PoetsWest Selected - a page for poetry and essays

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Volume XIX, No. 3

Poems by Rachel Cohen, Pushkar Bisht, J. Glenn Evans, John Gorski, Margaret Bobalek King, Valerie Marie Leslie, Ellaraine Lockie, John Lysaght, Xihluke Mlangeni, Charles Portolano, Peter Victor.

And a special message from John Peterson of Poetic Matrix Press http://www.poeticmatrixpress.com/.

If poets and lovers of poetry don't write, publish,
read, and purchase poetry books then we will have
no say in the quality of our contemporary culture
and no excuse for the abuses of language, ideas,
truth, beauty, and love in our cultural life.



Black holes collide in the cosmos,
like cymbals crashing and punctuating
the dramatic climax of a symphony.
Ripples of gravitational waves then flow
across the fabric of space undetectable
to our senses but translated by ingenuity
to an audible sound akin to a bird’s chirp.
A billion years after the collision,
we, the audience, awed and thrilled
by the distant song of space-time,
composer and conductor still unknown,
hear the momentary melody echoing
a concert performed an eternity ago.



“He gave her wings, she gave him roots”
Was eulogized when I said good-bye to you
An unlikely pair opined both sides of the aisle
She, steeped in scientific method, earthbound
He, improvisational with paint, soaring and
Flying aloft in the firmament

He was a kite on a gusty spring afternoon
The restless atmosphere tossing his tortured
Mind and soul into a turbulence translated
Into a menagerie of inimitable flying forms
The canvas being the only pull of gravity
That forced them down to solid ground

She took his hand and they became the kite
Double Diamond floating in the spring breeze
In an illusion of a center diamond within its rim  
Without him, the kite is forced down by the
Mundane chatter of the earthborn on terra firma
Kite flying, I’ll be into the wind climbing back to you

Rochelle S. Cohen
2323 Race Street
Apt. 120
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Rochelle S. Cohen was born in Brooklyn, NY. She is presently Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was the recipient of the 2008 Distinguished Faculty Award. She is a neuroscientist with publications in synaptic structure and biochemistry and hormonal effects on brain and behavior. Her love of marine biology is reflected in her present endeavor of writing a book of poetry about marine life and science.  She was married to the writer and artist Rex Sexton.

O Grace, O Grace….

O Grace, O Grace….
I beg you and lie down for you,
Don’t return, come to me, come to embrace me
There is nothing higher than you what amazes fewest of us…
Blessed are those, who discover and find it.
O Grace, O Grace….
You are beautiful that can’t be seen through external eyes
A pure heart needs you that bursts into tears and realize…
What a light, opens my heart and bring eternal delight
In whatever form you come to me, I will bend and pray on my knees

Pushkar Bisht


If you are true in feelings and kindness you possess,

If you are true in feelings and kindness you possess,
Nobody can make you feel low and distress,
True feelings are a gift to a man in disguise
That a man should treasure all as a man thinks to cover the whole sky
So when it’s dark or time pulls tight
It will shine to give you a wise light
And then you can find your path to proceed
It does not grab anything from you
But it bestows upon you, what you don’t deserve for
If you think that you are poor, you have nothing
But be blessed, because you are rich in feelings and kindness
Money or gold is not the piece to be accumulated
If a man loses everything, his true feeling won’t die

Pushkar Bisht


On your returning

On your returning,
Time pauses for a moment
Months after months elapsed
I can see a smile on your face
The ordeal you experienced
I can sense that
You have become courageous now
I am glad for you now
Your time is relaxing ahead
The moments you had in adversity
Demolished all together in a lot
Don’t look back
A new journey waits
With beautiful colors to color you
Just observe calmness and tranquility

Pushkar Bisht


A New Freedom

A new freedom
Everybody wants to fly as a bird,
Nobody wants to remain in chains,
Because everyone has a new freedom to live merrily,
But some cruel take our freedom away
And make us their slave.

Freedom is a god gifted gift
Which nobody can destroy from this earth.
Freedom is not made for rich
But for innocent poor dwelling in slums.
Freedom means peace and love
Not fear around us.
Freedom is what brings a nice smile
On everybody’s face.

