Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Day 30 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “I’d like you to try your hand at a minimalist poem. What’s that? Well, a poem that is quite short, and that doesn’t really try to tell a story, but to quickly and simply capture an image or emotion. Haiku are probably the most familiar and traditional form of minimalist poetry, but there are plenty of very short poems out there that do not use the haiku form. There’s even an extreme style of minimalism in the form of one-word and other “highly compressed” poems. You don’t have to go that far, but you might think of your own poem for the day as a form of gesture drawing. Perhaps you might start from a concrete noun with a lot of sensory connotations, like ‘Butter’ or ‘Sandpaper,’ or ‘Raindrop’ and — quickly, lightly — go from there.”

Given that today is the last day, Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt is a perfect Two for Tuesday: “a stop poem” and/or “a don’t stop poem.”

In merging these two prompts, I've realized that I haven't written a hay(na)ku all month. So here goes:

The End?

Stop.
Wait, what?
Don't stop? Uh . . .

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


Thanks for reading, friends! It's been a great National Poetry Month. Keep the faith!


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Monday, April 29, 2019

Day 29 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I’d like to challenge you to . . . produc[e] a poem that meditates, from a position of tranquility, on an emotion you have felt powerfully.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, take the phrase ‘(blank) Again,’ replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then write your poem. Possible titles include: ‘Here We Go Again,’ ‘On the Road Again,’ ‘Stumped on What to Write Again,’ and ‘Doing the Wrong Thing Again.’ ”

Tonight, I’m doing a solo show, called “The Groove and the Cool,” at the Octopus on College Hill (a Cedar Falls bar), 8-10pm. This will be a poetry reading from my new book, The Coolest Month, and a music show, with me singing classic rock covers and playing guitar. Although I’ve played in bands and duos for decades, I’ve never done a solo show before, especially singing.


        Flyer by Jim O'Loughlin, publisher of Final Thursday Press

Today’s poem is connected to tonight’s show, about the long gap in time between when, as a teenager, I was a frontman in rock bands, lead singer and lead guitar, and now, feeling like a rookie again. I'm reminded of the ’70s song by Bob Seger, “Turn the Page” . . . or at least the feeling of that song, the loneliness and wistfulness of being a rock & roll musician. Not that I’ve experienced that exact emotion, not having been a touring musician, but I’ve certainly had that feeling of not being sure how authentic one really is, “playing star again,” as Seder’s lyric goes. And looking ahead to tonight’s show, I’m feeling that emotion strongly.

Playing Star Again

I think back to playing guitar and singing covers
in dance bands, some 50 years ago, teenage dancers
and hangers-on crowding the stage. Bob Seger sang,
“Out there in the spotlight you’re a million miles away,”

and I recall that feeling precisely, the slight buzz
of the amplifiers an undertone to the band’s groove,
booming bass guitar below the shimmer and snap of cymbals
and snare, and you riding that glimmering wave of sound,

your voice surfing like a silver alien toward some horizon
inside the mind, somewhere deep within. That’s why we
do this, for those brief moments when you lose yourself
in that deep wave that’s both outside you and inside you.

Everyone in the place can feel it, locking into the wave,
all swept together somewhere else, to some distant star,
all riding together like a whole city in a spaceship,
in the invisible metallic vessel of a lone guitar chord.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

See you at the show tonight?

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Day 28 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “I’d like to challenge you to try your hand at a meta-poem,” which she had defined earlier in the post: “meta-poems . . . are poems about poems.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, write a remix poem. That is, remix one of your poems from earlier in the month. There are many ways to do this. Turn a free verse poem into a traditional form (using lines from the original poem). Or use erasure to cut down a long poem into a short one. Or expand a short poem into a longer version. Get creative with it.”

Merging the prompts again. I looked through my poems this month and found my haiku inspired by a Salvador Dalí sketch on April 21 a likely candidate for a golden shovel poem. A potential problem with golden shovels is that sometimes you get a weak line break with function words like articles or conjunctions . . . I tried to find a solution for that in this poem. Here we go . . .

