Archive for the ‘New poetry’ Category

Now we’re in to the swing of the Selected Poet series, I’m glad to present the third poet in the series – Martin Jackson. He has kindly sent over four new poems for us at Selected Poems are delighted to publish.

Below the poems are a few interesting links to follow if you are interested in finding out more about Martin’s work.

Martin Jackson

The first I heard of Martin was at the Eric Gregory Awards 2011 ceremony. He was one of the winners of the awards, alongside Kim Moore, Tom Chivers and Niall Campbell. He has told me that he hasn’t had many chances to read his work to an audience, an aspect of his writing career that is sure to change pretty quickly, as soon as people start reading more of his work.

Having worked for several large advertising agencies, you could argue that this has had an effect on Martin’s work – making his poetry concise, punchy and memorable. What’s more striking in his work is his preoccupation with the elsewhere – whether it is his love of maps (which comes across strongly in the first poem here) or the stripping back of a work of poetry (or fiction, he’s writing a novel at the moment, too) to allow it to actually convey the image of another place.

I am sure you will start to see Martin read his work more commonly, and I am delighted to have new works on the blog.

Geographers’ A-Z Map Co., LTD

Reading away one hundred words

The Survey of Robinson’s books begins

In solitaria, robinsonner

Useful links for Martin Jackson:

Days of Roses – Three new poems of his are published on the excellent Days of Roses blog
Ministry of Stories: Minister of the Month
– more details about Martin’s literary career over at the Ministry of Stories website
Eric Gregory – find out more about the Eric Gregory poetry award

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Following on from the first Selected Poet, Jen Calleja, I am very excited to bring you the second writer in our Selected Poet series. Toby Martinez de las Rivas, who read at the Clinic Selected Poems event, has kindly sent over three very new poems, which can be found below.

There are some useful link to more of Toby’s work underneath the new poems.

Toby Martinez de las Rivas (photo taken from New Writing North Flickr site - http://www.flickr.com/photos/newwritingnorth/)

I first came across Toby when I was watching the Faber New Poets video diary on the Faber blog The Thought Fox. I had been a fan of Jack Underwood’s work and decided to buy the other 3 Faber New Poets pamphlets. Toby’s pamphlet is a collection that I keep going back to, and it was great to hear him read some pieces from it at Selected Poems.

What I like about Toby’s work is the duality of it – how it exists on the page and on the ear. On the page it can appear complex and very intriguing, but on the ear it is incredibly lyrical and often humorous.

The pieces below were part of a longer set he performed in June. I won’t go too much in to them, because I don’t think I could do them justice. But I will say  Toby is a really exciting poet and a huge inspiration to a lot of burgeoning talent and it is a pleasure to host his new work on the blog. If you have trouble reading the pieces, you can enlarge them by clicking on them.




Useful links for Toby Martinez de las Rivas

Faber New Poets video diary – The first episode of the Faber New Poets tour around the country a few years ago. An interesting and often hilarious insight in to the lives of a touring young poet.
Eyewear blog about Toby – another piece of new work by Toby, this time on Todd Swift’s blog Eyewear
Toby’s pamphlet on the Faber websiteyou can find out more about Toby’s Faber pamphlet here.

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Allen Ginsberg - drawing by William Duignan

The lovely Claire Askew from OneNightStanzas has made a chapbook celebrating, what would be, Allen Ginsberg’s 85th birthday. The chapbook, called Starry Rhymes, features work inspired by Ginsberg poems from top notch poets from all around the country including, surprisingly, me.

The poem I received to draw inspiration from was ‘A Strange Cottage in Berkley’ – which is one of my favourites of Ginsberg’s oeuvre. I felt that the piece was about finding yourself at a home away from home. So the piece I wrote, which is below, is about me finding a home in Brockley, Lewisham, where I currently reside.