Freedom knows no boundary
Of happiness and sprinkles its grace
On everyone wonderfully.
Freedom knocks at every door
And kisses everyone in the early morning
As a nightingale sings its lovely hymn for each person.
Freedom walks from door to door
To visit so that no one
Can be deprived of it.

Pushkar Bisht
Pushkar Bisht lives in New Delhi (India) and studies Philosophy, English Literature & Science. Nature is one of Pushkar's most influential teachers. Pushkar Bisht’s poetry is drawn from his observations of the world around him. He takes inspiration from the simple, and often routine, events of everyday life, and from the relationships he forms with family, friends and casual acquaintances. He is touched by the plight of people who are less fortunate than he, and this is clearly reflected in his work.


It grieves me to see you all parched and dried up
On that concrete sidewalk where I walked under you
So many times in the sunshine
Often with a gentle rain
I sought shelter under you and your kin
I even shook your hand when I reached up
And gently caressed the limb you were on
You spent a spring and summer giving me
Fresh air to breathe and now you are gone
My friend we shall not meet again
Next spring your mother will bear new foliage
But I shall remember you still

J. Glenn Evans
J. Glenn Evans is founder and managing director of PoetsWest. Has written three books of poetry Window In The Sky, Buffalo Tracks and Seattle Poems and a novel, Broker Jim. Has written several local histories under the name Jack R. Evans, and two local biographies. A former stockbroker-investment banker, he has engaged in mining and co-produced a movie, Christmas Mountain, featuring Slim Pickens. Widely published in magazines and anthologies. Listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World. Past president of Seattle Free Lances, Academy of American Poets. On advisory board for the University of Washington Extension Writing Program. He is also producer and host of PoetsWest's weekly syndicated radio program on KSER 90.7 FM.

The Wrong One

She came to the program -- late autumn 1975 --
a white woman with an Afro – dark chestnut  --
and an apple blossom face that bore
a faded X carved into the left cheek.
She lived a few miles from the center
edging black Avondale
under the smudged himmel of Cincinnati
that drifted automobile exhaust
and smoke from the breweries.

She was an artist and drew hooded figures
in white, darkening their faces with a magic marker.
One day, she showed me a sketch of hers from art class –
a charcoal interior breathing
like a time lapsed photograph.
Later, she told me and a friend
about the year she spent in a commune
in British Columbia
amid the druid vapor of hemlock forests
and how she did acid so many times she lost count.
Now, she was studying to be a Mormon
like her convert sister and one night
I went with her to one of their meetings
but couldn’t relate to their marble certainties.

After I left the program, I called her
for a while but she played closed mouth.
Finally, I went to visit her in the hospital
where in the fluorescent pallor
with piercing, sienna eyes,
 she asked me to leave.
We were both 28 and liked poetry and the same music
but she didn’t like me that way.

So I drove home that humid evening
with a heartsick condition
under the amber grimacing
of a warm, second-rate beer sun.
Sometime that night, I dreamed
of the travel brochure blue skies
of Seattle and peaks that gleamed
with snow ringing white winged cries.

2015                                          John Gorski
John Gorski was born in Missouri but grew up mainly in Maryland and Ohio. Has a B.A. in English from the University of Cincinnati (1974) and the Writer’s Program and Advanced Poetry Seminar (1993-1995). Has lived in Seattle since 1976. His poetry has appeared in Seattle Poems by Seattle Poets, Paper Boat, Switched on Gutenberg, Art Access, Metro Poetry on the Bus, and Real Change. His book The Ghost of Rationality was published in 2009. See his web site www.thejazzchangesofthesea.com.


The rowboat was there waiting.
Its oars felt good in my hands;
stroke, lift, dip, stroke again.
The whirlpools glide backwards,
chains of bubbles burst
as the boat slides forward
upstream, and cattails stand
stiff as brown soldiers
and the willows bend branches
to kiss the surface that stretches
taut as a silver drum.
Insects with legs fine as silk
weave in and out on trembling ripples
among the purple duckweed.
A waterfall cascades at one end
of the pool, its eddies flow
over gold-colored sand and pebbles
like a mosaic’s painted glass.
In the calm beneath the fall,
minnows swim, balancing
between two elements, sky and river bottom.

