A Mathematician’s Sonnet

So algebra is not aligned to taste:
A bunch of letters dancing without need.
You find the dancers nothing but a waste?
My friend, some words on this you ought to heed:

We start with adding, just as shepherds did
To count their flocks when sent to fields by day.
Subtraction’s just some adding being hid
At dusk, when sheep are sent the other way.

The builders found a need to multiply
When roofs that needed thatch and floors were laid.
Then came the lengths, with measurements to try
The patience of the architect’s tirade.

And so, foundation set, we built a realm
With algebra to set upon the helm.

— ptkh 06.12.18

White Dusk

fate’s fickle finger
is cold gray steel
filled with hot white pus

angry and impotent:
it is its impotence that
makes it angry
makes it flash across the sky
makes it rain down blood
like hot lava
in the fading day

this is the sunset

tonight, the white man in the moon
will gaze down sideways
at what he’s wrought

tomorrow will be a new day
filled with color and brightness
as wisping white clouds
throw diminishing shade
on the world below

but here, at dusk
fate’s fickle finger
is cold gray steel

Meandering

Mindful of the road, I
Make my way forward, still
Melancholy, still quiet…
Muddied in still waters,
Muddled with clarity.
Might another false step
Matter? I cannot say.

— ptkh 06.03.18

i want to write my flesh

i want to write my flesh
and stretch the words
slowly out along the curls
of vapor escaping my lungs

i want to write my flesh
and let it seize upon my sinews
until they snap and scream
and leave my muscles sore

i want to write my flesh
on leaves of slate and crystal
with chalk of bone
ground from the beast i was

i want to write my flesh
and read yours instead

ptkh 02.09.18

This Voice

This voice says: Shut up.

This voice says that nobody wants to hear from another broken white man.

This voice says that there are people who suffer more than you, people who face obstacles so large that you can’t even imagine it.

This voice says there have been enough white men talking.

It’s time to stop.

It’s time to curl up and wait for the wind to blow your dust into oblivion.

But.

This voice is the voice of another white man. And the white man is the devil.

This voice doesn’t care about the suffering of others.

This voice doesn’t want to make room for them.

It only wants to stop a betrayer from talking.

It is used to the echoes of its baritone against the walls of its toxic male echo chamber.

It tries to convince me that it is the voice of enlightenment, but it is not.

This voice is the patriarchy, hissing at a man who never quite fit in.

This voice does not want its secrets revealed.

This voice contorts and slithers and hides its form beneath a sheen of logic and sincerity.

This voice screams: Shut up.

And I bow my head and let it silence me.

Until I don’t.

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

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

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