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preen, preen, preen and pride
 
 an e-book by siân s. rathore! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !


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siân s. rathore is a poet and critic living in west yorkshire, england. she is the author of two ebooks (‘no i can’t drive and i won’t learn’ and ‘the geisha series’), a one-off collection (‘softcore cloudstep’) and has been printed in two anthologies and several online and print medias as an artist, critic, poet and journalist. she is the editor of sadcore dadwave. ! ! ! !


some people live in strange ways
 
 We’re not waiting for morning. Some people live ! in strange ways, like us, and we agree on terms.! our laughter is suspended in the warm, thick air!

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of Summer, as if touchable; visible and light! trapped brightly and stuck, leaving marks, bruises! made real for the evening. We hear my housemate!

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listening to Radio 4, gently stirs us though not enough! to want to wake. We’ve engaged, become, discussed! and touched. Tenderness can be a violent act, as you’ll!

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learn, when we re-entangle, you belong to me! tonight, and only me. A waistcoat demands me. ! It’s getting light. Some people live in strange ways!

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like us. It’s warm again, let’s make the most of the ! uncomfortable heat; all the city drops into a deep fog,! like we’re the only ones awake and suspended in!

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the warm, thick air of Summer. Night came in like! the sound of an orchestra tuning to A; in spikes! and dips. Some people live in strange ways, like! us, and we agree on terms. Tonight, suspended! in the warm, thick air of Summer. !

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22:58! ! I am a haunted house! stepped by red-gowned priests! and night-watchmen clowns! in nights that blow the ! windows through, the blue! echo lilting white drapes upward! it is not unusual ! there are no dogs at the door! they’re upstairs instead! where visitors twitch with my! theta-rhythms and their! static visions shifting, like! they were bent film in the ! projector’s reel! here and there and old sound! familiar cries and rewound ! sobs and brother somnus! falling asleep in his chair ! to the sound of the blue sea ! and the steps of the red priests

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meshes of the afternoon
 
 Take me to that place where they do the burgers.! Describe to me your dreams about houses.! Are they empty? Because that means something.! Detract then delight farther than the pampered you. ! Remember me assuring you I honoured your ideas?! People keep their eyes on us, watch our steps.! I’m going to retweet you again. I’m going to worry! About your mind based on how your feed reads. ! Create an award just for me and get the trophy made. ! Sext me. Send me a dick pic. Miss my breasts more! Than anything in this world. Remortgage the home you! Built deep in my aorta. Loneliness rejects me like an! Irritating stepchild, made itself known with an ! “I HATE YOU” on the walls. Every night alone has been! an objection to concern. I am spilled out over this bar! Tonight. I am reserved and packaged for you again.! I’m slowing and speeding. I am a silver, that is a ! blind heart; I once saw it snow in April. Come on baby,! run the ruins with me. Sir, you’re damn suspicious now.! Greatly hearted as you drift beside the yellow walls! it’s Summer now, so make the weather last for me.! Arrive as if carrying a very crooked ask. Explode! with me at midnight and respond to all my texts. ! Quietly repeat us and don’t think of what comes next

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my magnolia days
 
 a thick muss of us descends in ! the clicking bite of opaque winter! with the snow-impacted ground as! if it had just fallen ice! hangovers kept me sustained in! dreaming free-fall!

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the slow bite freezes it! the cat laughed at it! it teased madness down my! back and froze my squirming neck with grief! the air tasted artificial, like an example! of itself like a pre-! bought perfection going rotten in the! stale truth of our lives!

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that’s not to say it wasn’t sweet in fact! the cartwheels it turned and cognitions it! reversed in my head! retrograde my chosen amnesia! my enlarged amygdala! I’ll remember you as the simple answer to! the nothing of my beginnings! and the banality of my day to magnolia day.