The boat beaches on the gravelly shore.
I lie back on the cushions.
In the afternoon silence
warm sun invades all my senses;
moist, green rushes rise from the mud
sending a fragrance like life’s prehistory Eden.
Upstream I found minnows flashing in ripples,
colored pebbles, musical falls, water walkers,
eddies and currents flowing against me.
I’ve discovered new beginnings,
I’m at one with the world.

Margaret Bobalek King


Woodland Refuge

We lay in bed dreaming of deer.
in the cold of November in Hebron, Maine,
my three brothers and I, -- when morning comes
fresh with the scent of wet fields drying in the sun
we load the truck, rifles cleaned and ready,
five pounds of flour, sugar,
bacon, sausages, and the like,
and set off for a week’s hunting in the woods.
I come, too, even though I am not old enough to shoot.
We pass over hills brown with milkweed pods
covered with dried thatch, and red sumac dabs.
We drive by blackberries, bereft of their fruit, hanging in tangles
over crumbling stone walls and know by the map
that we’re halfway there.
Wind whistles chill from a sky filled with ladder clouds.
Drops of water ping on the truck’s roof from last night’s rain.
Remember how the storm pelted this soggy land
when we lay in bed envisioning our ten-point bucks?
Today, we cling to our seats while the pick-up
rocks and humps over ruts in the gravel road.
We splash over a culvert, the stream rushing out on either side,
too cold for trout, till we come to a clearing where the witch’s house,
roof sagging, chimney awry, becomes our woodland refuge
away from closed doors and stuffy houses, the white noise
of a civilized world – away from our citified kin.

James draws bead on a buck and shoots.
The deer goes down in the brush. Tommy jumps on him
holding his skinning knife. Jeff hears the rustling
from the other side of the thicket; he lets off a shot.
“Jeez, you nearly killed me!” Tommy shouts,
and he shakes off his torn jacket.
The bullet had ripped through its padding
just above the arm. “Holy hell! Do I hafta hang out a sign?”
He was red in the face, almost crying.
Jeff, only two years older than me, lays down his gun
on the ground next to the dead deer.
“I wouldn’t have hurt ya, bro. It was an accident.”
Tommy takes a swing at him, saying
“Next time ya could’da killed me.
Next time you stay home. Jacob’s got more sense than you.
Give him the goddamned gun.”
And so I learned to hunt.

Margaret Bobalek King


Walking in Fireweed, a Remembrance
When we climbed the hill together
my old friend and me,
tawny grass close-covering the fields
rippled like a horse’s mane.
We eager hikers clambered up the steep path
through the orchard                  
passing pickers taking apples in sacks
stripping the trees
of Paula Reds and Jersey Macs.

These were early season apples, as you knew.
Leaning upon the lower branch
you observed how
the saplings shot their middle stems
to the sky
as if they had something to prove.
               “Not me!
I’m as ancient as the cider trees
near the fireweed
down here.” you said,
but I blocked my ears.

In winter you passed on, missing this clear
Fall air, these tawny fields
that wave in ripple
patterns like a sorrel pony’s mane
over my dog cruising for quail.
I inhale the fragrance of windfall
apples and think of you leaning
on your branch, pointing
to the apples in the fireweed.  

Thousands of purple blossoms
titillated by the wind,
spring up like armies.
This is the plant that covers
burnt-out land, bringing the balm of green
to desolation, -- it gives back the seed
of what was lost.
This is how I’ll remember you, my friend,
sturdy as old cider trees,
blessed, among the fireweed.  

Margaret Bobalek King
In 1986 Margaret Bobalek King published her first poem in a New York Journal, also publishing poems with Southern Maine Writer’s Project. King started The Creative Women’s Writers’ Group (2004 to present) in southern New Hampshire, was a founding member of The Hyla Brook Poets, which meets at The Robert Frost Farm in Derry, N.H., joined the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared widely in anthologies and journals. She’s won numerous awards from The Poetry Society of New Hampshire (2006-2014), won first prize and $1000.00 for the Naugatuck River 5th Annual Narrative River Review’s Poetry Award (2014), and she was a semifinalist in the Naugatuck River Review’s 7th annual Narrative contest (January 2016). King was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2014.