You can find out more info about Starry Rhymes by clicking here. When the chapbook is available to buy I will put up a link. For the meantime, here is my piece:

A strange green house in Brockley – Alex MacDonald

For Malpas

All afternoon clipping back belongings, boxed in Perspex the packets
of letters with the scrawling handwriting of young women.
I found nothing, their promises bore no flowering fruit, miscellaneous in
amongst postcards and paperbacks.
But the bust of Blake with boiled egg eyes rested swell on the mantelpiece,
Under the glare of roebuck taxidermy, his ears cocked for change.
We swept the bay leaves shaken by the winds, bound the branches and
offered them to the neighbourhood, seasoning the stew
Of families in a three mile radius. The cats rifled through receipts,
Like bank clerks, complete with black suits,
And the Turkish leaf molokhia hung strawberry-shaped in the pillowcases of
elderly women.
I had found home in green pebbledash and sighed presently: my reward
When I rested my head, my thoughts ran like idiots out of my mouth, making
a sandwich out of my tongue and notebook.

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Anyone who vaguely reads this blog knows my affection and admiration for the paintings of Francis Bacon. There is something in them that I find hugely inspirational and intriguing about them. Partly because of the style he developed through his career and, perhaps most intriguing, the absence of apparent meaning.

Francis Bacon in his studio

Bacon insisted that he was just painting ‘what he saw’ and that he had no interest in ‘fantasy’, which stretched to meaning ‘no interest in narrative’ – he merely wanted to paint ‘reality’. But its easy to see in his work the influence the literature, the artists and the photographers that he admired had on him and shaped his ‘reality’.

Because of this, his paintings are rich in symbolism and mystery whilst occupied with the portraits of his friends and lovers – both reality and and his own personal mythology.

As a writing exercise, I have been using his work as a stimulus, to flex my poetic muscles, weedy though they are. I have decided to post some of these exercises on the blog, as I realise I haven’t posted any new work in some months.

Study of Francis Bacon’s Triptych, 1987 – Alex MacDonald


There’s something about to happen here,
Like a word being wrought, tongued
In locked teeth, or a man taking a step
Off an alabaster pavement on to
A vacant road. His face sits behind glasses
While his thoughts fan like orange segments.


A man has walked into his own pendulum
Splitting across his mind, dividing desires.
He is a hyphen man – squatting in cricket whites,
His pronounced nudity in places, he is no longer
The keeper of his handsome future, as his dreams
Free themselves of their glacier rooms.


The scene is irreversible – the desk lamp
Shines a truth over it, the electric cord
Snaking through the pile of furniture, chair legs,
Papers and ornate antique wheels.
The blood is a birthmark, confirming history
And the unfortunate identity of someone gone.

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Okay, so this isn’t technically cross-stitching, but it was too good a pun to pass up.

The Composite Marks of Fascicles 40, 16, 38, and 34. Sewn cotton batting backed with muslin. Each quilt is 6 ft h x 8 ft w.

A textile artist named Jen Bervin has created these beautiful cotton pieces based on the punctuation marks and editorial amendments that Emily Dickinson made.

Detail. Jen Bervin, The Composite Marks of Fascicle 28.

Her use of the dash is quite well documented, and its meaning debated, but what Bervin has done is emphasized the additional marks that the poet made throughout her notes to create these simplistic, yet grand,  pieces.

This collection of work, which has now been made into a book, underlines the aesthetic quality that fascinates people about author’s manuscripts. To see an author’s hand-written additions to their work is an intimacy that is rarely matched, perhaps a-kin to a painters jottings in a sketch pad, I’m thinking specifically of Francis Bacon’s rough and ready daubings in a text book.

The Waste Land manuscript, typed by Eliot, with alterations by Ezra Pound and Vivienne Eliot

I remember the first time that I saw T.S. Eliot’s manuscript for The Waste Land. Seeing the inner workers, amendments and corrections made by Eliot and the others who he chose to look at his work, was an insight unlike no other to what Eliot was thinking when he wrote the masterpiece. It was a deeply personal look in to his work and life.

Jen Bervin, The Composite Marks of Fascicle 28. Cotton and silk thread on cotton batting backed with muslin. 6 ft h x 8 ft w.

Its a very personal piece from the artist, too, and working through this idea she mention she has

…come to feel that specificity of the + and – marks in relation to Dickinson’s work are aligned with a larger gesture that her poems make as they exit and exceed the known world. They go vast with her poems. They risk, double, displace, fragment, unfix, and gesture to the furthest beyond—to loss, to the infinite, to “exstasy,” to extremity.