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this is really heavy

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coping strategies! ! I said yes! omitted from testing I! capitulated! handed my wrists to wraps of! blister-packs! and arrested for crimes! of coping strategies! suggested - but not committed - to! a chronic clinical cave of cool! and jittering calm in chrome! bowed walls, the critical sleep! where dreams realise those ! hands and eyes alive from! coping strategies! so drifting through on cruise-control! is! no longer my will, but I am! belted in and yes! Quite rightfully!! Let the journey do its worst, open! the windows, make it shiver and the! dust-roads flecks all fly up, obscure! my vision to your vision! mine was wrong so make it! colder, I! deserve this and soon I’ll have no ! need for! unacceptable, inexplicable! para-cosmical and bloody mental! “coping strategies�!

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writers will be writers, darling! but the lunatics still mad.!

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the “state” i am in?
 what state? ! ! !


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don’t you know, there’s something i need to talk to you about? 
 
 It’s coming dark in this rented bedroom where we sleep, on a heap of pillows, sort of lying together, you’re careful not to put your arm around me but your legs are pressed up by mine. You are breathing in the most quietest I have ever heard you. I have my back to you and I feel this movement. People have got opinions. The suspicion that surrounds us cases us to hide further, deeper, only centimetres apart. You turn and a set of keys falls off the bed and onto the floor but is briefly caught mid-air for a second as we both stop breathing or moving or, more precisely, thinking. I heard the echo of the drop for the rest of the evening. Louder when I turned to look at you, and in your face I saw a sort of femininity I hadn’t noticed before, and the co-dependency you falter in my loving me still, presenting as you, talking under your breath in your sleep. I don’t want to tell you what you said because you won’t remember, but it was pretty wild. The more and more I look at you the more I see the fragility of us and the palpable barrier between. When the keys finally drop you start up, then you look at me and say “go back to sleep” and we go back to sleep. They fall. We try not to. !

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It feels like it’s probably dark outside when we wake up but it’s not, we’re just tricked into thinking that because we slept so long and now we feel bad. The light present in this room is so ugly. I need a lamp. Do you think you could get me a lamp? Call it a tribute. I don’t like the way we look under the harsh light, we look too real. I can see each grey hair in your sideburns and you can see the moles under my eyes that make it look like I slept in my make-up. !

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We leave the house to go and buy supplies and you stand at the bus-stop near my house. You’re not the only man I’ve ever stood here with. You lean against the timetable and smoke so I have to try to remember if the bus comes in at 04, 14, 24, 34, 44, 54, or 07, 17, 27, 37, 47, 57. You’re a tall shape and you seem less tense in the top half, wearing colours of midnight shadows. When we were sleeping earlier I had a dream that I wasn’t very lonely any more. So many middle class people go cycling round here, all with baskets on the front of their bikes. One comes by us now, a twee Francophile with a baguette in hers, as if waiting to be caught by a photographer. She goes in the direction of the Golf Club but neither one of us can imagine her playing. In that few seconds I heard the keys fall again. Not the few seconds as she cycled by, but the overlap of seconds during and briefly after that, when I accidentally fell into you whilst trying to get out of her way, and that second in your arms seemed absolutely terrifying. So much more intimate than the sex we’ve been comfortably having. There’s something more intimate about seeing you and not senselessly throwing it down than actually doing so. The keys drop so loud in my head I look down at the pavement to see if they’re there. !

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Today, I’m nervous on the bus. Things have been quite pointless recently. There’s a man on the back seat who is talking on his BlackBerry about having just got out of jail again. He looks pale and manages to be skinny and flabby at the same time. He said it’s been a week. A look of disdain bounces off your face and onto all reflective surfaces and I remind you that you are no better than him, you’re just more affluent. He’s just got out for GBH and is organising a drug deal over the phone. Now tell me how he’s so different to you? You’re not exactly the King, you know. You tell me how comfortable it actually is “inside”


and make no attempt to express contrition about your anecdotal experience. The boy on the bus knows violence. Like you, he knows the flood of adrenaline that – in me – causes hyperventilation and hot, clammy skin but in men like you – causes lightening in the limbs and tightening, coiled fingers. You can imagine a fight happening with all the balletic grace of trapeze dancers in the big top, but really it is just fighting, and all men like you are let out an animal, night-animals the police are used to seeing, their fur raised and their eyes luminescent when caught out in the darkness by a torch. !