Don't cry

Because They are Gone
smile Because they were born
And now they are Gone
we are here to Live
so that one day one way
we shall leave
You know Life will take you to your quest
and Put you through a test
Just to remind you that you're a guest
Here on Earth
and if you are reading this know
that you are next
but don't settle for less
Give it your best shot
so the rest shall remember you

Valerie Marie Leslie
Valerie Marie Leslie was born in the San Fernando Valley and grew up on the stage and somewhat in front of the camera: singing, dancing and acting like most residing in Southern California . She was transplanted to Washington State at age 17, where she completed school with a Bachelor’s degree of Music in Theory/Composition . She kept her poetry confined to the darkness of her nightstand... until now. She works a full-time job with a short commute from her home in Bellingham, WA, where she shares a house with her husband and two cats. A hibernating composer and songwriter, Valerie can be found singing harmonies for her singersongwriter husband.

Bear’s Paw Mountains

Before the Cree Indians populated it
and before my German immigrant grandfathers
settled on its surrounding Montana prairie
the mountain range was named Bear’s Paw

Back when legends were birthed
wandering Indians hunted wild animals
on the same surrounding prairie
Camping by Sage and Box Elder Creeks
But boycotting the mountains
because of the many bears there

Finally famine forced one brave hunter
into the mountains in search of food
Returning with a deer draped over his shoulders
a bear pinned the hunter to the ground 
with his huge paw 

Brave One called on the Great Spirit
who rewarded him for courage
and commanded Bear to unhand him
Bear refused, which incited the earth
to quake in Great Spirit’s thundering wrath 
Commanded the heavens to fill with flashes of fury 
and one sacred arrow of fire to sever Bear’s paw
releasing the Brave One

There the paw remains today
in the form of Box Elder Butte
The fault line behind 
marks Great Spirit’s clean cut
And Bear’s bled-out body lies immortal 
in Centennial Mountain’s silhouette 
Head, nose, ears and spinal curve
as plain as the surrounding prairie 
As the daguerreotype portraits
in my grandmothers’ celluloid and velvet albums

Ellaraine Lockie
Winner of numerous awards in poetry, Ellaraine is widely published in the U.S. and internationally, both in hardcopy and online. Her chapbooks include: Blue Ribbons (PWJ Publishing, 2008), Midlife Muse (Poetry Forum's annual chapbook award, 2000), Coloring Outside the Lines (Plowman Press, Canada), Crossing the Center Line (Sweet Annie Press), and Finishing Lines (Snark Publishing). She participates widely in poetry readings and frequently serves as a judge for poetry contests. Ellaraine teaches workshops on poetry and the creative process across the western U.S. She also writes nonfiction books, magazine articles/columns, book reviews, and children's stories. Her book on the history of Buttons is unique.

Rodeo Clown

Baton twirls high-step liftoff
Percussion and brass behind
Tuba bellowing vibrato
Fairgrounds stir awake
Accessorized in crepe streamers
Pennants dancing aloft
Cotton candied faces
Popcorn mouths
Murmurs multiply in anticipation,
Grandstands reverberate
Swell with generational pride
As grievances postpone.

Solitary presence mid arena
Selfless symbol.
Singular face paint mask
Costumed identity
Convex smile
Red bulbous nose
Billowing denim bib overalls
Checkerboard shirt
Bandana, back pocket dangling,
Western toreador
Heartbeat trembling
Prepares and prays.

Slingshot sprung
Brahma explodes
From bucking chute
Nostrils snorting
Unbridled energy unleashed
Cyclone spinning
Rider flailing thrown
Horned bowed head charge
Cowboy bodyguard
Diverting daredevil
Heckling toro to distraction
Anticipatory magician
Darts dashes zigzags
Pivots protects.

John Lysaght


Last Rodeo

Competition dust storm
Returns to earth,
Battering ram bulls have disappeared.
Microphone reverbs its final breath
As din of applauding crowd
Becomes a memory.
Bursts of enjoyment evaporate,
Receding into cemetery stillness.
Festive streamers discarded
Metamorphose to debris.
Fairgrounds are silent.

Bronco buster bullfighter
Calf roper steer wrestler wonder
Youthful marquee
Wowed them.
An ebbing lead daredevil,
Cowboy carer,
Scarred with badges of honor
Gnarled fingers nicotine stained
Barely pinching a cigarette,
Slumps beside his pickup trailer
Reflecting on younger self lost.
Broken body, kindled dreams
Face paint unmasked— 
better known for costumed persona
than for himself—
No one left to protect,
Relevancy punctured
Drips away.