How to Write a Surreal Ekphrastic Haiku
a golden shovel of
my April 21 haiku
First, you must begin with Salvador Dalí’s blue
period. Wait, that was Picasso. Dalí’s elephant
period, then. Kind of true, actually. Dali floats
many odd, whimsical, Byzantine creatures across
our eyes. You must make a common word like “the”
into a storm of rainbow-hued bees. The crystal sky
of your haiku must be a shimmery canvas: spindly
dragonflies darting like miniature arrows, myriad legs
of a centipede scurrying up the side of a skyscraper.
A haiku small as a flea, but galactically huge and tall.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


Detail, Butterfly Suite by Salvador Dalí (lithograph, 1969)

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Day 27 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “I’d like to challenge you to ‘remix’ a Shakespearean sonnet. . . . You can pick a line you like and use it as the genesis for a new poem. Or make a ‘word bank’ out of a sonnet, and try to build a new poem using the same words (or mostly the same words) as are in the poem. Or you could try to write a new poem that expresses the same idea as one of Shakespeare’s sonnets.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, pick a direction, make that the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. There are so many directions: north, south, up, down, left, right, over, under, etc. But there are also more specific directions like ‘Across the Way,’ ‘Through the Woods,’ and ‘Beyond the Clearing.’ Or give directions like ‘Clean Your Room,’ ‘Tie Your Shoes,’ or ‘Get Over Here.’ ”

Merging both prompts as usual with a golden shovel riffing on Shakespeare’s (in)famous send-up of romantic conventions on how to describe one's love in Sonnet 130. The golden shovel is a poetic form invented by Terrance Hayes; his poem “The Golden Shovel” riffed on Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool” by using the words of her poem as the endings of lines in his poem, in order. Actually Hayes’s poem does this twice with Brooks’s text! Many poets have imitated Hayes and thus the golden shovel form was born.

My inspiration was today’s snow . . . snow! I notice that my language in this poem is different, perhaps because I am being influenced by Shakespeare's expression. I'm not trying to be particularly Shakespeare-like, but definitely there's an atypical feel to my writing here.

From the North, She Cackles
a golden shovel concocted
from the opening line of
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130
Ye gods, I cannot even believe my
eyes: Lady Winter in her harsh mistress’
role has returned and contemptuously eyes
us with sardonic humor. Snow clouds are
spitting out flakes today and nothing
of spring seems to remain, just like
an assassin dusting off a victim. The
Ice Dominatrix has slain Apollo the Sun!

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


Snow photo I took today . . . late April!

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Day 26 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that uses repetition. You can repeat a word, or phrase. You can even repeat an image, perhaps slightly changing or enlarging it from stanza to stanza, to alter its meaning. There are (perhaps paradoxically) infinite possibilities in repetition.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, write an evening poem. A poem about or during the night. Or take evening a completely different direction and think of evening the score or making things more even (or fair or whatever).”

One evening last fall, I went out in an open green space on the university grounds to see four of the five visible planets strung across the night sky. (The missing planet was Mercury, which is frankly pretty hard to spot, in general, but at this time, it was elsewhere in the sky.) For Maureen’s repetitions, I imaged the planets all as jewels. Originally, I had four “dots” but that seemed pretty boring.

Incidentally, while I was out there planet-gazing, two university cop cars stopped to see what this guy was doing out there. I was really excited to be able to share with some other folks this amazing sight — “There's Venus over there, and up here are Jupiter and Saturn, and just rising now, we’ve got Mars.” They were polite — “uh-huh, uh-huh” — and probably decided ultimately I was harmless.

Okay, here we go — a Shakespearean sonnet, with some slant rhymes. I close with an alexandrine couplet (six beats per line rather than five) as a closing gesture, a sense of an ending.

