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Duende


It is an afternoon. I am home with a cold. I got a couple of hours in which to chase down the big thing, really the biggest thing. Duende.

Duende is defined as the soul of flamenco. But Lorca made something much purer out of it. He called duende a dark, earth spirit with which the artist and thinker wrestle in a life or death fashion. He distinguished the spirit of duende from the angels and from the muses. He said the true fight is with duende. And he found duende, not only in flamenco, but in Nietzsche, Goethe, Goya, St Teresa ("that supremely flamenco woman"), in Paganini, and in Socrates. Andalusian born, Lorca understood the true nature of flamenco. In his body he knew that flamenco is not an art form. It is a way of life. Viewed as a way of life, he understood that it can be found everywhere, not just in Spain. He also understood that the dark genius of flamenco is duende only, nothing else matters as much. To highlight his point there is that, in flamenco proper, the highest place is given to the poet. Not to the dancer, the musician, or to the singer. And the poet is only seconded by the matador when in the bull ring. This circumstance should be enough to suggest just how seriously duende gets taken.

I want to start by sharing a favorite Lorca story. It is an anecdote he tells.

~The Andalusian singer Pastora Pavon, La Nina de los Peines, dark Hispanic genius whose powers of fantasy are equal to those of Goya or Rafael el Gallo, was once singing in a little tavern in Cadiz. For awhile she played with her voice of shadow, of beaten tin, her moss-covered voice, braiding it into her hair or soaking it in wine or letting it wander away to the farthest, darkest bramble patches. No use. Nothing. The audience remained silent.

In the same room was Ignacio Espeleta, handsome as a Roman turtle, who had once been asked, "How come you don't work?" and he answered with a smile worthy of Argantonius, "Work? Why? I'm from Cadiz!" And there was hot Elvira, aristocratic Sevillian whore, direct descendent of Soledad Vargas who in 1930 refused to marry a Rothchild because he was not of equal blood. And the Floridas, whom the people take to be ranchers, but who are really millennial priests who still sacrfice bulls to Geryon. And in one corner sat the formidable bull rancher Don Pablo Murube, with the air of a Cretan mask. When Pastora Pavon finished singing there was total silence, until a tiny man, one of those dancing manikins that rise suddenly out of brandy bottles, sarcastically murmured "Long live Paris!" As if to say: "Here we care nothing about ability, technique, skill. Here we are after something else."

As though crazy, torn like a medieval mourner, La Nina de los Peines leaped to her feet, tossed off a big glass of burning liquor, and began to sing with a scorched throat: without voice, without breath or color, but with duende. She was able to kill all the scaffolding of the song and leave way for a furious, enslaving duende, friend of sand winds, who made the listeners rip their clothes with the same rhythm as do the blacks of the Antilles when, in the "lucumi" rite, they huddle in heaps before the statue of Santa Barbara.

La Nina de los Peines had to tear her voice because she knew she had an exquisite audience, one which demanded not forms but the marrow of forms, pure music, with a body lean enough to stay in the air. She had to rob herself of skill and security, send away her muse and become helpless, that her duende might come and deign to fight her hand-to-hand. And how she sang! Her voice was no longer playing. It was a jet of blood worthy of her pain and her sincerity, and it opened like a ten fingered hand around the nailed but stormy feet of a Christ by Juan de Juni. ~

This is the best story I know of that translates into words what duende is about. It is beyond skill and technique. It is more than intelligence. It is even more than emotion. It is the fight with that dark genius of the earth, what both Socrates and Goethe called one's daemon. This is why the artist possessed with duende speaks to the soul the way no other artist can. In the end, all soul is born of the earth, of blood, of air, water and fire, and so remains tied to the earth.

Duende is the main thing. In origin, before the distancing of civilization and organized religion, it is orgiastic. It is the hands-on sacrificial killing of the bull. It is what ties the soul to the earth. It is not secure. It is not safe. It is not sentimental. It is not smart. Only the critic who has wrestled with duende knows it, becomes the true aficionado, becomes a citizen of Andalusia. While it shows rarely, in both critic and artist, when it does show it is unmistakable.

To be continued. With the next entry I will share the features of duende Lorca identified. I count eight or so. But there is one more thing I've realized about duende. It speaks in its own language. It does not recognize as legitimate any other language. As Goethe said, "A mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains."