I think this is a great piece of work, and I’m delighted to have stumbled across it. Read more about the work by following this link.

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The White Review & black coffee

Hi everyone, apologies for the radio silence. I have a few lovely things coming up on the blog within the next few weeks (and, thankfully, I am getting some time off to actually do those things).

This includes an interview with a rather lovely and interesting book seller about a super rare poetry book, articles on a Peruvian poet and his place in modern Scandinavian cinema and, of course, more details on the upcoming SelectedPoems at the V&A nights. And poetry, lots more.

Recently, I have been enjoying an excellent publication called The White Review, pictured above as part of a balanced post-lido breakfast. I would thoroughly recommend investing in this wonderful literary magazine. The first issue includes some well executed prose poems about Rabbis and their teachings, as well as short stories inspired by random sequences of numbers over the radio, and also interviews with esteemed publishers and writers (including Tom McCarthy, no less). Also, its a beautiful magazine.

So, on to poetry. Below is more work by the wonderful Sophie Collins and Livia Franchini, whose work appeared a few months ago. But also with the delightful additions of Amy Key, a Tall Lighthouse poet who runs the hugely enjoyable poetry night The Shuffle at the Poetry Cafe.

Keep an eye out for their next event – previous events have included the hugely talented Mark Waldron and Joe Dunthorne as their headline acts, as well as the two wonderful ladies Ms. Key is sandwiched between below.

Sophie Collins

After Snow

Left out, Summer’s deckchairs
preserve their patch of green.
Two recline and one, half-raised,
regards you blankly, resting
on a splintered elbow. Looking at it,
you can still hear wild screams,
see the spray of water as it’s kicked,
bared milk teeth.

Talking Panther

paces the room, his raised tail beating
in time with the grandfather clock.
His long claws click against
the polished wood floor. He wears a crisp blue suit

to compliment the iridescence in his fur,
he tells me. His cravat was a gift
from a benevolent tsar, his cufflinks fangs
once won in a duel with an Indian rattlesnake.

He tells me the panther is a solitary animal.
He tells me they are under threat
but that they are skilled climbers.
He tells me of his scaling the Norwegian coastline;

he is the only quadruped to have conquered
the Seven Summits.
As he chews and licks his words
I notice his gums are black. He never blinks.

He is about to recount an early memory
from his birthplace of Burma
when his perfect head bursts
into the greenest of flames.

Amy Key

On being in bed with your brand new lover

I’ve abandoned vanity, since I became a body
of threads, never quite made, since you rippled
the apparent skin of me.

I’m all texture. Silk rosette, billowing coral,
tentative as a just baked cake. Sensations
slide over my knitted blood.

My mouth is a glass paperweight
to keep our tastes in, like maraschino
cherries and water from a zinc cup.

This is not about a future with a decorative
child. Layer your pulse onto my pulse.
Dress me.


When it is cold enough to slice the snow
we’ll build an igloo and we will live in it.
The igloo will be like a poached egg,
the snow dome hiding a hot yolk. We will grow

sharper teeth and bedtimes will be later.
I will be cook and you will make fire.
I have stolen sausages from mum
and this will do us for tea. There is a story

I can tell at night of a runaway
child and you will ask if it’s you. We have
two brothers, but they never let us take charge.
No one will know we are in the igloo,

but we’ll find a way of telling we’re safe.
Your best friend will be a bird and mine
will be a deer. The bird will bring us berries
and the deer will guard the door. Instead of talk,

we will have stronger thoughts. Our skin
will morph into something more warm. In summer,
we’ll make bricks of mud to dry in the sun.

Livia Franchini

If You Drop A Tomato

Out of a window
you’re never going to run
fast enough
to be standing on the concrete
ready to catch it before
it looks like the real thing.


In faith, sir –
I don’t know what it is
maybe it’s the numbers
on your fingers
inked in black
on their tips
to place them
in the right place.

In faith, sir –
if you don’t mind me asking,
did it hurt?
The pen’s sleek sting
carving through your skin
ripping and running
through flesh and wrapping
assigning each part
to another part.