Four Gemstones in the Heavens

As the evening came on last October, cold
enough but not yet the frigid wilderness
last winter became, I stood out in a field
where I could see the purpling sky over trees

changing green to black. To the west, the sun
had dipped below the horizon, but its halo
still glowed red, and just above there hung
Venus, a bright blue gem, not far from a yellow

jewel that was Saturn. I wished I had a scope
so I could see its rings, like I did in college
astronomy classes. Almost centered at the top,
another sharp blue gem was Jupiter, so large

a thousand Earths could fit inside it. Then rose the red
jewel, Mars, to complete the resplendent necklace of night.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


Actually, just as a point of clarification, a lot more than a thousand Earths could fit inside Jupiter . . . more than 1,300. It is almost 12 times as wide as the Earth. And Jupiter alone weighs 2 1/2 times as much as all the other planets put together! Okay, so I’m an astronomy geek.


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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Day 25 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that:
            • Is specific to a season
            • Uses imagery that relates to all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell)
            • Includes a rhetorical question, (like Keats’ ‘where are the songs of spring?)”


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, write an exile poem. Exile is a noun, a verb, and an American rock band from Richmond, Kentucky. A person, animal, or object can be exiled. But people and animals also exile others — or even exile themselves.”

I decided I would try to incorporate the exact rhetorical question Maureen used as her example. Keats’s word “spring,” Robert’s idea of exile, and Maureen’s suggested focus on a season reminded me of the recent winter we had, at least here in Iowa, an exile to the North Pole, it sometimes seemed. So then, to mash up the prompts, I just had to incorporate all five senses. I wanted to keep it short, maybe an alternating quatrain with two rhymes. Well, the poem ended up being twice that length — an envelope quatrain attached to a couplet quatrain (no alternating, after all) — though I was able to keep it to just two rhymes. What I succeeded in keeping small was the line length: tetrameter instead of my more customary pentameter. Okay, here goes.

What Last Winter Felt Like

Each day dawns white — snowbanks and sky
a featureless blank. The wind keening
like a banshee, the frigid air tasting
of ice, smelling of ice, and my
skin feeling like stone. So why
are we exiled, trapped in this dry
desert tundra? With a frozen tongue
I ask, Where are the songs of spring?

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Day 24 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo suggestion: “Today’s (optional) prompt is to write a poem that . . . is inspired by a reference book. Locate a dictionary, thesaurus, or encyclopedia, open it at random, and consider the two pages in front of you to be your inspirational playground for the day. Maybe a strange word will catch your eye, or perhaps the mishmash of information will provide you with the germ of a poem.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, take the phrase ‘Complete (blank),’ replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then write your poem. Possible titles include: ‘Complete Best Day I Ever Had,” ‘Complete Guide to Writing Poems,’ ‘Completely Wrong Way,’ and ‘Completed Set.’ ”

To merge the prompts, I looked up complete in a thesaurus, which was cheating, a little — I didn’t use a random page but rather the spread that had that word. Today, I’ve got an abecedarian list poem for you, a kind of mini-thesaurus of words related to complete in its different guises: to finish (verb), total (adjective), and so on.

I used my dad’s Roget’s Thesaurus, inscribed on the inside cover with Martin Gotera, Dec. 8, 1959 in my mom's handwriting, or printing, actually. As much as it pleases me to use his book, which I remember seeing and even using as a child, it did mean that more recent usages are not there. So while the majority of the words are below are from those two pages, I did have to go out on the internet also.

Complete Vocab

arrangement, abundance
balance, blend
chock-full, combination, cap-a-pie
deliver the goods
eke out
fait accompli, fulfill
go the whole hog
hook, line, and sinker
integration, inclusive
jam-packed
knock off
lock, stock, and barrel
mass, mixture, merge
native, nature
out-and-out
perfect, put the lid on
quite, quintessential
replete, ripe
synthesis
thorough, total
universal
validate, veritable
whole nine yards
exhaust, execute
yield
zealous, zip up

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


        Looking up complete in Papa’s thesaurus
        (click on this image to see it larger)


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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Day 23 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “I’d like to challenge you today to write a poem about an animal."

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day “Two for Tuesday” prompt: “write a free poem” and/or “write a not free poem.”