Such a painful mirrored image.
Obsolete, becoming invisible
Feeling hollow,
Like being evicted
From me.
Sadness sequestered
My spirit flickers.
I witness my fragmentation.
What am I to do?

John Lysaght


Sacred Calumet (Chanunpa in Lakota Sioux)

Blessed incense of sweet grass and sage  
Infuses its surrounds and purifies each tribal congregant.
Meditation enswathed in a cocoon of stillness
Bows in genuflect                                                                         
To ceremonial invocations:                                       
Elkskin shaman drum tremolos crescendo,                              
Rolling thunder hoop heartbeats pulsating                              
Aligning inner-selves with the rhythmus of the universe—                  
A chorale`s hypnotic mantra
Interblends the nimble lilting trills
Of eagle bone whistles
With the warble from digital dancers
Playing ash flutes,                                                                                               
A diapason, the melody of an aviary in recital.
As morning`s veil of fog dematerializes,       
A deific apparition manifests
Regaled in ivory buckskin,
White Buffalo Calf Woman,
One with the Sky World,
This visitant, an emissary from the Above Beings,
Cradles the sacred calumet,
Her gift for us.

Reddish quartzite slate, venerated
Quarried from Mother Earth
Sacred elbow bowled Plains pipe,
Portable altar guide toward renewal and balance,
Honey mesquite stemmed
Bead wrapped, deerskin braided, eagle feathered,
Its medicine wheel honoring the Four Directions
Is passed solar sunwise from one to another
Within a hallowed circle, emblem of continuum.
Kinni-Kinnick tobacco smoke plumed prayers,
Milk silken circle topped spirals,
Spoken truth pathways
To the Great Spirit
Stair-step elegantly to heaven
Forming a covenant between the temporal and celestial
Become part of everything.
A paean lauds our interconnectedness,
Our oneness as relatives.

John Lysaght
Poet from Long Island, NY, who received a BA in English and Latin from the University of Scranton and an MSW from Adelphi University. He has long been fascinated with language, the images and sounds of words, and in communication.  He began writing poetry as an undergraduate student at the University of Scranton, graduating in 1968.  While there, he had two poems published in Esprit, its literary journal.  In addition, John lived and worked in lyric plush Ireland for a year in 1973, also volunteering at the Dublin Focus Theatre, wonderful experiences which enhanced his appreciation for the written and spoken word. He is currently a retiree, having had rich experiences as a school teacher, counselor for at-risk youth, therapist for community mental health, foster care worker, social worker and probation officer. John is a poetry contributor to Avocet, A Journal of Nature Poetry, Nomad`s Choir and the Greenwich Village Literary Review. His email is kilfenorajohn67@yahoo.com.

Don't cry

Because They are Gone
smile Because they were born
And now they are Gone
we are here to Live
so that one day one way
we shall leave
You know Life will take you to your quest
and Put you through a test
Just to remind you that you're a guest
Here on Earth
and if you are reading this know
that you are next

but don't settle for less
Give it your best shot
so the rest shall remember you

Xihluke Mlangeni



Through my existence on Earth
I have whistled past the graveyard
I have witnessed so many Death 
But I'm scared ‘cause I might be next
Maybe After the Pain
Along the lane There is Gain
I know God will Wipe away the pain
Maybe there is a reason behind the Sorrow
Maybe maybe we mustn't feel Sorry
Because God Designed the story
and the Pain is included in the storyline
Every moment is always a Goodbye
Always be ready
Because you shall see the sunrise
And never witness the sunset

Xihluke Mlangeni <xihlukemlangeni@gmail.com>
Xeezy be the pseudonym. I grew up in the streets of Burgerdorp
A small  countryside found somewhere around Tzaneen..
Born in a big family of 9,and I was the last born.
Growing up wasn't that tough but was rough 
I started school at Gavaza primary school until I completed my Grade 7 there.Then after  I had to go to Phangasasa to continue with my grade 8 and finally I was in high school.During that time I discovered that I have a gift, a gift to write and reveal my feelings through poetry.
It wasn't easy but I gave it my best shot
On 2012 I was still there in phangasasa to complete my grade 9.
And indeed I did.The following year things were bit loose at home and I got a chance to go and study at Bankuna high school,where 
I got a chance to learn so many things....and as I break  this I'm in grade 11.....and my poetry is getting better and I know success is my nickname and people will call me with it.
It doesn't matter where you come from take me as an example
My background is bad but success shall be served and life will flow once again.
And that is my story 
Every success have a story to be told.