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You’ve missed Manchester, I can tell. You’re diving back into it like a child gone back to the family caravan park. You want to go to the food hut and then the clubhouse and get a slushy. You want to order a cocktail from the old place but the old place has shut down an all you can get there now is burritos. You draw parallels. “Back home we have a bar a bit like this.” “Back home they do the best martinis”. Yes, but back home is not where I am, and I am not humble enough to come out with a statement like that and say it with any humility. Listen to you, calling it “home”! This may as well be London. London isn’t some magical place where all wishes come true. It doesn’t have its own mind, there’s no collective consciousness, it’s not full of opportunity and i couldn’t find work there unless I worked for you. There is nobody more friendly or fashionable or happy than here, people don’t walk differently. It’s just a city. And just like here it’s so much more lonely than a place populated by millions should be. The difference between here and London is a matter of miles. The difference between me and you is a matter of three years and terrible timing. There’s very little about me you haven’t already walked through. !

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It’s officially “night time” and the streetlights have come on. I see you in a composite of differently moving shapes belonging to their own eras. Your neck outstretched peering into the window of a bar to check for tables is Summer last year when I walked out of your house, and you stood at the door to watch me leave, peering over the hills, without the energy to call me back. Your arms will always be Summer 2010 when we first met and I saw then, naked, at the baths, and you made a comment about how the shape of my legs was pleasing to you. The head on your body is every single day of Summer 2011, looking down at a desk then back up at me then back down then back up at me from behind the glass wall that kept us separated. The body as a whole is Summer 2013, now, the present. What is it with us, and Summer? The first time we fell in love was Winter but even then, I reckon we’d been saving it up since June. !

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I don’t want to stay out until morning but I don’t want to not stay out until morning either. I need the comfort of buildings much taller than me, I need to watch the day come right back in again, I need to fall asleep in a cab home and have you wake me and we do that little dance of do-we-or-don’t-we. Come in, stay as long as you want, it’s not like I’ve got anything else to do. Outside the Midland Hotel there is still a concierge, at this hour. He’s wearing a maroon coloured suit with gold buttons and what I think is a stupid hat. I do hate the pomposity of the rich, the cartoonishness of money; the shocking pink of a £50 note, silver cloches that covered our breakfast when we stayed here, the shiny baubles you all adorn your poor with to decorate them. The concierge is kind of handsome. !

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We made it. The sun is beginning to rise so can’t we go watch it from somewhere? Cool blue sky dimmers in, we stand and wait for a taxi. Get in the back with me and put your arm around me. That’s safe. It’s all quite safe at this point. Just try not to think about it. And listen, I meant to tell you. I really, really, really need to talk to you about something. It’s about me. Well, it’s about us. !

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! things to expect ! 
 Somnolence, sluggishness, fatigue, dry mouth, sore throat, dizziness, abdominal pain, constipation, upset stomach, orthostatic hypotension, inflammation or swelling of the sinuses or pharynx, blurred vision, increased appetite, significant weight gain, hypothyroidism, disturbance in speech and language, frightening hallucinations, mouth ulcers, rapid swelling of skin around the eyes, increased appearance of skin ageing, diabetes, tachycardia.! There is an emerging controversy regarding fatalities associated with this drug. The deaths of at least six US military veterans who were given “Drug cocktails” including this drug, have been attributed to its inclusion by military doctors to treat PTSD. Approx. 10,000 lawsuits against AstraZeneca for problems ranging from slurred speech and chronic insomnia to death have been filed by many individuals and their families. !

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turning point! !

Change to font size 11 because it looks! way classier than 12. Make each word of! my name a shape; elongate my vowels, like!