I remember feeling, as a child, that animals in zoos seemed sad and maybe a little crazy from being incarcerated without hope of parole. Melding all three prompts again today in a meditation exploring this theme.

Freedom Is Relative

In the San Diego Zoo, the lions, kangaroos,
mandrills, flamingos, penguins live in cageless
habitats — savannahs, rain forests, canyons,
even an urban jungle — while we humans
observe them from tour buses and a gondola lift
called the Skyfari. So who’s free and who’s not?

The animals seem to be free and humans not,
constrained to vehicles or concealed in blinds.
But then the animals are not really free to roam
as they would in their native spaces; elephants
cannot migrate hundreds of miles like in Africa.
We Homo sapiens can exit the zoo and go home

to our condos and TVs. But are we ever really
free? The Malayan tiger behind viewing glass
may be more free in her mind than any of us
ever are or can be, with our jobs and taxes and
encroaching corporations piping crude oil
through our wild places and our backyards.

Politicians reaching their sketchy small hands
into our wallets, classrooms, and bedrooms.
In San Diego, giant pandas have been breeding
successfully: seven cubs in the last 20 years,
fat and happy among 40 varieties of bamboo.
Plus 18 types of eucalyptus for the koalas.

So I ask you again, who’s free and who’s not?

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


Visitors to San Diego Zoo on a safari truck
interacting with giraffes in their open habitat.


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Monday, April 22, 2019

Day 22 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that engages with another art form — it might be about a friend of yours who paints or sculpts, your high school struggles with learning to play the French horn, or a wonderful painting, film, or piece of music you’ve experienced — anything is in bounds here, so long as it uses the poem to express something about another form of art.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, write a correspondence poem. Maybe write a poem that would fit on a postcard or in a letter. Or write a poem about correspondence school. Or jump into newer forms of correspondence like e-mail or text messaging. Of course, not all correspondence is connected to communicating; sometimes one thing corresponds to another by being similar.”

Mashing up the prompts today in alternating quatrains, with ten-syllable lines, decasyllabic. I’m kind of proud of the two-syllable rhyme of “Manzarek, and” with “rhythm section” in the third stanza. Enjoy!

Letter to Bob Boynton, Music Prodigy

Dear Bob: I find myself hearkening back
sometimes to those old days when you and I
were playing in garage bands, way way back
in high school. You were the drummer and I

was the guitarist. Remember that time
when we tape recorded a practice song?
It was The Doors’ “Light My Fire.” A damn fine
recording, that was. Rickrock channeling

Morrison, John doing Manzarek, and
me wielding Krieger’s solo note for note,
with you and Steve, best damn rhythm section.
But, you know, Bob, we never really did

justice to your skills, not only were you
an excellent drummer, you also played
the flute and, I think, the saxophone too.
Guitar, bass — you were a quintuple threat!

Whatever happened to that demo tape,
do you know? We were really kicking ass
that day. But you, old friend, you were excep-
tional: rolling fills and cymbal crashes,

keeping time with your strong foot on the kick,
crisp attack on high hat and snare, a prince
on the drum throne. Each time we played, you shook
the stage like a damn earthquake. Thank you. —Vince

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


Here’s a grainy photo of Bob and me on stage in 1968. This was in the band Peace of Mind, performing in the Golden Gate Park bandshell in San Francisco. The band in the poem was The Doomsday Refreshment Committee.


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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Day 21 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that . . . incorporates wild, surreal images. Try to play around with writing that doesn’t make formal sense, but which engages all the senses and involves dream-logic.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, write a sketch poem. My initial thought is to write a poem that’s like a sketch of a moment or an object. But you can play around with sketchy people or situations. Or just sketch something else together.”

Today, to meld the two prompts, I’ve written an ekphrastic poem of a sketch by Salvador Dalí. One haiku, strict 5-7-5.

