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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oulipost # 30: Patchwork Quilt - redux

Grocery Lists, Bad News & Poetry

once upon a time it was the last
big bang--post-apocalyptic.

I didn’t want to go back touching
to bring good luck inside a Hallmark card--

that vagrant parrot, a player in middle management.
there’s nothing practical left to do:

haunt artistic lines.
Rose Kiting: how good the fury.

be your own person: misunderstood--
the tasty times are rare

commons married with air:
charming quiet paranoia.

demand more than sewers,
dog excrement, art & a bag

weeping monsters.
sweat the small stuff.

peek, seek all.
it isn't lost in the mailbox.

we are kind of regulated in impromptu instances.
the your is actually you--

enthusiastic about vocal sounds:
up up up.

your name, your intelligence, your beauty—
none of that fucking matters.

Elaboration – this time with lines from my own poems over 29 days. i  jigged a bit to make things fix. that’s it. thank you & good night.

Oulipost # 30: Patchwork Quilt

Notes from the Last Clerk’s Cupboard

I misname a nobody who harvests facts[1]
unbound papers and text-based biographies[2]

everyone hoards his parts — insides & everything, kicking[3]
they aren’t thundering up an aisle[4]

he’s a curse. they thrilled you[5]
remove our fingertips from your bones[6], kisses from the elbow[7]

forget about a blank wall[8]: we do not want to die[9]
frequent  displacements do not require optional indifferences[10]

we asked her if she’s loose-leafed[11]
you aren’t a woman without the high silence[12]

an angel does not die slowly from modesty[13]
unlike the place where you were an old woman[14]

a mansion is frozen to a sky, coming together[15]
a reality of utopia growing — introversion disappears[16]

an airy outdoors gladness gives you[17]
below an ear this ebb[18]

here is less than drained praise[19]
the decreasing need to stay adults alone[20]

common division of ease: moon-night, day[21]
In chains of iron and a helmet of red[22]

sailing for the quiet of open spaces[23]
vanishes after the feel of them[24]

their own flower wishes[25]
a quiet compliment left at exactly 2 a.m.[26]

a closing end is a virtuous, ethereal end[27]
no trouble outside hell[28]

like a starfish at work[29]
I don’t know how to give up[30]


Conclude the project by writing a poem that incorporates the words and lines from all of your past 29 poems.


For this last exercise, I have cheated hook, line & sinker, all out. I haven’t used lines from my own poems but from the poems of my fellow Ouliposters as a way of paying homage to their work. [Note to Ouliposters whose lines I have stolen…I have removed the occasional word to make your text fit with the whole or in the hole, if you prefer.] All of the lines have been purloined from the Antonymy exercise. The brilliant, inventive & surprising poetry that this exercise generated was very satisfying to experience, both as a reader & a writer. 

The title of the poem comes from my own Antonymy poem in which I wrote about the opposite of the Prime Minister’s Office.

I have had the great fortune of working elbow to elbow with fantastically inventive poets for the month of April. heroically they wrote poems in response to difficult constraints, including those fussy old monsters: Mother Time & Father Nature. We were fortunate to have the guidance of Jenni Baker, Beth Ayer, & Doug Luman of the Found Poetry Review, or as I like to call him, Angel Luman, for his marvelous tools & spreadsheets that saved time & were fun to play with. 

Thanks to the newspapers who unwittingly provided me with source material: the Ottawa Citizen from Monday to Saturday, & the Ottawa Sun on Sundays. This month-long exercise inspired me to read parts of the paper which I do not normally read: the Driving section, Sports, Classified Ads, the Astrology section. It was a revelation, especially the Driving section on Fridays, which was full of colourful language.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. I wasn’t expecting to connect poetically with a variety of poets from all over the place. I don’t know what I was expecting really, but I have to say that the best part of this exercise has been the people. Poets from Kenya, Canada & Texas, Wales & Italy, Toronto & Arizona, Utah & Louisiana, Ottawa, of course, Brooklyn & Montreal, New Jersey & Carleton Place, to name a few. Thanks to the Found Poetry Review, all the participants & those of you who read these offerings, who commented & who gave me encouragement throughout the process. It has been, as the kids say, a slice.