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how people say it suh-PHEE-ah but you’ve! always said it SO-phee-AH. You cling on! to the round sounds that soften and ! announce me.!

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Oh BOY I’m feeling tight tonight, my ribcage! bones need loosening up, I’m starving and ! I’m coiled up short, I’m boxed up for export. !

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Tomorrow I’ll be windmills in the Pennines! on the brow-line of the sandy hills, the! swoosh that slices silence and unsettling!

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apex. The votes have all been counted and ! the boats are washed up empty. There are no! beds or ships sailing northbound, toward!

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the diamond stars. Maybe I just missed them. ! The nights have all been empty. Recent lights! are first flash blues; second the white sparks!

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that shoot from my eyes, then to you. I’ve! heard me start to falter, heard my tongue! Too thick for eloquence. My thoughts all!

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cherry-plucked from air by vagrant night-haws.! Yet there’s still a speeding motorcycle circling! This mind. It’s hot all night. It breaks my back!

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and makes me hear your name in song. It! calls out loud like: HEY SWEETHEART. BE MY! BABY DEAR HEART and the howling cats in!

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season sing TURN BACK NOW like con! legno on the e-string, third position, yes! I’m ACADEMIC when I study you, your!

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figured bass and Bach chorale, the tune! to A, the crash of plates on kitchen slates, the! microtonal shards arranged in third dimension!

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decoupage. Or are there four? Or five? Or ten?! It was only a matter of when, when would the outright! Bliss of speeding be reduced to these bald tires?!


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How useless I’ve become. Hey, look, they’re! back in bloom, you said, arranging sweet-pea ! in a posy, twisting lilac stalks. I wish!

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they’d let you in my room. Because of magic! reasons. I hear you eyeing up my legs, and! I remove each layer. Then the skin, and !

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muscles tear right off the bone and I am bare. ! You are here in the bright darkness of 9.! Keeping records of my stay. Tell me your news,!

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here’s mine: I thought of him all day today. ! Tell me how to quit that, please, distract me! very quickly. I’m feeling very very and by rights!

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you’re very too. It’s not that you’re not beautiful,! You’re just so beautiful it hurts my feelings. !

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! welcome back
 
 I packed the house away without you.! Bagged and wrapped each memory with! ideals of progression.! Your shirts were! considered! then a friend administered ! a flame! to your letters, I had no! say, in the matter -! I only watched them cripple, and! I tried to hold it all back. !

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In the bedroom, which became ! this ward,! clinicised; the sticky pads! that lived on my body! that I tore off when peacefully discharged! (they checked me, for! ten hours, only my heart –! until they checked my mind.)!

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I became obsessed with one shirt.! I don’t recall its pattern, but! It was ether when pressed to my face! every day and every night! over and over, and! over and over and over and over! and over. I could not! breathe you out. The final ! ingestion left me short ! of breath. Like someone should ! rub my back. !

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Your shirt’s threads got thicker! and try as I might to thin them out! they only ever! intensified, and ! East Lancashire’s mill-smoke still! leaves me feeling sick.!

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Love me the way I still love you. ! guess what: I’m far flung into! space right now. I’m the burning ex-planet! learning the sky! as it learns you in turn – shifting phantasm! earthing out the sky! like friends!


like lovers! like two people! in love! making it making love! making! making! making!

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2.! So yes, perhaps I am the half-snapped vinyl of you! existing in splinters on the floor, smashed up when! it was thrown against a feature wall, a record! whose grooves I could not needle the tune from! not even one last time! no matter how much I tried. !

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3.! The bright purple light of potassium’s! thankfully died down in me now. I exist ! much more like lithium. You might not recognise ! me now – but it’s good – I’m that ether I mentioned! in that mix-CD inlay. ! I’m a million molecules! trying to find home! every day but - ! one caught – and took ! and I’d give it all to see you here. !

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Yes, I am swathed in the 96% darkness! of missing you. !

