequoia, looking up as if all history
 was born from its branches. I held my breath briefly, 
 cleared my throat, crystallized that moment, took pleasure
 in the voice that refused to sing with an out-of-tune chorus.
 A kind of reverse osmosis. A molecule moving freely, 
 ungoverned by the limitations of absolute zero.
 When the con
 we’ll build more cages in Texas to house children, kill dreams,
 and it will be justified beneath the umbra of inflated thoughts.
 There’s a language for every moment. Syllabic flames
 clinging to tongues like tight silk to skin.
 What is known and unknown             lies between pauses.
 Ageless cosmic dandelions floating in a soup bowl.
 Dreary-eyed, brittle, I turned to the mountainside amid
 the violet backdrop, deer running, elegant, relying on 
 each other and their love affair with gravity. The mirage
 of time is rarely smooth. We are all refugees, nomadic dust 
 scattered by earth        fire        water        air.
 (First published by the International Human Rights Art Festival)
 After Leaving the B Train at Bryant Park
 She tells me we’re all inmates
 in a panopticon of our own choosing
 and that I should buy a trampoline
 because I jump to conclusions
 so often. We pass the brick and stone
 buildings and bleeding orchids in a 
 fused language of twisted nonsense 
 and strawberry milkshakes. A man
 on the corner of 45th Street strips
 down, below him candy wrappers
 and an empty milk carton. The night
 pigeons sing to the Hudson River and
 young navigator, tongues trembling in 
 a wild dance, Kinky Boots playing for
 a fifth season, the smell of Szechuan, 
 and we stare at the Manhattan evening
 sky as lights veil both stars and dreams
 alike, wondering if we might ever rise
 above the smoke and water towers.
 (First published in Marathon Literary Review, 13)
 How to Survive a Flood During Typhoon Season
 Depending on what runs out first, food or rationality, 
 moving to higher ground, when available, seems like
 a good option. During my junior year in college, 
 a sociology instructor once told me that taking 
 the higher ground usually leads to longer, more
 painful falls. Ask yourself, is it possible to win a game
 when only a few participants determine the rules?
 If the answer is no, then you must hit those participants
 low, and make sure they never rise again. When the 
 eclipse hides the light of justice, bring protective 
 eyewear and a Louisville Slugger. As the flood enters
 in waves on the hallway of the blue and white auditorium,
 we grab bags and dinner plates, walk on chairs to 
 a staircase. Outside, people are riding small boats,
 searching for family or friends amid floating branches
 and plastic bottles. Candles flicker out like dying stars.
 Waters rise above tables, banners, microphones, 
 baby strollers, high heeled, red dress, denim jacket reunion 
 as rain drowns out our laughter. In the distance, a few
 rich men move game pieces and count opportunities.

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John Casquarelli is the author of two full-length collections: On Equilibrium of Song (Overpass Books, 2011) and Lavender (Authorspress, 2014). He is a Lecturer in Academic Writing at Koç Üniversitesi in Istanbul and Managing Editor for Lethe. John was awarded the 2010 Esther Hyneman Award for Poetry, 2016 Kafka Residency Prize in Hostka, Czech Republic, and a 2017 residency at the Writer’s Room of The Betsy Hotel on South Beach. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Teaching as a Human Experience (Cambridge Scholars Publishing), Pilgrimage Magazine, Suisun Valley Review, Expound Magazine, Pen Norway İlhan Sami Çomak Project, Peacock Journal, Marathon Literary Review, Black Earth Institute, River River, Boarder Senses, and The Poetry Mail/RaedLeaf Foundation for Poetry and Allied Arts.


Grandson of Cuban poet and musician, Luis Figueredo, and descendant of Pedro Felipe ‘Perucho’ Figueredo, composer of “La Bayamesa” (Cuban National Anthem), John Casquarelli currently resides in Istanbul, having relocated from New York City. He received his MFA in Creative Writing at Long Island University—Brooklyn, studying under second generation poets of The New York School, Lewis Warsh and Anne Waldman. John’s research interests include The New York School, Black Mountain College, and Contemporary Latin-American Literature. He is a poet, publisher, editor, academic, and partner to a great woman, Mary Jill. His current projects include editing an anthology featuring Turkish writers, providing outreach for Pen Norway, and completing a bilingual collection of poems that combine his grandfather’s work in Spanish with his in English (written entirely in quatrains).