Take a look at the work of my fellow Ouliposters for the last time for this project, but if you like their work, perhaps you'd like to follow them.

SOURCES {Sorcerers & Sorceresses}

[1] Barbara Crary –  Saying the Opposite
[2] Elizabeth Evans McNabb –  Tragic Unbound Papers
[3] Doug Luman –  the Living Hymnal
[4] Mary Sexson –  Nobody Funerals Stay High-Lock
[5] Raymond Cummings –  False Lateral
[6] Melanie Wilson –  Everyone’s Sober Aunt
[7] Jody Rich –  the Abbatoir in the Ocean
[8] Jennifer Hamilton –  Good, Good Yorel Blue
[9] Lillian Necakov –  Condemned Non-Republic
[10] Matthew Trease –  An oft-occuring  composure departs before brief existences
[11] Nancy Long –  For a death of us
[12] Carol A. Stephen –  A Silence Out of Mid-Summer
[13] Kristina McDonald –  Threat Assessment – A Triptych
[14] Sonja Johanson –  Specific Artifice
[16] Margo Roby –  untitled
[17] Jenni Baker –  untitled
[18] Ngawang Pema –  a most bizarre fish
[19] Lylanne Musselman –  Detroit Is Dangerous Already
[20] Roxanna Bennett –  Not the Stuff of Headlines
[21] Richard Thompson –  wellness departs from beneficent infinity
[22] Kate Moore –  l├ęgion d’horreur
[23] Winston Plowes –  Come Back Smooth-Wood
[24] Joseph Harker –  Pine Barren Rangers Raise Outcry over Hunting Permits
[25] Andrea Dickens –  Invasive Species
[26] Andrew Sargus Klein –  A Cataloguing of Sainthood
[27] Trish Hopkinson –  Flat Sunset
[28] Mildred Achoch –  untitled
[29] Thomas Hintze –  Not A Lion
[30] Marty Elwell –  Mantra

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oulipost # 29 Canada Dry

once upon a time it was the last big bang
once upon a time the sky turned black as the funnel cloud closed in
once upon a time it entered the red chamber
once upon a time among enemy lines
once upon a time at an auto-parts warehouse
once upon a time there were card tricks, sleights of hand
once upon a time the holy grail was no more than a fiction
once upon a time another country
once upon a time inside a community shelter
once upon a time given the brutality
once upon a time literally threw the book
once upon a time this was more than a farce
once upon a time will have to wait
once upon a time a wall of riot police
once upon a time it soaked up the pristine beauty in a lakefront hotel
once upon a time a common refrain
once upon a time an inner circle
once upon a time it killed its original proposals
once upon a time albeit with the caveat
once upon a time on condition of anonymity
once upon a time doesn’t play much baseball
once upon a time a crackdown
once upon a time a formal announcement
once upon a time the swaggering crowd
once upon a time you’re going to be replaced
once upon a time impregnated with bad optics
once upon a time a fresh eruption of abuse
once upon a time remained silent


The name of this procedure is taken from the soft drink marketed as “the champagne of ginger ales.” The drink may have bubbles, but it isn’t champagne. In the words of Paul Fournel, who coined the term, a Canada Dry text “has the taste and color of a restriction but does not follow a restriction.” (A musical example is Andrew Bird’s “Fake Palindromes.”)  Be creative, and write a poem sourced from your newspaper that sounds like it’s been Oulipo-ed, but hasn’t.


Press, Jordan. “Tory Senators still plan to leave early.” the Ottawa Citizen. 29 April 2014. A1.
Reevely, David. “Wynne pledges $2.5B for businesses. Ibid. A1.
Butler, Don. “The call of the Wi-Fi.” Ibid. A1.
Leslie, Keith. the Canadian Press. “Liberals used fake deficit figures: Progressive Conservatives.” Ibid. A2.
Kennedy, Mark. WITH FILES FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS. “Elections act deadline ‘farce’: NDP.” Ibid. A3.
THE CANADIAN PRESS. “Prentice to seek Alberta Tory helm. Ibid. A3.
Goodman, Lee-Ann. THE CANADIAN PRESS. “Foreign workers file bedevils Kenney.” Ibid. A4.
Fisher, Matthew. POSTMEDIA NEWS. “Ukrainian separatists split heads at rally.” Ibid. A6.
Salter Jim and Demillo, Andrew. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. “‘Run! Run! It’s coming!’ And then all hell broke loose.” Ibid. A6.