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I’ve been very excited about writing this post. Last week, I received two very talented writers’ poetry – Sophie Collins and Livia Franchini.  They were both students  at Goldsmiths University, taught by Faber New Poet Jack Underwood.

They have sent me a bevy of poems, which I am delighted to be able to publish through SelectedPoems over the coming weeks. So, let’s begin.

Sophie Collins, reading at a Clinic event

I saw Sophie read at a night at the Poetry Cafe called ‘The Shuffle’, partly run by Tall Lighthouse poet Amy Key. To me, she displayed immediate charm, talent and, perhaps most importantly, an individual voice. Her poems are outspoken, witty affairs, juxtaposing sentiment with peculiar subject. Take Boy with the head of a shark below: a doomed love between shark man and a human woman, thinking of what they could be – their heads, literally, in different places.

Sophie Collins

Boy with the head of a shark,

I want to kiss you but your teeth look sharp.
Your hands, though, are soft, your nails clean,
and I, for one, enjoy your atypical anatomy.
I picture us lying in each other’s arms -
me, sleeping soundly, and you -
your great head out-sizing the bed,
eyes flashing in the dark,
remembering the deep.

Little neck

that last time you were someone else
my eyes were closed ‘in pleasure’

afterwards you stroked my neck
‘so little’ you said you didn’t know
how it could support my head

Livia Franchini

Sophie introduced me to Livia very soon after The Shuffle, and I badgered her to send me some poems. She eventually caved in, and I’m glad she did. Her work focuses acutely on her surroundings, underlining the idiosyncrasies in people or places she happens on.  In turns both humorous and forlorn, her work reminds me greatly of how William Carlos Williams described his poetry – “No ideas but in things”. Livia’s work is an honest depiction of life in a modern city. Zip highlights this especially, the moving in and out of a rented apartment, restoring its bare walls to nothing, as if you were never there.

Livia Franchini

This Boy Who Is Too Old

For his age
cleans his teeth on the nine o’clock train
his toothbrush sewing his lips
to his gums, unabashed.

‘Do not hug strangers,’
he says
‘People have their own personal space,’
he says
‘You shall not enter it.’
And look at him now,
rubbing his tongue
yellow little bristles
that leave his lips dry;
lizard lips.
‘People are fragile’
he says
‘They have a small golden ring around them’
he says
‘You shall not enter it.’
And swallows his toothpaste
puts his toothbrush in his pocket,
his hands together,
his face back in his book.


The room has no pictures on the walls,
no carpet, no mark
of human footsteps on the floorboards
it has no curtains
but blinds
that hiss into place like
cool, efficient snakes.
This room’s door will slam behind you
if you’re not careful.

I’m sat on the bed
my hands pulling buckles
my right foot wedged in, between
twin rows of tiny metal teeth,
I’m trying to make this fit.

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Initially, this blog was a project I had set myself, and anyone willing to take part, to write a poem every week for the year. Although its similar to other ‘blog projects’ (the 365 Flickr project springs to mind, take a photo of yourself every day for a year), I think its output was what made it different.

It was largely inspired by the work ethic of my favorite painter Francis Bacon, who painted 9 to 5, every day. He always viewed that you had to be diligent with yourself to get good artistic work. The problem was, Bacon, although his paintings were hugely influential, never really completed that many paintings; he mainly created ‘studies’ of paintings and was very destructive of work he had completed, usually destroying many canvases in a row.

I can appreciate that. Trying to write a poem a week makes you a very destructive and critical writer. But it does hone your writing. Alot. I feel I’ve written my best work this year, especially earlier in the year. Those who have sent me writing frequently, too. Laura Heritage, Jen Calleja, Simon Marsham – all their work is a joy to read. I’d like to thank them for continuing to submit, and hope they do so in the new year.

Photo by Simon Marsham

The events I’ve been to, and the people I’ve met though them, have been such a joy. I would say the broadcast event with Jack Underwood, Sam Riviere (pictured above, reading at the Ambit Magazine Cover Exhibition launch) and Emily Berry, and several other poetry stars was a real highlight.

