Why I Support Pascale

Last fall, I made a decision to publicly support a colleague of mine who found herself in imminent danger of being deported. Turns out she was–and still is–an undocumented worker. I’d had no idea. When she was picked up by police at a routine traffic stop, her very private life was almost immediately made public. Her name is Pascale Fusshoeller, and she is the “head geek” at Yubanet.com, my go-to site for news in the Sierra.

Years ago, I was a novice reporter. A volunteer at first, I eventually worked part time for local and regional radio and print outlets. On occasion, when a big local story was in the works, I’d show up at a Nevada County Board of Supervisors’ meeting. Sometimes my boss would attend instead. Whichever of us was there, we’d see Pascale. She attended the meetings every week–whether something important was on the agenda or not. She was usually sitting alone in the press box. Frequently during those meetings I’d become lost, not having the context a diligent reporter should have. I’d lean over and ask her for a translation. She always offered it with no drama or slant–just the 411 in few words so she could keep paying attention. I doubt she knew it, but she was like a mentor to me. Studying her, I learned how to be a better reporter.

Eventually I realized I was not cut out for that job, and I went back to teaching English at the local college. Although Yubanet has no paywall, I subscribed to it to support her efforts. I visited Yubanet’s site or Facebook page almost daily, and during fire season, several times a day. In all the months of being acquainted with her, we’d never had a personal conversation, and I had no idea of her circumstances. I only knew she was the best reporter I’d ever come across.

A journalist from the local paper let me know about Pascale’s arrest last fall, and that evening–in a scary fit of compulsion and outrage–I started a Facebook support page for her. Within minutes, others in the community stepped forward to run the page with me. Within hours, hundreds had liked the page and pledged to support her. When we found that ICE was holding her in solitary confinement and fast tracking her deportation, many of us changed our profile pictures to read “Free Pascale”. People labored on many fronts to free her, and it worked. ICE released her and later dropped its order of deportation. Pascale, now legally married to a U.S.citizen who has been her partner for 15 years, is working on the paperwork for her green card.

Pascale was released on a Tuesday, if I remember correctly. Exhausted and traumatized, she still insisted on seeing and thanking those of us who had helped her stay in the country. She was anxious to get Yubanet up and running again, and indeed, at five the next morning, her coverage recommenced. More than ever, she said, she was committed to serving our community. Since she was already a devoted public servant, it was hard to imagine her ratcheting it up. And yet she did.

Some in our community were upset that we didn’t rally for every undocumented worker as we did for Pascale, and their point is well taken. Perhaps my motivations were selfish–I didn’t want my favorite news outlet to disappear. My motivations were definitely personal, since I’d worked with Pascale before. Many wrote into our page that she should be deported because she was violent and on the pubic dole–both of these are the complete opposite of the truth. Instead of taking from our community and our nation she has for fifteen years peacefully contributed to it by founding and running Yubanet, which is nationally known for its cutting edge coverage of wild fires in the Sierra. Others who called for her deportation cited her as flakey for not marrying sooner. Fortunately, today, we are increasingly aware that sexual orientation is not a choice. Pascale married her partner as soon as DOMA was overturned. Spend five minutes perusing Yubanet.com and you will see how far from flakey this woman is.

What does it take to beat ICE? It takes a community to stand behind you, a spouse who is a U.S. citizen, and, let’s not forget, a couple good lawyers who don’t come cheap. Pascale’s predicament left her and her wife in considerable debt, which is why we who have supported her have gone into fundraising mode. I want Pascale’s legal debt retired and a green card in her pocket. Towards this end, her supporters are producing a huge fundraiser this Sunday, January 5. We named the event “Yay! Pascale!” not only to celebrate ICE’s removal of the deportation order, but to celebrate Pascale’s contribution to our community through Yubanet.