I created a fairy tale from a variety of sources. I changed a few pronouns. I haven’t started drinking ginger ale yet but Canada Dry is my ginger ale of choice. Schweppes tastes like wet cardboard.

For my fellow Ouliposters takes visit the Found PoetryReview.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Oulipost # 28 – Melting Snowball



Simpson, Peter. “Galleries on the move. “ the Ottawa Citizen. 28 April 2014. D1.

Langston, Patrick. “Evolution Theatre wins top Rideau prize.” Ibid. D2.

POSTMEDIA NEWS. “Aliens stars gather to celebrate sci-fi classic.” Ibid. D3.


A text in which each word has one letter less than the preceding one, and the last word only one letter. From your newspaper, select a starting word, and then continue adding words of decreasing length from the same source article or passage. Challenge yourself further by only using words in order as you encounter them in the text.


I couldn’t use just one source for this one because I couldn’t find enough long words to stay in sequence. I would have ended up moving from the 16-character “post-apocalyptic” to the 13-character “self-portrait.” Besides, it was just more interesting to blend articles on different subjects. The Arts section was ideal for this assignment because the language was colourful. Note that instead of just counting letters, I counted all characters, including the hyphen. I haven’t had much sleep, I’ve come down with a cold. I found counting letters impossible. I used, sorted the list according to length & chose words, then pasted them into Excel & used the Len function, which returns the number of characters in a text string. Some kind fellow Ouliposter whose name escapes me taught me that earlier this month. Thank you, kind Ouliposter! Apparently I can’t count more than the  number of fingers I have on my own.

See more snowballs melt over here.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Oulipost #27: Irrational Sonnet

The man only wants to be identified as Jay
I don’t want to go back to having to score it on the street, let’s put it that way
with full uniform deployment for visibility

it’s not the rates, it’s the delivery charge that’s killing us
several young people participated in a live interactive digital graffiti
Council will be voting on a motion to oppose the bill on Wednesday
going hungry every day is not OK:
take part in a variety of activities

the Clean Energy Bill is costing us

they’re gonna close up the books, if they have to keep up with this
Webhead and Electro face off in new Spidey flick
after the city’s snowiest
groups learn about poverty and injustice
it isn’t something that hits you like a ton of bricks


Create a 14-line sonnet sourced from lines from your newspaper that is divided according to the first five digits of the irrational number pi – that is, into stanzas of 3, 1, 4, 1 and 5 lines. As with the preceding sonnet assignment (see April 14) you may interpret “sonnet” as formally or as loosely as you wish.


Helmer, Aedan “Chiarelli on Hot Seat” the Ottawa Sun e-dition. 27 April 2014. 3.
Carruthers, Dale. QMI Agency “Medical Pot Users Left Hanging by Recall.” Ibid. 6.
Taylor, Sarah. “Finding Your Real Self.” Ibid. 8.
QMI Agency. “Groups rip Tory election bill.” Ibid. 9.
Author unknown. “These kids a ‘fast’ bunch.” Ibid. 12.
QMI Agency. “Japan diet will add to life.” Ibid. 13.
Author unknown. “Worst weather ever.” Ibid. 18.
Editorial Board. “Wynne Zaps Us Again On Electricity.” Ibid. 20.


The Oulipo Compendium goes on to specify a rhyming scheme as part of the supplementary rules for the form. I tried that, but I was sometimes satisfied with near rhyme & I certainly didn’t try to keep with a specific number of syllables as suggested.

