Interview with Alex Creece, July Featured Author

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Starting this month, Rosewater will be having a “featured author” each month. The editors choose a contributing author, ask them a few questions, and focus that month on publishing many of their pieces. This month, we have chosen Alex Creece, a dedicated Rosewater contributor. Alex’s pieces have historically crossed genres, focusing on personal narratives, virtual reality and occasionally the overlap between the two.

Where did you grow up? How did it shape your writing?
 
I grew up in Australia and Dubai (UAE). I’ve always been extremely shy, but I think this trait has helped me become perceptive and find my voice through written words, rather than pressuring myself to talk for the sake of merely filling the silence. I’ve also met lots of vastly different people in my life so far and I try to strike up a good balance between upholding my ethics, but still being open to new information and making sure I am respectful of diverse opinions, not just ones I already agree with. I am passionate about my principles, but I like to make sure I am never too proud or righteous to be wrong or learn something new.

Which authors have most shaped your writing style?
 
Octavia E. Butler, H.P. Lovecraft, Margaret Atwood, Franz Kafka and Maya Angelou. I love oddities and honesty in literature.
 
What is your favorite Rosewater piece that you’ve written?
 
Witchcraft in the Modern Workplace. It has a lot of heart. And witches.
 
Describe your writing style in six words.
 
Whimsical, unashamed, vulnerable, introspective, sincere and…playful.
 
What advice do you have for young writers?
 
Share your work. I used to be terribly secretive about my words, even with my friends. At some point, I think I just became more interested in getting the feedback than I was afraid of it anymore. I’m so glad for that. Keeping my writing to myself didn’t give me enough opportunities to improve and expand on my ideas. It kept me in a bubble of self-preservation. Vulnerability is one of the most refreshing aspects of literature, and it’s even more wonderfully vulnerable if others can engage with your words too. No piece of writing will ever be universally appreciated, but if it matters to you, it will probably resonate with at least one other person. Your words cannot hold as much freedom if you clutch them too close to your chest.
 
Some of your pieces have dealt with difficult topics, like cat calling, mental health, and body image. Is writing your self-care? Do you have other ways to take care of yourself?
 
Writing is an important aspect to my self-care but I try to make sure I do lots of little things to help myself, just as I like to do for others. I was talking recently to my beautiful friend Tyran about stress management and he told me that I needed to make sure I was setting aside some time every day, even just fifteen minutes or half an hour, to dedicate to writing or any other kind of thoughtful catharsis. This has been helping me a lot, as I am trying to frame my own needs and well-being not as a pipe dream, but as a daily priority. Even in small bursts, dedicating regular time purely to my own interests makes me feel less suffocated, and as if I am switching off the other channels so I can listen to myself and properly tune in.
 
Where else can we find your writing?
 
Ramona Magazine, Antipodean Sci Fi, Literary Orphans…I actually have a list on my website, but it is in need of an update: http://www.creecedpaper.com/works/
 
What is next for you, writing-wise or in general?
 
I’d like to write some more short stories when I get a chance. I’d also like to get out of my comfort zone and try a new style or genre, or attend a workshop, or even read some words out loud where other people might hear them. As for what’s next in general, I’d like to continue finding ways to use my powers for good while still dressing like a villain. I hope that takes me somewhere interesting and helps a lot of people along the way.

The Scariest Four Letters

I miss the days when my biggest fears were not getting thirty or more notes on an edit I made on Tumblr, or not seeing my crush walk by my locker before fourth period. Mind you, I was fourteen at the time, so my fears don’t seem so scary now. I’m seventeen now; I haven’t posted on Tumblr in over a year and it’s been almost two years since I’ve had any feelings for that crush. Fear is a four letter word that I’ve spent most of high school trying to detach myself from, but sometimes it’s not so easy.

I fear publishing editorials that are too specific to what I truly am feeling or what I’ve experienced, because I fear people from high school discovering my writing online. I fear opening my college admission letters in front of people, because I know I will most likely end up crying, regardless of the result. In my freshman year, I feared joining a sports team. I feared talking to him because I thought it would be too obvious I liked him, but now we just don’t talk anymore. And despite many people telling me that I appear to be completely apathetic towards the world with my resting bitch face, I fear judgment from those around me. I make self-deprecating jokes about not getting accepted into colleges, and about myself, but it’s different when I hear those same words coming from others. When I hear it from them, a sense of panic washes over me, making me feel as if I’m destined for a grim future, despite the fact that I myself always joke about having a grim future. It’s as if I’m realizing, Oh god, someone else believes Im not destined to be great. My fears coming to life would feature me confronting the fact that maybe it’s not all in my head, maybe the worst parts of me actually are real.