I have said several times that my decision to support Pascale has held many blessings for me. The greatest of these is that she and I have become friends, which is always a thrill for a novice who once looked up to her mentor from a distance. For fifteen years, Pascale has paid it forward to our community, to our firefighters, to U.S. citizens in the Sierra. Now it’s our turn to help her as she continues to be the public servant she wants to be. Come to the Miners’ Foundry in downtown Nevada City on January 5 from 2-6. Enjoy the music and the food and the company. Pick up something you might need at the auction. Marvel at the extent of support for this humble, private woman. And if you use Yubanet.com, become a real reader. Pay for what you use. Invest in the best reporter I’ve ever known.

Pascale (left) and her wife Susan, founders of Yubanet, immediately after Pascale's release.

Pascale (left) and her wife Susan, founders of Yubanet, immediately after Pascale’s release.

Bob Crabb's cartoon in the local paper after Pascale's release.

Bob Crabb’s cartoon in the local paper after Pascale’s release.

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Filed under Community, Essays, politics

Lost Near Brandy City

“Old photographs turn yellow, and times they come and go.
But we can still do the boogie from the High Plains to Mexico.
Some old angel from Amarillo must be helpin’ us to hold it on the road.
” Terry Allen from “Flatland Boogie”

One of my favorite pastimes is to head into the mountains with my husband and my dog. We call these day trips “back yard days”. During the school year they are few and far between, but we’ve treated ourselves to a three or four adventures this summer: kayaking at Bowman Lake and Sand Harbor, and our annual pilgrimage, traveling the back road to Casey’s Place in Alleghany. We had one destination left on our list, though, and we headed there on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Last spring we tried to make it to Brandy City Pond, which we’d visited five years before, but a snow bank on a north slope turned us around. Brandy City is off of Highway 49 on Forest Service Road 491–on the way to Downieville. On August 31 we headed up there again, looking for good old road 491-6 that leads right to the eerie mining tailings pond we like to hike around. We missed the road, somehow. We were talking I guess. We tend to reminisce on these trips; the conversation is always good. Soon we found ourselves with several road like strips of land to choose from. Near Roads, I call them. The first one we took led to the former townsite of Brandy City.

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We hiked around there for awhile, feeling far from a pond, sure we had to be close but not feeling anywhere near a tailings drainage. Finally we headed back to what we thought was road 491 and headed down the next Near Road.

Brush and tree limbs slapped our windows as we ambled down this near road in search of Brandy City Pond.

Brush and tree limbs slapped our windows as we ambled down this Near Road in search of Brandy City Pond.

Fortunately we were paying attention. The road ended abruptly at this cliff–about a 300 foot drop.

No signs, no warnings on this Near Road. Just a lethal drop waiting for the unsuspecting.

No signs, no warnings on this Near Road. Just a lethal drop waiting for the unsuspecting.

We carefully backed out of there and headed back down what was road 491, but had become road 39. We turned around, finally, and were full circle.

Road 39 ends and, in theory, road 491 begins?

Road 39 ends and, in theory, road 491 begins?

We were beginning to wonder exactly where we were, and how a pond we once drove right to was now so hard to find. One more Near Road to explore, and we headed down it.

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We got out when the road turned to a path, and began to look around some more. We saw this sign that had been uprooted by someone and tossed on the side of the Near Road.

No kidding.  Ye Olde Tacoma did fine, though.

No kidding. Ye Olde Tacoma did fine, though.

I heard Jack’s voice from 50 feet away or so. “Whoa…..” He’d found something, and I headed up the path his way.

We figured this hand carved sign is from the late 20th century. It reads: Brandy City Cemetery.

We figured this hand carved sign is from the late 20th century. It reads: Brandy City Cemetery.

We explored the cemetery for awhile, finding mostly graves from the 1860s and 1880s.
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Then we saw these two cylinders, which we imagine hold ashes.

The tiny markers on top of these cylinders bear the year 1992.

The tiny markers on top of these cylinders bear the year 1992.

We talked awhile about who might have chosen to be buried here about 100 years after their neighbors. Since Brandy City saw a renaissance in the early 1900s, we figured maybe two people born here had chosen to rest here. It is a lovely cemetery with sweet energy. I mentioned returning for a picnic some day, and it took Jack a while to realize I was not kidding.