The OC stipulates four rhymes distributed as follows:


which I’ve done this way:

Jay/Way/visibility; us; graffiti/Wednesday/OK/activities; us; this/flick/snowiest/injustice/bricks.

it doesn’t come off as very rhymey. also with this break up, I don’t see any turn possible.

another great source offered to understand this irrational sonnet form by fellow Ouliposter Nancy Long is Intersections – Poetry withMathematics. I find the sample irrational sonnets offered in both the OC & on this site to be much more regular in meter & rhyme than what I’ve created here from the paper. also I admit to not trying very hard to make some kind of uniform topic, but I’m ok with that.  I did a few small alterations to make the lines fit with each other, such as removing a “who” from the initial quote I used for line 1. took out the words hydro from the first single line.

as always, check out the work of my fellow Ouliposters here.

we're in the home stretch, as the saying goes. just wait until you see what's coming...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Oulipost # 26: Beautiful Outlaw (la Belle Absente)


R          the land of love that has no equal; good luck and a happy love life, he explained
Juliet's bust is showing signs: messages on the walls of the Piazza

O         the New Zealanders and Belgians camping in the queue in the archway
experience the alive Juliet Capulet as canned-fruit and bakeries

M        as a Verona experience, Juliet's bronze b cup can be equally  fondled
in the background of the world

E          touching to bring good luck below; manhandling has taken its toll
an invitation: box a: simply quit your piazza job

O         and after in the light a city belly dancing with Juliet
parties with cakes in chambers quite a relevant experience in the Piazza


The outlaw in question is the name of the person (or subject) to whom the poem is addressed. Each line of the poem includes all the letters of the alphabet except for the letter appearing in the dedicated name at the position corresponding to that of the line: when writing a poem to Eva, the first line will contain all letters except E, the second all letters except V, and the third all letters except A.

Choose someone mentioned in your newspaper to whom to address your poem. Compose a beautiful outlaw poem following the procedure outlined above and using words sourced from your newspaper text.


Pilley, Kevin. POSTMEDIA NEWS. “Juliet’s Verona.” the Ottawa Citizen. 26 April 2014. J1.


I needed all the tools in  my arsenal for this. I used Doug Luman’s wonderful Belle Absente spreadsheet (pictured above), coupled with & Control F, the find feature of my Chrome browser.

the lines were so long, I made couplets. i added my own connecting transitions, but i'm pretty sure i could find such in the newspaper somewhere.

For great examples of Beautiful Outlaws, please visit the Found Poetry Review.

Friday, April 25, 2014

On Perfection in Poetry & the Need to Hoard One’s Poems

At a spring poetry event, I was flummoxed as I always am by statements from all the poets during a Q&A session to the effect that they shared only poems of theirs that they believed to be good & what self-respecting poet would ever inflict poems on a reader or an audience unless these poems were the poet’s best work.

Granted the poets were on the spot & these Q&A sessions always bring out the worst possible answers because who has time to think & there’s an audience etc. However, this sort of attitude towards poetry has always intimidated me, for one & bothered me, for another.

I can speak only for myself & would never dare presume that my opinions on poetry or any other subject applied to anyone else, but this is what I think:

1.       The point of any art form for me is to provoke, disturb & start a conversation or a monologue. I suppose one can argue that a good poem doesn’t necessarily have to be a perfect poem, but for me, even the idea that I have to keep my poems to myself til they’ve reached some level of exactly right-ness, is scary & daunting. that is never going to happen. I am simply never going to be satisfied with anything that I write to the point that I won’t feel vulnerable when I share it. but by sharing the work, I am hoping that it will resonate with someone who might be able to find something in it that makes them think or makes them feel or a combo thereof. Ideally this person is also a creative person who might be able to try out whatever I’ve done or some variation thereof for themselves, thereby improving it.

2.       I don’t see myself as an isolated poet but rather one in a long line of poets. others have shared what they have learned & I have learned from them. I will share what I have learned & hope that others will learn from me. the body of our creation will lead to something strong & ingenious.

3.       I think editors can be helpful if they help the poet to achieve what she is setting out to do, but not to protect the poet from making a fool of herself. that, I’m afraid, is a given. I can’t care about that sort of thing. to share what crazy nonsense beats in my heart is a vulnerable thing to do & there’s no going around that. I don’t want editors to protect me from world opinion of me as a quirky git.

4.       I ran across an interesting article in the online edition of the New Yorker entitled “Woolf’s Darkness”  written by the brilliant Rebecca Solnit, author of a favourite book of mine, “A Field Guide to Getting Lost.” The article was about Virginia Woolf’s essays & her tendency toward the uncertain. Solnit also talked about Keats’ Negative Capability: “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

The idea to me is that the poet has to leave space for uncertainty, for not knowing. All of  this controlling & sharing only the best poems & hoarding one’s poems in the attic until they are “ready” for the public seems to me to be not leaving room for uncertainty.