You’re probably wondering why I bother to spend time with people who judge my every move. I’m still working up the courage to understand the answer to that question. Whenever I hear snide remarks about my desire to pursue a creative career, it takes a few seconds to recover. The immediate reaction is betrayal – how can these ‘friends’ who say they support everything I do, also be the ones that try to tear me apart from following my passion? Do comments about ‘unemployment’ or remarks like, “your only career option is teaching” have the power to derail me from giving up on a future that makes me happy? I try to compose myself and to remind myself that it’s my future and I will most likely never see these judgmental people after graduation ever again. Judgment from others about my interests – academically and personally – has suppressed my ability to open up about who I am and what I love. I’m trying my best to undo this.

I never thought that my passions could end up being one of my biggest insecurities, due to the criticism of those who cannot respect me for who I am and what I love. I love imperial Russian history and I love Björk and Jamie xx. I love boys who are wittier than I could ever imagine. I can’t wait to take printmaking and media classes in college. I want to fully dive headfirst in and experience what the world has to offer. I want to unafraid to shamelessly flirt with boys beyond a smile or gaze; I want to be able to confront my enemies with words that can be interpreted through a simple middle finger gesture. As schmaltzy as it may be, I know now that fear isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sure, it’s hard to jump headfirst into something I want to do but am scared, but nothing beats the feeling of achieving something that I originally was afraid to do.

 

Written by: Irine Le

Instagram (@irlirine)

Cargo Collective portfolio @irine_le

An Interview with Poet Jamie Oliveira

Jamie Oliveria is a nomadic poet, visual artist and all-around creative person. The 24 year-old self-published poet hails from San Francisco, yet prefers to be known as an inhabitant of the world. She received her B.A. in documentary film production from San Francisco State University. It was actually Oliveria’s film background that helped craft her knack for storytelling. This traveling artist has many stories to tell one medium at a time.

Jamie Oliveira

Give me a little summary/background about yourself and your work.
I’m a nomadic poet / visual artist that’s been working throughout the West Coast, India, Nepal and China since completing my documentary film degree in San Francisco a few years ago.
When did you start writing?

I’ve kept a diary since I was in elementary school. When my childhood best friend and I were young, we used to read our journal entries to each other in my bunk bed. Then we began writing poems and songs together. The act of writing has always felt second-nature to me.