I’ve also been reading more, enjoying the likes of Frank O’Hara, George Oppen, Edwin Morgan, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, John Berryman and the like. And I’ve discovered the unmatched joy of reading the Poetry Foundation’s excellent magazine Poetry. In fact, they recently sent me a little gift package (below) and I would like to thank them for the time they took in e-mailing me and being real upstanding fellows and ladies.

But, by far the best thing I’ve read in 2010 was Jo Shapcott’s new collection ‘Of Mutability’ (which you can find out more here). The whole collection reads so well and moves from topic to topic like someone striding through the tops of trees. She often has two pieces on either page working as a diptych on a theme, and lets the two pieces argue it out. Below is an excellent video of her reading one of the pieces, with a wonderful introduction.

What’s lined up for this year? More poetry readings, for one thing. Going to London Review of Books to see Jo read some of her work, with David Harsent (whose new work Night comes out this month from Faber) and Don Patterson at the London Review of Books. You can buy tickets for the event here, and you should get your sassy frass out there and join me.

Will update the page with new poetry soon. Watch this space!

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Photo by Lucinda Chua

To all my readers (hello? Anyone?),

Apologies that I haven’t been updating for a while. If there is any excuse (which, really, there isn’t) its because I have mainly been immersing myself in different aspects of the poetry scene.

Recently, I’ve subscribed to the excellent Rialto Magazine and Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Magazine (which I haven’t received my copy of yet, come on guys! You’ve taken my money, now send out some fine poetic schmutter, why don’t cha?). The Rialto issue has an excellent youth section in it this issue, curated by Nathan Hamilton and has some fine Eric Gregory poets including James Brooks and Sam Riviere. Buy it.

I’ve also been to an exhibition of Ambit Magazine covers, organized by the wonderful Rachael from Clinic (who recently hosted some work of mine, and an audio reading, which can be found here – big thanks, guys!). You can find out more about the excellent exhibition on Ambit’s Facebook page here.

I’ve been reading a lot of the New York Poets recently, and my thanks go out to both Sam and Simon for introducing me to them. There is an interesting piece on Radio 4 regarding Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, which you can hear, umm, here.

And to my regular writers, Laura, Simon and Jen, apologies for not sharing your work, which you dutifully send me, with the world. I hope that today makes amends for my tardiness.

P.S. that is me, as Don Draper, taken by the talented Lucina Chua.

Cinderella finger – Laura Heritage

I found it.
Twisted gold,
Encased in glass and more
Than I can part with
But perfect on
My cinderella finger
And as heavy as the thought
That you found it first.

Bonington House – Laura Heritage

Her fragrant room smelt
Like hot, foul rain.
Earthy and stagnant.
She clutched the shiny pages tight
And turned her head away,
But agony was written loudly
On the back of her neck,
Recited over the folds
And down the forked carpet outside.
A distressing series of
‘God help us!’ bawled from behind
Darkened, filthy tooth stumps,
And a trail of salty wet
Down her cheeks,
Along her forefinger,
Leaking to mine.

On the occasion of our 3rd Anniversary – Alex MacDonald

For Faye McNulty


Now is three years behind
Pushing us forward like parents
Or one of those commuters
I deal with in the morning, hoping to
Tease out some of their pressure
Through the act of jamming me in to the tube.

We’re jammed into a small room,
And, like a tube, the ingredients form a thickness,
A togetherness of elements.
When pushed, that concoction laughs itself out,
Like a song that parents sing
That reminds them of something from their past.

Our past is behind us,
But I’ve brought it forward to sit snug
In this room of ours,
Where one thing reminds me of another.
Its small, alright, but our past
Endures no pain, large and beautiful, though it is.

Writing this reminds me,
I have so much to do today that hasn’t begun.
You’ll commute to this room empty,
And you’ll laugh when you read how our love
Is large and beautiful, but is small
Enough to fit into a poem, a tube or a room.

Tourists: At home and abroad – Alex MacDonald


Home: National Portrait Gallery, London

“Their flesh curdles underneath their skin
So they look more like human coloured clouds.
The peacock drags its magnificence across
Her feet – the men look on with roebuck ears.”

Damp tourists consider this fleetingly,
As nations rub shoulders and souvenirs with nations.
They have no patient in soaked-through sandals.