Tere
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Re: Duende


I always default to Lorca on this, as you know. First here's Lorca in excerpt; then I'll get back to this later, when I can.

from The Duende: Theory and Divertissement by Federico Garcia Lorca

These black sounds are the mystery, the roots that probe through the mire that we all know of, and do not understand, but which furnishes us with whatever is sustaining in art. Black sounds: so said the celebrated Spaniard, thereby concurring with Goethe, who, in effect, defined the duende when he said, speaking of Paganini: "A mysterious power that all may feel and no philosophy can explain."

The duende, then, is a power and not a construct, is a struggle and not a concept. I have heard an old guitarist, a true virtuoso, remark, "The duende is not in the throat, the duende comes up from inside, up from the very soles of the feet." That is to say, it is not a question of aptitude, but of a true and viable style - of blood, in other words; of what is oldest in culture: of creation made act.

This "mysterious power that all may feel and no philosophy can explain," is, in sum, the earth-force, the same duende that fired the heart of Nietzsche, who sought it in its external forms on the Rialto Bridge, or in the music of Bizet, without ever finding it, or understanding that the duende he pursued had rebounded from the mystery-minded Greeks to the Dancers of Cádiz or the gored, Dionysian cry of Silverio's siguiriya.

So much for the duende; but I would not have you confuse the duende with the theological demon of doubt at whom Luther, on a Bacchic impulse, hurled an inkwell in Nuremberg, or with the Catholic devil, destructive, but short on intelligence, who disguised himself as a !@#$ to enter the convents, or with the talking monkey that Cervantes' mountebank carried in the comedy about jealousy and the forests of Andalusia.

No. The duende that I speak of, shadowy, palpitating, is a descendant of that benignest demon of Socrates, he of marble and salt, who scratched the master angrily the day he drank the hemlock; and of that melancholy imp of Descartes, little as an unripe almond, who, glutted with circles and lines, went out on the canals to hear the drunken sailors singing.

Any man - any artist, as Nietzsche would say - climbs the stairway in the tower of his perfection at the cost of a struggle with a duende - not with an angel, as some have maintained, or with his muse. This fundamental distinction must be kept in mind if the root of a work of art is to be grasped.


Last edited by Dragon59, Feb/5/2009, 7:29 pm


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Re: Duende


I think Lorca's A Poet in New York contains a great deal of duende. There are two new translations in the past ten years, both of them pretty good. When Lorca was in New York, he was in dire straits emotionally, and these are reflected in the poems. His "Ode to Walt Whitman" comes from this period. (And my own odes to Lorca and Whitman partly were inspired by reading the new translations of "Poet in New York.")

City That Does Not Sleep, from Poet in New York

Lorca

1988 translation, in excerpt

more on Lorca


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Feb/5/2009, 7:54 pm Link to this post Send Email to Dragon59   Send PM to Dragon59
 
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Re: Duende


Sure, Dragonman. We read from the same Lorca texts. But I am less concerned with the canonical take than how it plays out personally, which is what duende is all about anyway. Duende is not a concept. It is not even an approach. It is an attitude, a take, by which the only guaranty is that the song, the experience behind it, is dangerous to the poet and therefore elementally connects to the poet's reader. Duende is always dangerous in the same way poets should always be dangerous. Anyone who comes to poetry, to all the arts, looking for anything less, should stay away. Beauty is not pleasing, forgiving, or even accesible. She is demanding. Only duende satisfies her.

What I came back to the thread for I'll save for another night.

Tere
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Re: Duende


So I see that Dragonman has mostly done my work for me. He has cited many of the passages from Lorca's essay I was going to share with the board as identifying features of duende. There is one more feature, however, that to my mind shows just how personal to the artist duende becomes. Actually two features:

"The true fight is with the duende."

Then this: "But there are neither maps nor exercises to help us find the duende. We only know that he burns the blood like a poultice of broken glass, that he exhausts, that he rejects all the sweet geometry we have learned, that he smashes styles, that he leans on human pain with no consolation..." (italics mine)

There is something else Lorca says too, something that points to the raison d'etre of duende: "The duende's arrival always means a radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm."