Solnit goes on to say...

“A similar kind of aggression against the slipperiness of the work and the ambiguities of the artist’s intent and meaning often exists in literary criticism and academic scholarship, a desire to make certain what is uncertain, to know what is unknowable, to turn the flight across the sky into the roast upon the plate, to classify and contain. What escapes categorization can escape detection altogether.

There is a kind of counter-criticism that seeks to expand the work of art, by connecting it, opening up its meanings, inviting in the possibilities. A great work of criticism can liberate a work of art, to be seen fully, to remain alive, to engage in a conversation that will not ever end but will instead keep feeding the imagination. Not against interpretation, but against confinement, against the killing of the spirit. Such criticism is itself great art.

This is a kind of criticism that does not pit the critic against the text, does not seek authority. It seeks instead to travel with the work and its ideas, invite it to blossom and invite others into a conversation that might have previously seemed impenetrable, to draw out relationships that might have been unseen and open doors that might have been locked. This is a kind of criticism that respects the essential mystery of a work of art, which is in part its beauty and its pleasure, both of which are irreducible and subjective. “

I want poetry to be slippery. I want it to open up the work rather than be closed to a world of potential meanings, emotions & associations. I want to show my uncertainty, to reflect my confusion with the world, with life’s purpose, with the day to day meanderings of my tiny mind. I’m not waiting to share my work. I’m sharing it now. Life’s too short to wait.

Oulipost #25: Larding


Nick and his ghostbusting pal Hank confront a lethal assassin who’s left a trail of dead Wesen in her wake. Wesen, to the uninitiated, are beings visible only to Grimms, supernatural hunters and ghostbusters like Nick who can see underworld creatures for what they really are.


In this week’s hour, Nick and his ghostbusting pal Hank confront a lethal assassin who’s left a trail of dead Wesen in her wake. It’s like watching a character from a Quentin Tarantino movie lost inside a Hallmark card. Wesen, to the uninitiated, are beings visible only to Grimms, supernatural hunters and ghostbusters like Nick who can see underworld creatures for what they really are.


Nick and his ghostbusting pal Hank confront a lethal assassin who’s left a trail of dead Wesen in her wake. What’s going on here? It’s like watching a character from a Quentin Tarantino movie lost inside a Hallmark card. I don’t think you can fake that. Wesen, to the uninitiated, are beings visible only to Grimms, supernatural hunters and ghostbusters like Nick who can see underworld creatures for what they really are.


Nick and his ghostbusting pal Hank confront a lethal assassin who’s left a trail of dead Wesen in her wake. You got the feel of too many cooks in the kitchen. What’s going on here? It’s like watching a character from a Quentin Tarantino movie lost inside a Hallmark card. I don’t think you can fake that. Wesen, to the uninitiated, are beings visible only to Grimms, supernatural hunters and ghostbusters like Nick who can see underworld creatures for what they really are.


Nick and his ghostbusting pal Hank confront a lethal assassin who’s left a trail of dead Wesen in her wake. You got the feel of too many cooks in the kitchen. We are not the only ones saying this. What’s going on here? Enough band-aid solutions. It’s like watching a character from a Quentin Tarantino movie lost inside a Hallmark card. It’s not the floats you remember in a parade, it’s the marchers. I don’t think you can fake that. They claimed it was all a misunderstanding. Wesen, to the uninitiated, are beings visible only to Grimms, supernatural hunters and ghostbusters like Nick who can see underworld creatures for what they really are.


Nick and his ghostbusting pal Hank confront a lethal assassin who’s left a trail of dead Wesen in her wake. I think it’s the same old story. You got the feel of too many cooks in the kitchen. I think we’ve survived on our talent, now we have to start relying on a little more character. We are not the only ones saying this. A misunderstanding will lead to trouble. What’s going on here? Love is highlighted, along with self-improvement and creativity. Enough band-aid solutions. Early renditions of the transformation were hardly encouraging. It’s like watching a character from a Quentin Tarantino movie lost inside a Hallmark card. How does one render silk from such an obvious sow’s ear? It’s not the floats you remember in a parade, it’s the marchers. It’s only human nature that we gravitate toward the sensational. I don’t think you can fake that. Talk about your rude awakenings. They claimed it was all a misunderstanding. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream and hold the sprinkles. Wesen, to the uninitiated, are beings visible only to Grimms, supernatural hunters and ghostbusters like Nick who can see underworld creatures for what they really are.