3 poems by Iskra Peneva

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 I hid all the sorrows of the world
 In myself
 My cry is not enough
 To reconcile
 An unbearable burden
 The silence is perfect
 The lightening over the lake
 Is a butterfly’s blink
 The essence that explains
 The creation of the night and day
 In which the sky and the rain
 Are smaller than my sadness

 Sve tuge Sveta sakrila sam
 U sebi
 Plač moj je nedovoljan
 Da pomiri
 Nepodnošljivi teret
 Tišina je savršena
 Grom nad jezerom
 U stvari je leptirov treptaj
 Suština koja objašnjava
 Nastajanje noći i dana
 U kojima su nebo i kiše
 Manji od moje tuge

 Like life
 When the darkness descends
 The stars drop into the tops
 of the leafy lindens
 Decorate the transparent air
 And the spring
 The shooting stars caught on the branches
 A traveler thought
 Drunk with romantic love
 Street lights reflect
 In the window of a night tram
 Come and pass
 Like his life
 Kao život
 Kad se spusti tama
 Zvezde siđu u krošnje olistalih lipa
 Ukrase proziran vazduh
 I proleće
 Padalice se zakačile na vrhove grana
 Pomisli putnik
 Pijan od romantične ljubavi
 Odsjaji uličnih svetiljki
 U prozoru noćnog tramvaja
 Dolaze i prolaze
 Kao njegov život

 Solitary homes
 We build worlds
 Just for ourselves
 Solitary little men walk in them
 They buy flowers they carry home
 And give to themselves
 They sit by the fireplace
 Drinking coffee and having long talks
 With themselves

 Usamljeni domovi
 Gradimo svetove
 Samo za nas same
 U njima usamljeni čovečuljci šetaju
 Kupuju cveće koje nose kući
 I poklanjaju ga sebi
 Sedaju kraj kamina
 I uz kafu vode duge razgovore
 Sa sobom 

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Iskra Peneva was born in 1980, in Belgrade (Serbia), where she works. A graduate of the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Belgrade, she has published poetry in national and foreign daily and literary magazines. Her work has been translated into various languages (English, Russian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Swedish, Icelandic, Korean, Ukrainian, Polish, Slovene, Romanian, Azerbaijani, Hungarian, Italian) and has appeared in anthologies of Serbian and Macedonian literature. Iskra is the recipient of multiple awards and recognitions, and her most recent poetry collection Somewhere In-between received the international award for best poetry book in the Macedonian language at the 55th Struga Poetry Evenings (Macedonia) in 2016. In 2018 she won Croatia’s international award for the best unpublished poetry manuscript. In 2019 in Macedonia she won “Lingva” award for the translation and affirmation of Macedonian and Serbian literature, in 2020 in Italy she won the award for the best foreign author by the publishing house Volturnia edizioni and the same year an international award for poet journalist in Croatia.

Translates from Macedonian to Serbian and vice-versa.

Member of the Association of Writers of Serbia and the Journalists’ Association of Serbia.

Involved in visual art. Creates short musical/poetry movies in which she recites her verses to the accompaniment of music composed by professional musicians. These movies have been played at multi-disciplinary international festivals, literary festivals and exhibited in galleries.

Since 2010, focuses more on photography. Her photographs have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in the country and abroad.


Published poetry collections:

“Kutija sa devet strana” (Nine-Sided Box) (2002),

“Vatra i leptir” (Fire and the Butterfly) (2004),

“Putevi posle” (Roads After) (2006, co-written poetry book) and

“Negde izmedju” (Somewhere In-between) (2016).

2 poems by Rafael Mendes

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Sunday morning
 roof tiles softened
 by the cold white skin
 a young dark brown robin 
 spins its neck 
 — seeking a route
 to flee
 fabric softener’s warmth and breath
 crossing the bordering wall
 two women chatting 
 topics that I only speculate
 a child mumbling in the distance
 phrases without structure 
 a door opens or closes
 — on the wintry morning
 everything is arrival or departure

 On the streets after quarantine 
 We relearn the grass, weeds, dandelions,
 tangled in the street bench. 
 We calculate distance, protection radius.
 The trees breasts, full and vernal, have always    
 given these masks against the sun?
 On the sidewalks, shining over cobblestones,
 oranges or tangerines, bloating, rotting, eaten by maggots. 
 See the street, steep and narrow, is what we used to call loneliness. 
 We are children again. 
 We point out everything, trying to record names. 
 We call the square—square, tree—tree, pond—pond.
 We look at each other, uncertainty in our eyes. 
 Are the words right to begin this new world?
 The miserable are still miserable. 
 Who are those walking beside us? 
 We buy bread and coffee.
 Do they still have the same name?
 A new language is necessary. 