What got you interested in poetry? And why that platform?
Well, learning to communicate my emotions has been a series of mountains and obstacles. I’ve always been drawn to poetry’s power to communicate feeling. I loved the way other poets could describe the nuance of what I was feeling in a way I could understand (through imagery, subtlety, and metaphor) and I liked that I could share my experiences, process and reflections in a language simultaneously abstract, indirect, and tangible.
How would you describe your poetic style? What are some of the recurring themes in your art?
While my prose tends to go into great detail, I enjoy using poetry as a medium to express myself with minimal language to accurately represent a particular feeling or idea. Mostly, I explore themes of transformative healing, mysticism, relationships, and intersectional feminism, and then I just follow the rhythm of the heart and purge the excess. Instead of talking about the tip of the iceberg, I want my poetry to communicate the line where the water and air meet around the iceberg, while being aware of what is both below and above it.
Lora Mathis. April 2015.
Lora Mathis.
April 2015.
How important is it to create work with a feminist lens?
Very! We absolutely need to take sociopolitical structures and the sensitivities of others into consideration while making and sharing art. I think that incorporating an informed, feminist lens (to the best of our knowledge) is one of the only ways we can create conscious socially-minded work.
What roles do gender identity and race play in your work? Is it important to blend activism into art?  Or is art always political?
I hardly identify myself as any gender, especially since I have a tendency of disassociating from being a person that exists in general. However, I do move through the world as a mixed femme and this foundation influences most of the work I make that protests how others may see or treat me. While race and gender inform the work I make, which is often a response to the world, but not necessarily to how I view myself, the work that comes from my direct meditations is often transcendent of identities. Regarding the importance of incorporating activism into art, I think protest is as natural and as necessary a response to oppression as creation is. Art will always be political, because our backgrounds influence the ideas that we have and the ways we have the privileges of communicating them. Even if the act of creating and the ideas themselves were not inherently political, the moment we share our work, it enters the realm of the political. Politics inform which platforms we have access to, who will resonate with our work, and how our work will be valued.
Why is storytelling so important to you?
We share our stories to connect and heal, for ourselves and for others. I have never felt more alone than the times that I was too afraid to share. The weights we carry lift as soon as we begin to reach out. We need not always tell our stories in the form of art, but we do need to share our stories somehow. Speaking our truth, to at least one person, is crucial for our survival. We need to be witnessed — first and foremost by ourselves. Our experiences are worthy of seeing the light of day.
What inspires your craft? And who?
My environment, and my reactions to that environment. Lately I’ve been inspired by the resourceful people I encounter on my travels. People are constantly throwing useful things away, so I’ve been using found objects as my canvas as a way of combating waste and attempting to participate in capitalism as little as possible. There is only so much I can carry on my back or in my car, so what I find is completely dependent upon my environment. I have no way of planning for or anticipating what I will discover when I arrive to a new place. If I have the intentions of creating, I just have to trust that I will be able to find exactly what I need to make whatever it is that is desiring to come into fruition. The tools are nearly always there, right in front of us.
Do you think your background in documentary film changes the way you view your poetic work?
Not very directly, since documentary film making tends to come from a more cerebral dimension of myself, and poetry more of the heart-nature, but I do find that my film making background supports the way I organize and edit collections of poetry. I ditch what doesn’t fit and follow a cohesive story-arch.
How was the process of working on a photo heavy book, like ‘(more than) dust’ compared to a print heavy book, like ‘The Calming’?
Practically speaking, working on a print-heavy book felt a lot more mentally approachable. I really only needed a notebook, a pen and a laptop with me, so working on the go was pretty effortless. When I was working on the photo book, I felt a bit trapped in the spaces I was living because I thought I needed to have enough space to keep all of my materials. I would always tell myself, “I can’t leave until the book is done.” When my environments became too toxic to stay, and a friend helped me realize it’s okay to leave when projects are incomplete, I eventually found a way to make the next space work, too.
What inspired you to publish ‘The Calming’?
The Calming by Jamie Oliveira
The Calming by Jamie Oliveira
I needed a way to process what leaving toxic environments and listening to my intuition looked like for me. When I first moved into a friend’s cabin in the California Redwoods, I was writing every day, sinking more and more into my present space at the time. Once I started compiling the poems into a manuscript, I saw that Button Poetry and Where Are You Press were both having chapbook contests. I had put just enough poems together to apply, but almost didn’t apply because of (seriously minimal) entry fees, worries that I wouldn’t be able to promote myself enough to be published and confusion about whether or not either would be able to become full-length books if accepted. Luckily, on the last day, I applied anyway. After being chosen as a finalist in the Where Are You Poet contest, and being selected as the winner, I cancelled my application with Button Poetry. Clementine von Radics’ (author of Mouthful of Forevers and founder of Where Are You Press) suggested the book become a full-length, illustrated collection of poems, and The Calming began to take a clearer shape. While the book’s beginnings were in the Redwood forest, I ended up finishing all of the writing and illustrations while volunteering at a farm and living as an artist in residence in the south of India.
Whose work, regardless of the creative platform, are you feeling right now?
I just visited Guan Wei’s COSMOTHEORIA exhibition in the 798 Art District of Beijing and was absolutely moved. They brilliantly capture the yearning, strife, and resilience of the human spirit in relation to the cosmos in an accessible way.
Describe the self-publishing process. Why go the self-publishing route, rather than go through a publishing house?
There are definitely benefits to both. If the opportunity to be published by someone else comes up and their vision aligns with yours, you have the gift of an established support system in place for your book. A publisher will help provide a timeline, help you edit, and help you promote, but if you have the resources to do all of those things yourself, then going the self-publishing route is just as useful. If you are naturally entrepreneurial, you will have more autonomy, you can work at your own pace, and you will receive a larger percentage of the royalties. Even if you have no desire to market your book whatsoever, you can still self-publish for the sake of it. Just upload your PDF to CreateSpace, order a few copies to sell or give away in person if you’d like, agree to let the book be available for folks to purchase through Amazon, and they’ll print and ship for you each time someone orders your book. Really hassle-free.
Do you have any advice for any young creatives who want to self-publish their work?
Create as much as you desire, share as much as you desire, and be deliberate and selective about what you decide to publish. When you are the primary curator of your work, you are the master of your voice, so it’s important that you give yourself the room to reflect all that you are in focused, cohesive ways. But then again, sometimes the self in process is completely chaotic, so a mess of a body of work can be fine too. Just make with love! Or anger! Whatever! The world needs your voice regardless.
Where can people follow you and find your work?
You can follow me on Instagram and Tumblr @jamieoliveira, and check out my website at www.jamie-oliveira.com