Still, no sign of Brandy City Pond, so we headed out to the main road 491 to retrace our steps. Then we saw the sign we’d missed.

You can see "491-6" in small print. Ironically, this road was actually maintained, with gravel and brush clearing and all the amenities.

You can see “491-6″ in small print. Ironically, this road was actually maintained, with gravel and brush clearing and all the amenities.

The pond was just a few hundred feet past, and was as eerily pretty as we remembered.

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Here you can see the hydrauiic mining scars from the heyday of Brandy City.

Here you can see the hydrauiic mining scars from the heyday of Brandy City.

Jack noticed, as he had years ago, that there are no birds at the pond. Some insects here and there. Elvis waded a minute and took a sip, but after that had no interest. Because there is little wildlife, the scene is especially quiet.

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A particularly skanky part of Brandy City Pond.

A particularly skanky part of Brandy City Pond.

Since it was Labor Day weekend, the North Fork of the Yuba had been crowded with campers. We were the only visitors here though. We walked the one mile loop trail, which is marked “easy” in the hiking books. Were the trail well maintained, it would be.

We walked with care over this dilapidated bridge.

We walked with care over this dilapidated bridge.

A close up of the scarred landscape.  The legacy of hydraulic mining.

A close up of the scarred landscape. The legacy of hydraulic mining.

We had a snack and drink and headed home to what we’d find there: the Tyler Fire and our neighbors fearing for their homes and safety. “You know,” I said. “The most fun part about today was getting lost in Brandy City.” “Ain’t that often the way,” Jack mused, and we were quiet awhile before we started reminiscing again.

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Filed under Back Yard Days, Mining, photographs

The Swollen San Pedro

“It pleases me, loving rivers.” Raymond Carver

The San Pedro is one of two rivers which flows north from Mexico into the United States. Its headwaters are in Sonora and it flows about 150 miles from there to its confluence with the Gila River. It is the last major, free flowing, undammed river in the American Southwest. Being used to all three forks of the magnificent Yuba, I was unimpressed when I first met the San Pedro. I soon developed an appreciation, however, even when it was just a trickle.

The San Pedro in June 2013.

The San Pedro about a month ago–June 2013.

A few weeks into monsoon season, I visited the San Pedro again. I’ve never seen it like this. When I was still a few hundred yards away I could hear its roar–a sound I’d never heard before from this river. I spent the early morning navigating its slippery banks, feeling the thirsty cottonwoods breathe their thanks.

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Filed under Abbey Country, photographs

A Long Way from Anarchy

Utah Phillips described anarchy the way I see it: anarchy is not needing a cop to tell you what to do.

One of my exes used to tell me to “be nice” when I stood up for myself or for someone else. It took me awhile to realize that “nice” meant “doormat”, and I went on my way. I thought of that yesterday in the express line at a grocery store.

This isn’t my “regular” grocery store; it’s a store I visit just to buy Mexican soda and the occasional bottle of booze. My son and I were headed there since it was near the car wash. This particular time, rum was in my cart because mojitos were on the menu. I looked at the long lines at the checkout, and saw that the express line–15 items or less– was the shortest. I stopped. I counted. Thirteen. I got in line.

I noticed the woman two ahead of me in line, who was checking out. I was too far away to count the exact number of items, but there were more than 15. Then the woman in front of me started unloading her cart.

There comes a time when you stand up for something. For me, at different times, that’s meant protesting against poison disguised as food. It’s meant feeling handcuffs around my wrists–and later the estrangement of members of my family–because I protested a war. Yesterday it meant sticking up for anarchy.

I’m not sure what came over me.

I started counting. Softly. Aloud.

Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen…..

“Do you want to go in front of me?” the woman asked in a controlled, snarly way, turning toward me.

“Not at this point,” I said with a smile, since she’d already unloaded the contents of her cart. “It does defeat the purpose of the express line, though.”