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4.! Honey. I fit snug in the crags of! Yorkshire, and yes, it might pause me! for worship of the world; but I am seeing it! all (in absentia) for you. I am walking with ! the constant flicker of you, still by my side! like a sticking tape! like static! like ghosts in the machine: God –! I never thought I’d miss you! half as much!

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their nickname for you is “hermit crab” ! 
 and then they gave me your hand! to hold my hand because it wasn’t! wearing a latex glove and I needed! the skin, even if it was your skin! familiar, I thought, but was foreign, ! clammy. The nurses come and go! and only you mention Michelangelo! because you haven’t noticed the date! or remembered to move on. I remind! you, it’s 2014, and some of us have! moved on. “Yes” you said. “And now! it’s my turn”.!

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Outside in the hospital gardens we spot! anaemic daffodils; not golden, nor a ! host, I remind you, we are moving on.! I feel the bastard child of cancer kicking. ! I tell you I want to kill all of the doctors! and become a Greek god. The surgeons! have my tissue and I’m coming down ! from ether; what did I once say? When ! I saw you, with a robe pressed up against! your face thinking I hadn’t seen? I do! not have to kill you, Daddy, for when I was! deep under, I knew such wistful pictures.!

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their nickname for you was the captain
 
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For the whole of last Summer, we had a ! city to ourselves, one that hummed us into! daytime naps and lost us to canal-side bars! and barges where your friends lived now -! emigrated - for a month, or so.!

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We considered it, yielding to small recollections! as flashbacks, ripples, on the water’s body ! memories so deep they need a boat to travel! through; but now so sunk below! they’re down where the dreck and algae goes! so we came back to our senses, and we ! swapped keys to one another’s houses instead.! But - and I didn’t tell you this - I learnt to swim. !

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When I’m drifting off I’m drifting off alone ! just like tonight, when there are no slow boats! no birds seducing bees or city beach of pricey! chargrilled shrimp and lobster shells left on your plate ! as you gently sign for table service!

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no, your thread had been wound too short! as one wick caught in a tea light floating! in some water-bowl, and when you dream! you are always dreaming someone who isn’t you! is having their life saved instead. !

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“It’s one o’clock in the morning” you said! “then it’s early for us” ! I thought you were exhorting me to be quiet! and when, at 5am the landscape slid into view! I photographed myself in the reflection of a ! bus-shelter and sent it to you.! “I don’t think you are very okay today”.! “No I know. Send in the boats.” ! and then around this time I’d wake up twitching! with great heat, and you’d open up my arms! and bring the cool, old rivers home.!

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2.! there is a parallel world where relationships invert ! and retrograde until the series left is only love, ! recall, and regret, sticking heavy, hard onto! human skin - blindfolded and pale - hanging from ! any number of stretches: a branch, or a beam ! I hear them on most nights. The sound of cancer!


of hospitals and illness, of poets, models, noblemen! and finally, I begin ! (as I walk to your house from the top of the Withens! and the bus exhaust smokes out all the tourists ! from their bed of cobbles) all evening to dive!

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Onto the firm hold of your bed, and the grey comfort ! of the glint of the outdoors coming through, then ! underneath your blankets, alone. !

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So you didn’t understand this fable of life. Well nor ! do I; I keep forgetting what part of you I’m supposed to! remember the most when the day comes, because I didn’t! give you children, or a white dress, nor did I feed you cake! in the right way!

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But I swear that in the nights when you slept next to me;! Come morning, when I saw the sun glisten in with glints ! of rain with you, a fresh, new dewy dawn was there and we shared it! next to each other as slowly breathing final friends! like two dusted-off doves coming home late from a night-shift ! at the mint! and you looked like you’d found a diamond!

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just a few hours before our last goodbye ! but then, without a clue, your body changed! Into a breathless shape that could not age.!

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Copyright Sian S. Rathore for Peanut Gallery Press, May 2015. !

preen, preen, preen and pride by sian s. rathore  

A 30 page multimedia collection featuring status updates, Facebook threads, poems, and image macros. Published by Peanut Gallery Press.

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