An Open Life

I had been foolish, once again, to let my heart be torn open by men.

My mother had warned me about this once. Strict, autocratic, with a tinge of neuroticism dyed into her every nerve, she had ruled over my household with an iron fist. No wonder – she had escaped communist China with her family, shattered but alive. She had seen the horrors of war. There was no room for romanticism in a world that required survival. She had always talked about marriage in a practical way – marry rich, ensure a caretaker for your children and keep your bank accounts separate in case he ends up betraying you, as men are wont to do.

This was and still is the antithesis of my very nature. As a child, I started to rebel against the narrow guidelines of an Asian-American culture that my fellow first-generation children know quite well, in search of freedom where I felt there was none. Instead of math, I relished art and literature, consuming books by the dozen. In high school, when I was supposed to be studying economics and business, I worked for our theater department by day, then wrote short stories and plays by night.

Predictably, my mother and I clashed over my freewheeling approach to life. This included my relationships with other people. “Don’t give your trust so easily,” she advised, “and keep your heart not on your sleeve but firmly in your chest. Always smile. Keep a check on your temper. Never, never let people know how you really feel.” (And men – men, they will always hurt you.)

In all my loyalty to my truest of selves, I always balked at her advice. I hated wearing false masks, shunning duty for passion. People were something I felt unduly passionate about. As a writer, I understood that everyone possessed good and evil, that everyone was capable of hurting and being hurt. What was the point of human relationships if you couldn’t open yourselves to others and let everything good or bad in?

Of course, this approach has hurt me, time and time again. One may think I am masochistic for opening up my heart only to have its fragile contents trampled. I myself have wondered if it was foolish of me not to heed my mother’s warnings.

But I remind myself that life hurts. Life includes pain. I should feel so lucky, perhaps, to feel pain and be alive or to feel anger and fight for the things I believe in. It isn’t easy to concede that point, not after a good thing has started to crumble, and especially not after having to unstitch and unwind two lives that were deeply connected for two years, but here it is – I’m alive despite the pain.

And to be honest, pain and heartbreak has helped inform my writing and my art. I wouldn’t ever support the notion that artists must be emotionally tortured or clinically depressed to be successful but to know the depths of pain is just as important as knowing the depths of happiness in order to taste all the multitudinous colors of experience that we’re granted. It has allowed me to humanize others, to widen my understanding of humanity, and to search for solutions that benefit people I’ve never met. It reminds me that life is never a simple, straight line, but instead a road full of twists and tumbles. That to truly live fully, we must embrace all of its curves.

When I went to film school for college, my mother and I again fought viciously over my choices. Of course, she had wanted me to follow my sister into the world of finance, where the paychecks would be large and I would have no want for money, namely an easy and happy life. Art would afford me no comfortable life. In her mind, if I followed my sister, I could retire by age fifty and make art then, travel then, be happy then. It’s a sentiment that I would imagine is oft repeated to children of immigrants: toil now, reap the rewards later.

While that’s an honorable way to live, the more she suggested it to me, the more I resisted. No, I can’t make art later, when I’m fifty. I have to make it now, to save the parts of me that nothing else can save. Financial struggle is something I’m familiar with. It’s life without art that sounds inconsolable to me.

Of course I understood why she had been so insistent on my finding a financially lucrative career – after having a home and a life ripped away from her at age nine, then leaving everything for a new country where she didn’t speak the language, she had experienced poverty on the harshest of levels and didn’t want me to have to do the same. My mother didn’t want all of her sacrifices to be in vain.

“You”, she said, “you have had it easy here in America. You don’t know how much life really hurts.”

I thought of all the moments that had caused me pain in my life. Of all the friends who left me behind, all the lovers who said, “No” and thought me unworthy of love. Of all the mental illness caused by being raised by a mother who bordered on it herself. Anxiety, emotional dysfunction, neuroses caused by a war –  who could name them all?

“Yes”, I said, “I do.”

 

Tantra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I write with you still on the tip of my fingers …

Table scraps of memories and all the places you bring me by the slight twitch and dip of

your muscles

I know nothing like your brand of love and thrust

Not lust,

But divinity

And the sacred energy produced by the rain,

of crashing elements.

Foggy and sticky,

You are in a lane

of your own

Super Saiyan patterns of flattery

The bedroom name “Goddess” falls from

Your lips with ease

And proof of how you’ve missed the alchemy of my chocolate

Strapped down by stardust

Chiseled as if cut from Greek god-cloth

Pre-cloth

Divinity inferred

And fortified at the seams,

Sealed in Onyx

Black diamond of perfection

You wield weaponry

That threatens me, to escape the barriers

Keeping me on the peaceful side of the barricade

Striding down streets with the fire of protest and implosion

Washing away anything I’d known about how the night might end.

Days begin,

Suspended on your lead

Cheering on the twerk of my hips

And calling out Godd when you see her!

…. Amani O+

Read Full Poem at amanipoet.com

The Last Taino Indian Has Not Yet Been Born

Photographer: Kiki Vassilakis
Photographer: Kiki Vassilakis

the other day a sister asked me
what does the diaspora feel like?
a question i’ve never thought of before
yet it invoked fleeting memories of
a home that was out of my reach
like the sand slipping through my fingers on the island of Borinken
i grasp at something that will never be mine

it’s a complicated blend of
lineage and forced genocide
of comfort and violation

it feels like love letters never sent
to a home that always offered dinner
but not belonging

just like the time my partner’s family
wrote me off as too angry
too rude
too expressive
because people like me should let the white folks discuss politics

it feels like never being black enough
or brown enough
or white enough
stuck between here and there
but never whole enough for both

it feels like the time you
forced yourself inside of me
because you thought you had a right
to re-colonize this body
it almost broke me

BUT ALMOST DOESN’T COUNT

resiliency runs in my blood
blood that my ancestors shed at the hands
of murderers and rapists
but i am the living testament
to surviving
to revolting
to existing when no one else wants you to

there’s a myth you probably learned as fact in grade school:
all of the Tainos were wiped out
conquered by columbus himself
an old civilization lost to disease and war

IT’S A FUCKING LIE

the diaspora continues with me

Cameo

it will take me all of six seconds
to realize that it’s you this time

grocery cart ghosting forward
without my grip to steer it

until there are peaches everywhere
supermarket stained yellow-pink

fluorescent blush rushing against
a current of unsuspecting customers

the sound of each bruise forming
with a thud against the floor’s tile

and then watching the fruit’s mess
with all that skin between us

I’ll remember how you once said
I tasted like strawberries

Origin Story

my family’s word for an unborn child is speck / so I grew out of a gold void / a kind of molten metal / and a mother’s soft slow wanting / a single dandelion seed blooming / into a forest fire / I was raised a small creature / my sister’s twin shadow / my brother’s hand wide enough to block out the sun / green-eyed monster / canyon echo of what has come before / queen of the jungle gym / certified crybaby / skinned-knee celebrator / ant-hill agitator / with a crown of ringlets / everything the light touches / must belong to itself / this is how I learned to call my body what it is / collection of anxious nerve endings / miracle of soft tissue / and alive / alive still / after all

A Strange Sisterhood

I sit in the first row, clutching a paper ticket in my clenched right fist. My fingers trace the inside of my jacket pocket as I crumple the once-sturdy paper into a hundred little folds. I’m usually not this nervous, but this evening is a special occasion. Tonight is the night when Tonya Harding, my beloved pudgy pugilist, boxes for her paycheck in a FOX fiasco against the indomitable Charlie Sheen. They said Tonya couldn’t win, that she was an asthmatic fraud who relied on brawn rather than brains, that she couldn’t pull it off without cheating, that she should make haste to the comfort of her double-wide and spend the rest of her life quietly ducking the gauche incivilities of social mobility. And that was in 1994! I pray my girl just doesn’t get the crap knocked out of her tonight. I would not want that- and certainly not at the hands of Charlie. Deep down, I know he loves seeing a chick get beat up, especially one he really, really likes.

Round one. I see Tonya sitting on a stool, chewing a piece of green gum. Then she spits. I am ecstatic. Charlie Sheen stands in his corner, nose in the air, strutting about as if he is too talented to be troubled by, or rather, reduced to, fighting a pseudo-celebrity in a cheap exploitative sideshow of a match. You may have tiger blood, Charlie, but my girl has beaten better men than you – with a hubcap. The bell rings and the two fighters make the awkward dance to the center of the ring to engage in one last display of pleasantries before the pounding begins. Tonya touches gloves, looks Charlie Sheen straight in the eye, firms her bicep, braces her shoulder and…takes a hard jab to the face. Ouch. He’s been practicing. The pummeling continues as the D-lister turns round one into a modernist horror show, painting a skilled but technical portrait of hooks, uppercuts, jabs, and illegal headbutts on the canvas of Tonya’s face. Inside I am seething with the injustice of it all. Everybody hates the smartest kid in the class and despises a reckless show-off. Charlie was spoiling the curve for everyone in the arena that evening by delivering a humiliating first-class beat-down to the most gorgeous woman in the room and, surprisingly, taking absolutely no pleasure in doing so. If you’re going to destroy something beautiful, at least look alive.

The bell sounds, Tonya flounders back to her corner and plops down in her seat like a load of garbage negligently cast from the back end of a dump truck. I now know how the Germans felt at Leningrad. The look in Tonya’s freshly swollen eye tells me she knows Leila is a superior fighter, she knows Charlie is faster and stronger and crazier and angrier and meaner, she knows there is no hope. It is the saddest thing; the day the starving artist finally understands she is no Van Gogh, throws her easel in the trash and scans the classified ads for secretarial work; the day the lead guitarist of a middling cover band realizes she will never “make it big” and ends up writing jingles for a local used car dealership; it is the broken look of a failed ne’er-be-champion who finally understands her own mediocrity. I cannot allow this to happen. Not Tonya, not tonight.

Round two. The bell sounds and Charlie darts across the ring like a vulture eager to pick every fetid morsel of decaying meat off Tonya’s corpse. Tonya shrinks back, retreating like a Pole in 1939. Without another thought, I duck under the ropes. I am no Leila Ali, but I was one hell of a high school softball player who could play the infield and never wore a bow in my hair. I place all my angst, hate, doubt, remorse, and love into one wild supersonic hay maker. This is no longer about Tonya: this is for Carol the fat girl in the fifth grade; this is for the missed promotions and the middle-aged bosses who stare at the nape of your neck and think you don’t notice; this is for the yellow sheets every morning before school; this is for Kathleen Hanna and punk rock; this is for Roosh V and his gang of flunkies; this is for every chode, every toad, every rapist, and every catcalling fuckboy who breaks a girl’s will. My fist howls in rapturous pain as it meets Charlie Sheen’s chin.

I go down, spiraling to the ground as my vision fades. That Carlos Estevez sure hits hard. As day turns into night and security gathers round with their tasers, I gaze upward at my Tonya. Her sweaty neck and wet blonde hair glow in the bright stage lights, accented by the patchwork quilt of welts and bruises all over her face. Her blue eyes rejuvenate my spirit even as my legs fail. A drop of blood escapes from between her lips as she tearfully mouths “thank you”. Life may be cruel, but it has its strange rewards.

Written by By Lillian F of Portland, OR. 

Gray

It’s a grey, heavy day,

not quite warm

but not yet raining,

uncertain.

A few drops fall,

one by one,

across your back,

past your cheek

and the curve of your hand,

The wind picks up,

swirling dead leaves,

left over from winter.

It howls through trees

and surrounds bright tulips.

They stand tall and proud,

hopeful and lively.

The wind shoots them down,

pulling off brilliant petals,

which now lay still,

circling skinny forlorn stems,

nothing left.

I’m walking in a park,

beneath a steel grey sky,

hear police sirens in the wind

and wonder

what tulip is being shaken down

next.