In this last passage I myself would not have equivocated. I would not have said "almost." In fact duende does produce religious enthusiasm. I have witnessed it in R&B roadhouses where the music up on the stage takes possession of music lovers in the dionysian, orgiastic way. Once I saw a young man so taken up with the music, and so outside of himself, that he went running out the door yelling "Rock n Roll!" And I have seen what hard driving R&B can do to young, and not so young, women on a late Saturday night. Truly orgiastic.

Actually, there is another feature of duende not yet mentioned:

"The magical property of a poem is to remain possessed by duende that can baptize in dark water all who look at it, for with duende it is easier to love and understand, and one can be sureof being loved and understood. In poetry this struggle for expression and communication is sometimes fatal."

One last Lorca word. While he felt that duende can be found in all the arts, he also felt that its greatest expression is found in music, dance, and spoken poetry. "...for these arts require a living body to interpret them, being forms that are born, die and open their contours against an exact present." Naturally, Lorca finds the greatest expression of duende in the bullfight.

Elsewhere there has been a discussion about Leonard Cohen. I have no doubt but that Cohen understands in his body the fight with the duende. Similarly I am convinced that Anne Sexton knew the duende. Who else might come to mind?

Tere
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Re: Duende


My intention in posting the Lorca links was to fill in the resource guide, fill in the historical background as it were, not to override any part of your thinking. I'm interested in where you're going with this. I've found over time that not too many poets even knew that Lorca's essay existed, which is why I posted the link and excerpts; it's really seminal reading for poets, in my opinion.

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Re: Duende


Dragonman, you and I have been bouncing off each other for so long now it is all collaborative in tandem. I didn't think you were usurping anything. I was, however, struck by your immediate enthusiasm for the topic, which is what I mean about how we keep bouncing off each other collaboratively. Of course you would know Lorca's thinking here. And of course you too would be struck by what he was looking to get at. I love the Lorca story with which I started the thread. It pretty much says it all. It points to a corrective for what you say in your essay about the dangers of the workshop setting. But, of course, it points to much more.

Writing on the run. Will come back.

Tere
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Re: Duende


I had forgotten about this thread. It is another late Saturday night, the best time for coming to terms with certain notions. So what the hell is duende? Calling it the soul of flamenco and such only puts words around it, domesticates it in the way people need to domesticate what they cannot control.

Duende is that event horizon beyond which there is no control. Duende is playing the carefully uncontrollable game at that horizon. Duende gets played out at that horizon in sight of an inexorable pull of events that smashes all events, all histories, all light. Duende is sometimes, rather frequently, that last, swan song message just as the astronaut bridges the horizon, gets pulled in the black hole. Once in its gravitational pull singer or astronaut become gone.

Duende is just such an event horizon. Duende smashes the personal. Duende fleshes out the horizon. Duende kills the poet. Duende makes the poem.

And duende is this too. Duende is my mother when she tells death he is a bastard and she is too beautiful to die. That is duende. Duende is my brother when his measure measures itself against all the nay-sayers who say nothing is the measaure. Duende is my sister who loves and sings and prays and fights duende. That is duende. And duende is my beautiful child who sings silver songs in my ear when she knows she must lose me to duende. That is duende too. And duende is this. Duende is the train whistle telling time, what separates us. That is duende. Mostly I think duende is the deep urge. Not always beautiful but always urgent.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/15/2009, 1:41 am
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Re: Duende


I hope everyone doesn't mind but because of the Arab women's poetry anthology mentioned I am bringing forward this long ago thread from page 2. It strikes me as relevant to what these poets are after.

Tere
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Re: Duende


For the second time in its rather long shelf life I am bringing forward this thread buried on page 2. For me nothing matters as much, either in art or thinking, as what is aproximately, inexactly signalled by the concept of duende. Nothing. And the older I get, turning 60 in a month, the more certifiably certain of this I become. Which is perhaps strange. I remember a take on a Miles Davis album from circa '69 called Bitchs Brew. The take is called Running the Voodoo Down. That was his approach to duende. I bet you can find a video of it on You Tube.

I have several complaints, amounting to a long standing argument, with the poetry scene, and not just in America. Central most is with a certain betrayal poetry has become party to, has, in fact, embraced with open arms. And promoted. You cannot safeguard yourself, as poet, from the Dionysian by transferring alegiance to the Apollonian. The betrayal saves the poet and kills the poem. The record is on my side in this argument. You cannot cheat the blues. You allow the blues to inform you and, in return, you give it form. That too is duende.