Kind regards, xeezy

The wars come too fast now

War waging in Iraq, again,
religion vs. religion.
Can we call it a Holy War,
with the greater god
reaping the souls
of the losing forces?
There’s no right or wrong,
not once preemptive wars
were now allowed,
for now all is fair in war.
“Mission accomplished.”
My ass, most of US forget,
Where this war came from?
Who it belongs to?
How we now know it was
never won, left smoldering
under the surface,
just waiting for US to leave,
so their gods can clash,
but you must remember,
war is really where
we make our money.
We are a service-oriented
society, ready and willing
to serve up arms
to stop any aggression
taken against our allies.
We haven’t won a war
in quite a while.
The right-wing Warmongers
are ready to pounce upon
any chance, any excuse,
for the right to wage war again,
to strike up the band,
to gather US all in line,
to get US to march in step.
“Claiming to be Christian,
we march like Romans!

Charles Portolano


Time to breathe, again

They have always been here
from the dawning
of our awareness,
always been there for the taking.
Gifts given to be used
over and over
renewed with each new day.
No need to dig,
no need to drill,
no need to scar Mother Earth,
no need to cut her to her core.
They have always been here,
the rush of the wind,
the thrust of flowing water,
the smiling sun warming us,
like a loving father.
No need to dig,
no need to drill,
no need for Mother’s black
blood to seep
from deep within her soul;
blackening our world,
destroying our precious air
we need to breathe, while
making a gaping hole
in our atmosphere,
letting our inside out.
They have always been here;
we need to use them, not abuse
these gifts given.
So there is no need to dig,
no need to drill;
the more we do
the sooner we will kill
our garden of Eden.
Is this the gift
we will leave our children,
a living hell on earth?                                                

Charles Portolano
Charles lives in Fountain Hills, AZ.  He started writing poetry  years ago to celebrate the birth of his daring, darling, daughter Valerie.  He wanted to preserve all the memories of the first time she walked, talked.  Valerie was born with many obstacles to overcome giving him much to write about.  Writing soon became his way of saving his sanity and, then poetry became his way of life.  He has a new collection of poetry out, The little, lingering, white lies we allow ourselves to live with. He is the current editor of Avocet.

My Open Hand

My extended open hand is turned
Palm up
Fingers slightly curled
Silent and still

No shadow
Real or imagined
Darkens my palm
No currency or value

Is clutched in my fingers
Only a heart
Cooled by a north breeze
Rests in my hand

Fingertips welcome the cold
My palm catches occasional flakes of pure white snow
My heart and hand stand
Silent, still, empty and yet full

Full and filled
By a crystalline river
Flowing through the rocks, eddies and ice
Of my being
Then running hot and hard through my heart
Roaring out to you
Before slowly returning
To my open hand

Peter Victor



I will not go along
Or any other way
I will not go
At all

I will go
My way
My own expectations

Being disobedient
Running, against the grain
There is something so utterly
Healthy about it

The outrage
And persecution
What the hell
Was that look, anyway?

A child is laughing
Amid the laughter
And tears
There is important business at hand
I look and ask

Can you pay attention?

The child straightens
Trying unsuccessfully
To wipe the remaining grin
From his face 
With an unbuttoned sleeve

He looks me in the eye
His face flushed
Eyes alight
I give up

And begin grinning myself

It is at that point
My thoughts move to you
The child pulls closer
I hear a soft knowing laugh

I give up
And begin grinning myself

Peter Victor
Peter Victor is a writer, photographer and poet living in Ellsworth, Maine. He traveled abroad extensively with the United States Merchant Marine from 1979 to 1994. Upon retiring from the Merchant Marine he entered the University of Maine in Orono, Maine where he completed a B.S. in Aquaculture and a B.A. in English. His passions are fly-fishing and wilderness canoe trips. Several times a year he can be found on one of Maine’s remote white water rivers with his camera, fly rod and two sons.


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