Strachan, Alex. POSTMEDIA NEWS. “Grimm frightfully silly, but entertaining.” the Ottawa Citizen. 25 April 2014. F8.

Monk, Katherine. “This British bulldog lacks bite. Ibid. E6.

Stone, Jay. POSTMEDIA NEWS. “Boxing film’s story is no knockout.” Ibid. E6.

POSTMEDIA NEWS. ‘It was like speed dating.’ Ibid. E6.

Shaw, Hollie. FINANCIAL POST. “Sears trims ‘out of whack’ exec ranks.” Ibid. F1.

Ottawa Citizen Editorial Board. “The problem is with the program.” Ibid. A10.

Haley, Peter. “Remember the marchers.” Ibid. A10.

Turner, Arthur. “Fix TFW program or abolish.” Ibid. A10.

THE CANADIAN PRESS. “Konecny goal puts Canada INTO U18 semi. Ibid. B2.

Last, Eugenia. “ASTROLOGY.” Ibid. D10.

Booth, David. “Z/28 brandishes new fire, agility.” Ibid. D1.

McAleer, Brendan. “Automakers withdraw blah from family cars.” Ibid. D2.


Aka “line stretching.” From your newspaper text, pick two sentences. Add a new sentence between the first two; then two sentences in the new intervals that have become available; and continue to add sentences until the passage has attained the length desired. The supplementary sentences must either enrich the existing narrative or create a new narrative continuity.


Sometimes I used partial sentences or cut a bit out. This was fun. It gave me a chance to roam through the entire paper & look at sections I never look at like the Astrology section. The fun for me was working with a variety of source texts to create something that made a ridiculous sense narratively. I found it amazing how quirky & linguistically interesting the Driving section of the paper was. Not being a car owner, I never read that section.

Take a read of my fellow Ouliposters responses to this challenge over here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oulipost #24: Homosyntaxism

That bird sang some melodious songs in the nest.
The nest loathed the corny songs of the bird.
Those songs muted the silly tunes in the nest.

This jar contains many usable pennies in a pinch.
These pennies rusted the old jar with their green.
The pinch desired a mean stinginess from the pennies.

These aliens speak an indecipherable tongue to my ears.
These ears hear a cacophonous bafflegab from the aliens.
This tongue savours the odd words of the aliens.

These frankfurters poisoned my great aunt at the fair.
This aunt is known as a picky eater from way back.
This fair provides numerous options for picky eaters.

This aspic shook the cracked bowl on the table.
This bowl remains the last resort except for aspic.
This table witnesses many aspic incidents every year.

Those pennyloafers were the cat’s meow in my day.
These cats refuse regular attempts at shoe enforcement .
This day prefers the cat’s pajamas at any time.

That parrot imitated the cursing pirates on the ship.
Those pirates hated the cursing parrot on the ship.
That ship spilled cursing pirates and parrots  into the sea.


Robin, Laura. “Found A Kit For Chocolate Connoisseurs.” the Ottawa Citizen. 24 April 2014. D2.


Homosyntaxism is a method of translation that preserves only the syntactic order of the original words. To give a rudimentary example, if N=noun, V=verb and A=adjective, the outline NVA could yield solutions such as “The day turned cold,” “Violets are blue,” “An Oulipian! Be wary!”)

Option 1: Choose a sentence from your newspaper source text and write as many homosyntaxisms as possible based on that same variation.

Option 2: Complete a homosyntaxism of an entire paragraph or article found in your text.


Here is the sentence I chose:

“This kit provides a chocolate-tasting party in a box.”

here is my syntactic breakdown:

Demonstrative adjective/ noun/ verb/ determiner /adjective/ noun/ preposition/ article/ noun.

I chose to interpret determiner as any type of modifier.

This was fun, once I decided to play with the various nouns in each invented sentence, & more challenging than I expected. I broke the rules slightly for the cursing pirates…but that is to be expected…they are pirates after all.

Check out my fellow Ouliposters’ work here.