Terreson
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Re: Duende


Hey Tere,

What you say here, today, seems somehow synchronistic with a discussion I am having on an astrology blog about the archetypal Saturn:
http://oxford-astrologer.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-i-made-friends-with-saturn.html
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Re: Duende


Duende. It comes from the throat. Not from the tongue, not from the brain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlPDUPb3qcg&feature=related

Tere
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Re: Duende


From the throat. Duende

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rA0VQ30vQ4&feature=related

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Re: Duende


Duende

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=PSPUTUGtmH0

Tere
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Re: Duende


Duende

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk20o_-LZn8&feature=feedrec_grec_index

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Aug/15/2011, 9:57 pm
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Re: Duende


This thread, duende and Lorca have gotten my attention. I am going to utilize these links, see where it takes me. Feel my way through .

Will be back.
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Duende. American style.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kppBxEkb8to
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Re: Duende


"Duende. It comes from the throat. Not from the tongue, not from the brain."

Hi Tere,

I was reading something today about duende that seemed to contradict this statement:

Lorca writes: "The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, 'The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.' Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation.".

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=33532264&postID=2408401032637369477

The blogger is quoting from Wikipedia there, so maybe a bum quote? More from the same source:

He suggests, "everything that has black sounds in it, has duende. [i.e. emotional 'darkness'] [...] This 'mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains' is, in sum, the spirit of the earth, the same duende that scorched the heart of Nietzsche, who searched in vain for its external forms on the Rialto Bridge and in the music of Bizet, without knowing that the duende he was pursuing had leaped straight from the Greek mysteries to the dancers of Cadiz or the beheaded, Dionysian scream of Silverio's siguiriya." [...] "The duende's arrival always means a radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm." [...] "All arts are capable of duende, but where it finds greatest range, naturally, is in music, dance, and spoken poetry, for these arts require a living body to interpret them, being forms that are born, die, and open their contours against an exact present."


Last edited by Katlin, Aug/31/2011, 12:27 pm
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Re: Duende


Not at all a bum quote. Wiki is good to go. For what it is worth what you have found, in both cases, come originally from the same source with which I started the thread. These are writings on both duende and cante jondo Lorca penned in around 1921. My particular source is an edited selection of his writings on the subject(s), In Search of Duende. A small book, not expensive, easily found. You might be interested in it. It contains both his thoughts on duende and poems written in the vein.

And, sure, I can go with the contradiction. I'll wager Lorca could have too, knowing it isn't something that can be defined. At the most pointed to. At best, if rarely, expressed.

Tere
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Re: Duende


that surge of terrible beauty
through the gut, the capillaries
sings
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Yes.
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Re: Duende


Hey, Tere,

In another forum, in response to an article about foreign words, someone (not me) said:

"First, as Spanish is my first language, I'm
very familiar with the word "duende" which
only meaning in Spanish is the ghost who
inhabits a haunted house, ruin, or forest."
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Gawd, but I love this board, its people who grace it. That is the best, by which I mean the most evocative, and still precise, definition of duende I've read yet.

"First, as Spanish is my first language, I'm
very familiar with the word "duende" which
only meaning in Spanish is the ghost who
inhabits a haunted house, ruin, or forest."


This sure as hell straightens the back. Maybe repeating myself, but in flamenco duende is defined as the spirit of flamenco. Something that tells you nothing until you've steeped yourself in flamenco music, dance, poetry, and, of course, the bull fight. Then you get it in that pre-conscious way. A ghost, a haunting...I can go with that.

Lorca called duende a dark angel, by which he meant it is an earth spirit. He also called it a poultice of glass burning in the stomach. He also likened it to a daemon (not demon), a daemon, or earth spirit, in possession of the artist and with whom the artist is in mortal combat.

Your definition, Libra, brings something else to mind. In flamenco there are said to be three grades or ranges in music and poetry especially: cante chico, cante intermedio, cante jondo. Or light song, song in the middle range of emotion, and deep song. Cante jondo is said to have its roots in ancient religious rites. Rites in all likelihood involving the sacrifice made for the sake of renewal. In cante jondo there resides duende. Cante jondo itself I think not something that can be defined, only experienced. Maybe in the way the religious instinct itself cannot be defined but only experienced. It is what the bull fight is all about, by the way. Not a game, not a sport. In the streets of Madrid I remember these posters billing an upcoming bull fight as the "sacrificial murder of the bull." And I remember Lorca saying that every Spanish child knows what Spain, the Iberian peninsula, looks like on a map. it looks like the hide of a bull.