Yet the plump women from the Trojan scene
Blowing across the canvas is hardly remarkable.
In their ears, the tourists’ memory whispers
What they have left behind, where their family
Are packed together, like deer in a hunting ground.

Abroad: Caldera view, Santorini

The road sign promised, in 15 kilometres,
A unique sunset.

Only a short time to see tourists
Wadded round the faying sun and surf.

But it’s the same distance to see lizards
Out-legging the chasing children,

The car seats over the cliff edges
And the busying trucks that suck away waste

Of those remarking the view, holding
Clammy hands, their chests raw as onions.

Getting Myself a Walk – Jen Calleja

Every evening’s like taking a
Hard breath.
I’m choking on eyes who
Can’t cope with how dangerously
Clean I am,
What a considerate pavement passenger I am
on Western Road.
Someone will offer me a favour and
I’ll want to come out later to
St Ann Wells’ Gardens.

Park-side lounges are sitcoms for my
Channel-hopping silhouette
Rooted to the shrubbery
from the waist-down
Of indeterminate sex
from the waist up,
From where you’re standing anyway
And from where I’m standing too.
No one’s here to work out the clues, so
I’m straightening up shakily,
A plant growing in the cut-shot shakes
of a wild-life documentary.

I walk through parks at four in the morning to have
The dark cover my eyes under this or that tree
Or along that unlit path, to wear
the same noiseless monochrome and warm grey as
The city, and not
A short, sharp alarm drawing a circle around my square.
I’m not clopping like a lame horse or
A child’s tick-tocking tongue-clock.

Are you counting the bones in
my neck, in my back
During this moment of illness?
A man did bring me down
By the ankle once
By a giant metal chess-set.
It wasn’t really a man
Just someone out of their mind
And I wasn’t a woman
I was just surprised.
People still don’t know how to make a dialogue.
That unrelenting ache makes them think that life,
Even short grass,
Can only be felt at a run,
A thick slam to the ground.

I might have been in a park while a
lawyer in America asked:
‘You had a man at home.
What were you doing, going around,
getting yourself raped?’
Probably the same reason as me,
the same as you:
Dawdling with a chirpy whistle,
Spying for cats,
Mumbling a song,
Treading on the grass,
Fucking the dark with a look.

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Happy National Poetry Day everyone! There is so much going on today I don’t even know where to start! The BBC have released an audio slideshow of unheard recordings of 20th Century poets. The Forward Poetry Prize winners have been announced The South Bank Centre is alive (or, umm, live) with the UK’s biggest poets and there Twitter is fizzing with a constant stream of Poetry Day news. They even re-tweeted me! Yes, ME!

So what am I going to give to National Poetry Day? Well, two poems, actually. Two poems about good friends of mine. The First, for Bill Freeman, is a portrait of him at a recent day of events at the British Library. The second is for a dear friend Veronique on the occasion of her birthday.

And as a special treat, here is a snap shot of ‘Lines for Bill Freeman’ – a sneak peak of what an Alex MacDonald poem looks like in a scruffy notebook.

Lines for Bill Freeman

Booted Bill can sit asleep
In a half-filled auditorium.
On the stage – ‘The evils of petroleum’
Up his throat the yawns creep –
Little Sherpas with numerous sheep.
An academic presentation is far away
From the boules pitch he dominates.
He smirks at the speaker’s annunciation.
For Mr. Freeman is not concerned for dozing,
As a portly patron behind him snores
And is woken by the magic words “So in closing”
Waiting for his cue to shake his hands in applause.

Lines for Velonique

Jubilant Velonique swerves, missing
Unleashed dogs with a mouthful of balls.
The coloured gates where her bike is locked
Encloses rabid children and their calls
For mummy to watch the simplest of tasks.
Vehicle docked, she approaches and asks
How your day has been, and have you seen that
Friend of ours (Velonique’s company is so exquisite
You wouldn’t waste a drop of her last visit)
She ruffles through her bag to produce
A book she recommends and some orange juice
She drinks until its time to leave, unlocks her bike,
A park empty, the last ebbs of light reflecting in her spokes,
Velonique departs through the birch trees and the oaks.

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