Anarchy is not chaos. It is not violence. It is doing the right thing at the right time because it helps everyone. It is policing ourselves. It is staying on the correct side of the highway when there isn’t a state trooper around. It is honoring an inherent agreement about the number of items allowed in the express lane.

The woman and I did not speak again.

As I slowly inched up the motorized beltway, I turned behind me to count (silently this time) the items of the woman behind me. I stopped at 22. When it was finally my turn, the check-out woman asked me how I was.

“Grateful,” I said, “for my superior education. I am the only person in this line who can count to 15.”

She smiled slowly, gratefully, and rolled her eyes. “All day long it’s like this,” she said in a low voice. “I just keep my head down and check out groceries.”

“Don’t get paid enough to fight that battle?” I asked her. Our eyes locked in mutual appreciation.

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The bill came to even dollars and a few cents, but I was out of change. I asked my son if he had forty-four cents. I knew he did because I’d already raided his change when we vacuumed the car.

“I can’t let you do that,” the check-out woman said. “He’s not 21. Since you purchased alcohol, I’d have to void the sale.”

“Even though he’s handing it to me? Even though we bought non alcohol items too?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. She made her voice low again. “Isn’t that ridiculous?”

“Well” I said, handing her a twenty, “we need ridiculous laws when most people can’t count to 15.”

She smiled and nodded as she handed me my change.

“You made that woman in front of you mad,” my son said as we headed to the car.

I thought of all the people I’ve made mad in my life because I’ve stood up for things. The number of items on the motorized beltway may seem petty to some, but not to me. Not yesterday.

If we can’t count to 15–if we can’t be fair and honor agreements and act with a sense of justice in the grocery store–how can we hope to keep the poison out of our food or the drones out of the sky? How can we assume we’ll stay on the correct side of the road?

We have to start somewhere. And maybe, sometimes, we have to worry less about being nice, about being liked. That could mean finding our courage on a police line–or making a seemingly insignificant wave on a motorized beltway.

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Filed under Essays, Polemics

Flight Delay

The neat thing about a flight delay is that you get to know the community that exists on any commercial plane. The grandma from Kansas, traveling with her grandboys to see her son, their father. The woman up all night gambling in Vegas. The businessman who had a beer next to me in a bar. The wheeler-dealer woman on two cell phone calls at once. I would never have seen any of them. One hundred eighty stories on every flight. Blessings in connection. Boarding now for Sacramento, finally. Can’t wait to get home.

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June on the San Pedro River

The San Pedro River and San Pedro House are a short drive from my mom’s home in Sierra Vista. On the early morning I visited, a couple dozen birders were also roaming about. High Country News recently reported on the San Pedro, saying this last free river of the Southwest is facing new dangers from development and the ground wells it would bring. When I visit again next month I’ll return and see if the monsoon season has left its mark yet. Someday I hope to see this river rushing. I hope the San Pedro’s neighbors and stewards help save it from extinction.

The path leads from San Pedro House to the San Pedro River, which winds around these cottonwoods.

The path leads from San Pedro House to the San Pedro River, which winds around these cottonwoods.

Animal and plant identification has never been my strong suit.  Who knows the name of this flower? Is it a prickly poppy?

Animal and plant identification has never been my strong suit. Who knows the name of this flower?

Or this?  It looks like a callalliy.

Or this? It looks like a calla lily. Thanks Ann Stone for identifying it as datura.

Or this?

Or this?

This time of year, the river looks more like an irrigation ditch.

This time of year, the river looks more like an irrigation ditch.

This driftwood will be underwater once the monsoons come.

This driftwood will be underwater once the monsoons come.

This reminds me of the yarrow in northern Cali.

This reminds me of the yarrow in northern Cali.

Melon? Squash?  Wild Gourd?

Melon? Squash? Wild?

The water appears stagnant at places like these.

The water appears stagnant at places like these.

The wispy June San Pedro.

The wispy June San Pedro.

Here you can see a hint of current.

Here you can see a hint of current.

Reduced to a trickle, still full of life.

Reduced to a trickle, still full of life.

Not an appealing dipping pool....