I sometimes think flamenco poetry, at root a folk art, is the height of all poetry and this because it is poetry's depth. Any fan of Rilke's poetry would disagree with me and rightly so. Any farsi speaking poet would also disagree with me and again rightly so. But, then, flamenco has in its roots the ancient Persian forms of poetry. Relationship between the two is organic. As an aside, in our In Translation forum can be found original translations of the modern Persian poet, Forough. All of which work in a range close to what a flamenco poet would call cante jondo.

You know? None of this stuff in the thematic parcel involving duende, flamenco poetry, Lorca, and cante jondo is academic. To me duende is the vaccine against the virus having infected the poetry scene, at least in the Anglo world, for a good thirty years. It's why I keep harping on it.

Thank you, Libra. Thank you very much.

Tere
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Re: Duende


Not "a ghost in the machine"; but a ghost in the organic?
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Ghost in the organic. I can go with that. Probably all of my favorite poets could go with it too. Lorca, Rilke, Sexton, Dickinson, Neruda. It is what they all speak to, maybe why they are all so inscrutable until you become familiar with the, mostly underground, terraine.

This stuff of duende, in fact, operates mostly underground. But maybe not. Maybe that is where it leads. More accurate I think, having commerce with the elements.

This stuff of duende is also un-nettable. Three decades ago, absolutely by chance, I came upon the translations of a 19th C Spanish poet. Calling her Spanish is a little misleading. She was born in Spain's northwest province of Galicia, along the Atlantic coast. Until modern times native Galicians were of Celtic stock, racially closer to the Irish than to other inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula.

Rosalia de Castro (1835 - 1885). She mostly wrote in her native Galician, not in Castillean Spanish, and so mostly overlooked. One lit historian has said that had she worked in Spanish she would have long since been acknowledged as Spain's best 19th C poet.

"Galicia, the green rainy northwest corner of Spain, is more like Ireland than like austere Castile; Galicians, typically and racially, are more Celtic than Spanish - melancholy, intuitive, rather given to superstition. Expressed long before in medieval poetry, the Galician mood of morrina - the passionate dark longing for something loved and absent - found its mnost eloquent voice in Rosalia de Castro." John Frederick Nims.

Rosalia certainly had duende. She was possessed by that dark earth spirit. And still so "modern" on both the ear and on the brain. Libra's ghost in the organic brings her to mind.

Please allow an introduction to Rosalia de Castro.

http://www.rosalia--de--castro.webs.com/

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Sep/24/2011, 9:15 pm
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Re: Duende


Lorca mentioned St. Terresa as an exemplar of duende. It made me remember Bernini's famous sculpture The Ecstasy of St. Terresa.

http://sexualityinart.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/berninis-portrayal-of-the-ecstasy-of-saint-theresa/

Tere
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Terreson, I looked up the sculture. They've got a good discussion going there. Or had. Didn't check the dates. Interesting. Not totally understanding Duende, so I'll look at it some more.

 
quote:

Terreson wrote:

Lorca mentioned St. Terresa as an exemplar of duende. It made me remember Bernini's famous sculpture The Ecstasy of St. Terresa.

http://sexualityinart.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/berninis-portrayal-of-the-ecstasy-of-saint-theresa/

Tere





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Re: Duende


When certain poets open their mouths
Bright starlight, primal flames, ecstasy's melting conflagration
flow through bestial visionary waves,
create, combine in eternal sacred chambers,
fashion sculpture upon seasoned sand.
Oct/2/2011, 4:28 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Re: Duende


Zak, you know duende. It comes through in your poetry from time to time. Not something that needs to be understood, really.

Yes, Libra. That is how it operates. Over the top where all trench definitions fail.

Tere
Oct/3/2011, 5:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Duende


http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120219/life-features/Living-with-Lorca.407729

“Duende is the painful struggle to express real truths, the deep song of gypsy tradition, a power that comes up through the earth that’s both difficult and beautiful.”
Feb/25/2012, 5:32 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 


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