Dalí Sketch

blue elephant floats
across the sky, spindly legs
skyscraper tall

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


Salvador Dalí, L’Elephante-Giraffe (1965)


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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Day 20 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that ‘talks.’ . . . Try to write a poem grounded in language as it is spoken — not necessarily the grand, dramatic speech of a monologue or play, but the messy, fractured, slangy way people speak in real life. You might incorporate overheard speech or a turn of phrase you heard once that stood out to you — the idea here is to get away from formally ‘poetic’ speech and into the way language tends to work out loud.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, write a dark poem. Cave poems, poems at night, and no electricity poems — these are all appropriate for today’s prompt. Of course, dark has several other connotations as well. An underdog is often known as a dark horse, a villain may have a dark heart, and Batman is known as the Dark Knight. Heck, when I was little, I thought Darth Vader was Dark Vader.”

This weekend I'm at the North American Review's literary conference celebrating 50 years at the University of Northern Iowa (the magazine is actually 204 years old!). I served as editor of the NAR from 2000 to 2016.

Today, I gave a workshop at the conference on writing from prompts (our usual April ones) and, in particular, mashing up the prompts. I asked the people who came to the workshop to write a poem merging pairs of prompts (I provided a list of recent NaPoWriMo and Poem-a-Day prompts, including today's) and then we shared them with the group. I had waited until that workshop to write my own poem for today, and here it is. Melded the two prompts again: a poem in everyday speech plus the dark.

Joe the Plumber on the Mueller Report

Jeez, can ya believe how Bill Barr blacked out
the freaking Mueller report? Just last night,
I was watching the news, and they had ginned up
two big walls showing the pages of the two halves
of the report splashed out like giant white sheets,
collusion on one side and obstruction on the other,
and you could clearly see the dark blotches redacted.
There was a lot of it. Some of the freaking pages
were totally dark. I think the whole damn thing
stinks to high heaven. Seems to me like the dark
is taking over. The dark is getting bigger and bigger.
Like the rover said on Mars, “My battery is running
low and it is getting dark.” It IS getting dark, folks.
We’re all in the dark. We’re all dark horses. Dark is
the coin of the realm. And dark is us, dark is us.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]



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Friday, April 19, 2019

Day 19 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I’d like to challenge you to write an abecedarian poem — a poem in which the word choice follows the words/order of the alphabet. You could write a very strict abecedarian poem, in which there are twenty-six words in alphabetical order, or you could write one in which each line begins with a word that follows the order of the alphabet. This is a prompt that lends itself well to a certain playfulness.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, write a license poem. There are many different licenses available to people. Fishing license, driver’s license, license to plate, license to kill, and marriage license. Poem doesn’t have to be about the license, but it could mention a license, happen at a licensing office, or well, use your poetic license.”

No Poetic License

April’s
been, to a
certain
degree, pretty
easy so
far. The poetry
gods
have been smiling.
I
just
knew it couldn’t
last, though. The
motor’s just
not turning
over today.
Plus X and Z are coming up
quite soon. And I’m
running out of
space
to get “license” in.
Unless,
Vince, you just go
with
x-ing out “license.” Okay,
you made it. Admittedly, not much
zoom, zip, or zing, but Amen.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.


Friends, won’t you comment, please? Love to know what you’re thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don’t find the word “comments” in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   


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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Day 18 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2019


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I’d like to challenge you to write an elegy . . . in which the abstraction of sadness is communicated not through abstract words, but physical detail. This may not be a ‘fun’ prompt, but loss is one of the most universal and human experiences, and some of the world’s most moving art is an effort to understand and deal with it.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Little (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then write your poem. Possible titles include: ‘Little Guy,’ ‘Little Richard,’ ‘Little Mermaid,’ ‘Little Italy,’ and ‘Little Words That Pack a Big Punch.’ I think if you think about it for a little bit, you’ll find a big (or little) poem to write.”

Merging the two prompts again. Since the word "little" is in the title, I tried to keep the poem as little as possible . . . a strict 5-7-5 haiku.

Little Elegy

mama and papa
died decades ago, flowers
that won’t bloom again

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]



Friends, won’t you comment, please? Love to know what you’re thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don’t find the word “comments” in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   


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