Not an appealing dipping pool….

Sunshine through the cottonwoods....

Sunshine through the cottonwoods….

Add to this image a cacophony of bird calls.

Add to this image a cacophony of bird calls.

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The short walk back to San Pedro House....

The short walk back to San Pedro House….

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Filed under Abbey Country, photographs

Just Up The Road

Since mid December, we’ve been snowed under. When it stopped snowing it got cold, and our two feet plus froze in to a sheet of ice that’s still lingering on much of our land. And next week, more snow. We’ve taken advantage of this warm weather window to do some brush clearing and clean-up where we could. And then last Saturday, we realized how long it had been. Way past time for a Back Yard Day. We packed up Elvis the dog, a bag of mandarins, and our pure well water in our stainless Old Republic beer canteen, and headed up Highway 49. Our plan was to find Brandy Creek up in the North Fork Yuba drainage. Just out of town we stopped at an old bridge we love. Not too long ago we could drive over it, but those days are gone.

Oregon Creek Bridge

Hard to believe we used to drive across this to get to closer to Strawberry Hole.  Don't know if we'd chance it now.

Hard to believe we used to drive across this to get to closer to Strawberry Hole. Don’t know if we’d chance it now.

River defenders abound.  Despite the tagging, most of us love and care for our river.

River defenders abound. Despite the tagging, most of us love and care for our river.

We spoke for awhile with a father and his grown son, who was autistic and could not speak. Watching the father’s loving way with his man-son filled me with hope and admiration. We headed up to Brandy City, off the Cal Ida road, but underestimated the amount of snow. We drove up Road 25 toward Cherokee Creek, but were stopped again. Undaunted, still thrilled with the day off, we turned around and ended up back at our favorite rapid on the North Fork–Maytag.

The walk in to Maytag, with Elvis blazing the trail.

The walk in to Maytag, with Elvis blazing the trail.

"The hole"--Maytag Rapid on the North Fork of the Yuba

“The hole”–Maytag Rapid on the North Fork of the Yuba

It seemed like months since it was just the two of us in the truck–well, three counting Elvis–with nothing on our agenda but the beauty of our back yard. We found it more crowded than usual, probably because so many of the side roads were still inaccessible. We ended up at Peterson’s, our favorite road house, where we crashed the end of a shower for a baby named Eddie. They still fed us and fed us well.

The view from our favorite table at Peterson's.

The view from our favorite table at Peterson’s.


A quick stop at Mother Trucker’s to pick up some dessert and we were home. We’d really just been around a long block in the nabe, but we felt refreshed, luckier than lambs in clover to live on the west slope of the Sierra.

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Filed under Back Yard Days, photographs

Sandhills on My Horizon

Each spring and fall, sandhill cranes migrate over our home on the west slope of the Sierra.  Like so many of my friends and neighbors, I run outside to hear their calls and witness their grace.  So, imagine my delight on vacation here in Abbey  Country, when my friends Sheri Williamson and Tom Wood, who run the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, asked me if I’d like to take a drive and see sandhills in their “loafing place”–Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near the Mexican border in Cochise County, Arizona. I met up with them on a cold, clear day in Bisbee. Snow had dusted the town the night before.

The cranes leave this loafing area around dawn to go feed miles away.  Here, we can see them on the distant horizon as they return to rest and digest their meal.

The cranes leave this loafing area around dawn to go feed miles away. Here, we can see them on the distant horizon as they return to rest and digest their meal.

The Whitewater Draw is in a riverless basin. The water is accumulated rain water from  the last monsoon season. The cranes bathe in it and use the water to soften the corn in their crops--corn they gleaned earlier in the day over 10 miles away.

The Whitewater Draw is in a riverless basin. The water is accumulated rain water from the last monsoon season. The cranes bathe in it and use the water to soften the corn in their crops–corn they gleaned earlier in the day over 10 miles away.

The viewing deck is quite a distance from the cranes; the only close up view is with a scope.  Here's my attempt to take a photo through the scope.  Not elegant, but at least you can get an idea of what they look like up close.