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Rafael Mendes is a poet and translator born in Brazil and currently living in Ireland. His work has appeared on The Poetry Programme, The Irish Times, FLARE, The Blue Nib, “Writing Home: The New Irish Poets” (Dedalus Press, 2019), “Arrival at Elsewhere” (Against the Grain, 2020) and many other journals and magazines in Brazil, Europe and the USA.

Footprints. A spokenword poem by pj johnson, Poet Laureate of the Yukon

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pj johnson Poet Laureate of the Yukon

pj johnson, the daughter of a Yukon trapper, was formally invested on Canada Day July 1st 1994 during a ceremony in Whitehorse where she was given the title Poet Laureate of the Yukon and became the first officially-invested poet laureate in Canada.

A storyteller in the oral tradition, her poems stories and songs have been televised and performed nationally and globally and published widely both in print and online. Active in the arts for decades as a visual and oral storyteller, mentor and performer at various venues across the nation, she is also an author, playwright, actor, musician, composer, teller of stories Yukon ambassador and a passionate animal rights advocate. Her poems, stories, plays and songs have been televised and performed nationally and globally and published widely in various books and journals in countries around the world and translated into several languages.

Diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder in 2005 johnson encourages people with a learning disability to realize they can still pursue their dreams.

Known as the Yukon Raven Lady, johnson led a campaign to have the northern raven declared the official symbol of the Yukon in 1985.

On Canada Day 2020 pj johnson celebrated her 26th anniversary as Poet Laureate of the Yukon. She is the longest-serving Poet Laureate in Canada.


Her book “it’s howlin’ time!” is available at Mac’s Fireweed Books in Whitehorse. https://www.macsbooks.ca/  

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This House is Old. A poem by John Ravenscroft

This House is Old
 When I was born - seems long ago -
 This house already knew that woe
 And joy are mixed by time's slow flow.
 That mix (plus bricks) births quid pro quo
 A pact all ancient houses know...
 Old houses secrets keep, below
 Until a digger seeks to know
 And I know souls, so long ago
 Before my birth, in candleglow
 Moved through these rooms
 That I now know
 And climbed these stairs
 Uncertain? Slow?
 Their feet where my feet
 Now must go
 Here sounds, rebounding from these walls
 Here footsteps, voices, cries and calls
 Were bounced and caught like tennis balls
 This house, aware of what befalls
 Preserves those echoes, reinstalls
 The dry days and the waterfalls.
 I ask the house: the house recalls
 This man was, yes, a suicide
 This woman wept, no, not his bride
 This child beside the fireside
 Was beautiful, but full of pride
 This man requested, was denied
 This couple tried, and failed, and died
 But this girl lived a life of light
 Her days were golden, calm and bright
 And this boy, blessed with second sight
 Chose pathways that were always right
 Fate, it seems, can grant delight
 Or damn you to eternal night
 So in this house beside the sea
 I sift through my own life's debris
 Hear footsteps, voices, cries and calls
 Rebounding from my own life's walls
 And wonder, when I'm dead and free
 What will this house recall of me? 

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John Ravenscroft says…

he´s English, far too old and a freelance writer (fiction and articles).

His website http://www.johnravenscroft.co.uk/1154.html has lots of goodies and information – much outdated but of everlasting interest. There´s even a mugshot of him under Welcome! And he plays a mean guitar – see his videos https://www.youtube.com/user/JohnMRavenscroft where his mugshot is even more current.

Three poems by Anna Veprinska

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Here, a clothesline,
 a slender horizontal
 pedestrian with a duty
 to dry,
 its crooked 
 teeth in the wind.

 Severe allergic reaction,
 my skin
 to, worshipped
 as it swelled with 
 its own saints: the body
 penned a book while I itched 
 it. The book was titled, The Unbearable.

 perforated with 
 theft, as flesh
 at wounding –
 this cleaved
 terrain, this tender
 of not yours.

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Anna Veprinska is a poet and scholar. She has published the books Sew with Butterflies: poems (Steel Bananas, 2014) and Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). Her poetry chapbook, Spirit-clenched, from which these poems are drawn, was published with Gap Riot Press in December 2020. She has had poems published or forthcoming in HA&L, The /tƐmz/ Review, Not Very Quiet, 8 PoemsEcholocation, and Labour of Love, among others. She holds an award-winning Ph.D. in English from York University and is a current SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto.