Fragment of a dream

I woke, but the dream retained its tendrils in my heart. I had dreamed of a white house with no windows; I was standing outside of it, looking for the door. The sidewalk was cracked, and had heaved from the pressures of the frost and the roots of the tree that stood over my head.

There were fence posts surrounding the property, but no fence: It had been torn away years ago, leaving just the pales as beacons of the long-lost barricade. And the grass, once green, was brown and dried from the ongoing drought.

In the distance, the morning sky burned in purple and crimson as angels wept blood for another lost soul.

sometimes words

sometimes words do not have the expanse
to fit the truth they’re trying to hold

i am an apostate
i am not the first

the streetlights that dimly guide my way
are lit by the souls of those who went before
the furtive glow and the long shadows
belie the keening inside their bulbs

behind me: the church from which i’ve been cast
exiled
although my membership had always been conditional

before me: the labyrinthine forest
begging
to be set aflame, burning in concert with my fervor

beside me: the flickering of gaslit bulbs
hissing
hissing
hissing

straining to entice me
to action

and then the words run out of space
and explode into silence

— ptkh 102217

the first time

the first time i saw a naked female breast
i was ten years old
or so

i had thrown a dictionary at a girl’s head in third grade
although i don’t remember that
(a piece of paper i found years later said it
so it must be true)

i was labeled ‘emotionally impaired’
which nobody knew what to do with
in my small town school

i got to go to the resource room
twice a week or whenever i felt ‘overwhelmed’
to spend time with kids i had already learned to call
by a word i’ve since committed not to use

i made a frog out of liquid latex
and a trilobyte with a plaster mold
and i tried to listen to moby dick on a cassette
but the teacher couldn’t match the book with the tape

once a month i would get on the bus with those kids
and go to a special high school
for kids who were more ‘impaired’ than we were

and we’d build stuff and play duck-duck-goose and
pretend
that the kids at our home school weren’t calling us
by a word i’ve since committed not to use

one summer the father who didn’t know how to deal
with my storm clouds
decided
to send me to a camp for children with problems

we played on the trampoline and hung out and did camp stuff
just like the church summer camps i’d been to before
and just like the church summer camps i’d been to before
most of the children weren’t like me

i was an outcast among outcasts
i was a gifted child who threw things
when eddie vedder told me years later about jeremy
he was singing about me

during the weekend between sessions
most of the children went home
the ones who didn’t were moved into two cabins

but

there was one too many boys for the boys’ cabin
so they put me in the girls’ cabin
because i was the most okay
because i was mature for my age
because i wasn’t like most of the children there

we were changing for a swim
the girls told me to put my face in the pillow
until they told me to look

the first time i slipped
i saw a girl’s socked foot
and she squealed in shame
and told me to put my face in the pillow
until they told me to look

then they ignored me and talked
like the middle schoolers they were
like the middle schooler i wasn’t

then the one whose socked foot i’d seen
said something to me
it had been so long i figured it was okay
so i lifted my head to speak

and there they were
her naked breasts
curved teardrops
hanging free as she bent over
a few feet away from me

and she smiled at me and said something else
and i buried my face in the pillow
and waited for them to tell me to look

she laughed
and the other girls laughed
as my cheeks burned and i pushed my face into the pillow

i wondered why it was terrible if i saw her shoeless sock
but funny if i saw her breasts
and decided it was because she was called
by a word i’ve since committed not to use

now i know that she was just a normal middle school girl
trying to figure things out
and i was a boy with dark stormclouds
who threw dictionaries at little girls’ heads

trying to figure things out

— ptkh 102117

Songs of the Wolf #1

On my car stereo this morning was Rob Jungklas’s “John Doe“, one of the best songs you’ve never heard of. And I have the thought that there’s a small cadre of people that listen to Jungklas and are impressed with him, and they’re his audience.

This evening, I’m thinking about how frustrating it is that I keep waiting for an essay of mine to break through, to hit that perfect beat, and it occurs to me that maybe it won’t happen, but maybe I have a small mostly invisible cadre of people that read my essays and are impressed with them, and you’re impressed with me.