The viewing deck is quite a distance from the cranes; the only close up view is with a scope. Here’s my attempt to take a photo through the scope. Not elegant, but at least you can get an idea of what they look like up close.

Each day, dozens of people come to visit the cranes, ducks, geese, falcons, hawks, and doves that frequent the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area.  Here, Sheri and Tom adjust their scope for this young birdwatcher.

Each day, dozens of people come to visit the cranes, ducks, geese, falcons, hawks, and doves that frequent the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area. Here, Sheri and Tom adjust their scope for this young birdwatcher.

Through her work at Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, Sheri teaches hundreds of children each year.

Through her work at Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, Sheri teaches hundreds of children each year.

The cranes rest and digest near the ducks, with whom they live in harmony. The crane's most significant predator is the eagle.

The cranes rest and digest near the ducks, with whom they live in harmony. The crane’s most significant predator is the eagle.

Noon approaches and more birdwatchers arrive. Sheri spontaneously fields questions and offers fascinating bits of information.  For instance, within the huge flocks, the sandhills travel in family pods of three or four birds. Sadly, if a youngster is orphaned, he or she will not be adopted by other adults.

Noon approaches and more birdwatchers arrive. Sheri spontaneously fields questions and offers fascinating bits of information. For instance, within the huge flocks, the sandhills travel in family pods of three or four birds. Sadly, if a youngster is orphaned, he or she will not be adopted by other adults.

Tom explains to fellow birdwatchers about the daily migration of the cranes from the cornfield--their feeding place--to Whitewater Draw--their loafing area.

Tom explains to fellow birdwatchers about the daily migration of the cranes from the cornfield–their feeding place–to Whitewater Draw–their loafing area.

More and more cranes kept arriving.  Tom estimated there were about 10,000 cranes on the ground and in the air. Each crane consumes a pound of corn a day.

More and more cranes kept arriving. Tom estimated there were about 10,000 cranes on the ground and in the air. Each crane consumes a pound of corn a day.

The cranes will feed and loaf in Cochise County until midwinter, when they will begin their migrations. Some will travel as far as Siberia.  These aren't the cranes that pass over my house in the Sierra, Tom says.  Those sandhills winter in California's central valley.

The cranes will feed and loaf in Cochise County until midwinter, when they will begin their migrations. Some will travel as far as Siberia. These aren’t the cranes that pass over my house in the Sierra, Tom says. Those sandhills winter in California’s central valley.

Reluctantly we left Whitewater Draw a bit after noon, stopping on the way to glimpse some doves camouflaged in the brush, then to attempt to photograph elusive Merlins and hawks. “We’ll have to come back tomorrow,” Sheri said to Tom, “for a hawk stalk.” For twenty five years they have been visiting here, first when they were stewards of the Ramsey Canyon Nature Preserve, and now as administrators of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory–SABO. For more information about their work, or to make a contribution to SABO, visit them at www.sabo.org.

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Filed under Abbey Country, photographs

Tis The Season

I’m republishing this with a dedication this year to Susan Nance of Nevada City for her ‘”Pay It Forward for the Holidays” project. You can find it on Facebook.

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Homecoming

This poem first appeared in the 1987 Suisun Valley Review under the title “Innocence and the Bulbs”.

My peach zippered-down formal crackled
As you reached in, finding my back,
Fumbling with my Norform AA bra strap.
My back was all you dared to touch
That October Homecoming night.

I lay with my head on your knee
Your broad hand stroking my curling-iron curls
I needed a mother more than a lover as I
Took my first step toward that other world.

You drove me home in silence, and
It was a week before our eyes could meet.

Months later, in the front seat of your mother’s
Lincoln Continental, we tried again, and failed.
Our humiliation drowned our love
We changed hallway routes to Zoology
Found different petting partners.

Years later, on a San Francisco Muni bus,
We laughed at coincidence and fate.
Our eyes still clung with that
Gravity of first lust.

Hours later, undressing on my Murphy bed,
You promised to be a different man.

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