Then I think about my father’s words that I was too good to be a writer to ever be famous, which was his fatherly way at the time to protect me from the harsh reality that I wasn’t a very good writer.

But there was a kernel of truth: “Goodness” isn’t a reliable predictor of how famous a writer will be. “You’ll never be famous” is one message that the big bad wolf keeps telling me to keep me from writing.

I dreamed a car crash (Sketch)

i dreamed a car crash,
and my fingers burned with the sensate nothing
that seared over me

i could not scream because i had lost the right,
and as the world melted around me
torn and shorn in glass, metal, rubber
burning in black flame and circling overhead
then into my lungs

i thought
for just a moment
of my childhood

and then it was gone
as was the dream
and i was left in the quiet of my bed

— ptkh 080617

sometimes

sometimes
i feel like
tearing my chest
wiiiiiide open

because
that way
you could see my soul
gasping
in the great expanse

sometimes
i feel like
staring into
the sun

and speaking out
in the tongue
in which it speaks to me

sometimes
i want to scream
until i cough up blood
and phlegm

so that
for a moment
you would all
understand

and then
the feeling subsides
and i return back to me

— ptkh 072917

Moment

I used to go by a different name. It’s been so long that I’d nearly forgotten. The other day, I was out somewhere when someone said the name. I turned because it seemed like someone was speaking to me, and they were.
 
I didn’t recognize it at first. It took my mind a few seconds to process, during which the person said, “I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else. Someone I grew up with.”
 
“I used to go by that name,” I said.
 
She identified herself. I used to be friends with her father. She’d been a child then. Now she had five children with her.
 
We didn’t know what to say to each other except, “It’s great to see you.” Maybe she’d only said my name out of the shock of seeing me, after all these years.
 
Life is strange. Our independent lives hurtle onward as people pass in and out. Sometimes I see a shadow that I used to know, but I don’t say anything because part of me doesn’t want to be wrong and part of me doesn’t want to be right.
 
“Thanks for coming, mind your step on the way home
The roads are busy, tonight just pick the ones you know
Thanks for calling, mind your step on the way home
Find a God and thank him” — Therapy?, “The Boy’s Asleep”

A Writer

A writer writes: That’s what writers do
If you’re writing something, then you’re a writer too
Whether it’s a fiction, biography, or poem
Or just a love note meant for a partner back at home

Sometimes we overthink things, and sink inside our gloom
That to be a proper writer, we’re locked inside a room
Devoid of human contact, filling reams with stoic prose
Dripping with treacle and ennui lachrymose

But that can lead to silence, a mental block, and worse
Until we’re tripped up tripping through convoluted verse
Remember that a writer writes: That’s what writers do
If you’re writing something, then you’re a writer too

— ptkh 061417

Triangular Gaps

There is an unfortunate gap in the triangle congruency theorems. It would be nice to be able to say that we can declare that two triangles are congruent based on a pair of sides and exactly two other bits of information, but we cannot.

If we can match up all three pairs of sides as congruent, the triangles are congruent.

If we can match up two pairs of angles and one pair of sides, the triangles are congruent.

If we can match up two pairs of sides and the angle between them, the triangles are congruent.

If we can match up two pairs of sides and a non-acute angle, the triangles are congruent.

But if we can match up two pairs of sides and an acute angle not between them, then we could be describing either of two triangles.

This gap is painful to the mathematician who prefers clear order.

Can’t

I was in seventh grade, or maybe eighth, when the girl in the fuzzy sweater told me I was cute.

I still don’t know why she decided that I was going to be her boyfriend. I was awkward and out of place. I don’t remember ever fitting in, and certainly not with the girl in the fuzzy sweater.

Every time she spoke to me, I froze up and blushed. I would sink down as far as I could in my chair. At first she looked like she thought it was cute, but it wasn’t long before she was annoyed by it.

One day, as I sat in English class, I got a hot flash. My body was shaking. I was sweating. I couldn’t move.

The girl in the fuzzy sweater asked me what was wrong, and I told her, in quiet, embarrassed tones. She told me to tell the teacher. I said I couldn’t. She got mad and said that she was sick of me.

The girl in the fuzzy sweater never spoke to me again, and I never had another hot flash.

This was one of the places I learned I couldn’t.