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


i feel like
tearing my chest
wiiiiiide open

that way
you could see my soul
in the great expanse

i feel like
staring into
the sun

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

i want to scream
until i cough up blood
and phlegm

so that
for a moment
you would all

and then
the feeling subsides
and i return back to me

— ptkh 072917


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.


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.

Trump and Family (filk)

(To the tune of “The Addams’s Family”)

He’s selfish and he’s creepy
He’s grabby and he’s peepy
Let’s hope he’s getting sleepy
It’s Trump and family

His wife is kinda dour
Gaslighted and so sour
Was it worth it for the power?
It’s Trump and family

Slick! Sick! Small dick!

And don’t forget the daughter
She’s ready for a slaughter
Her brothers are marauders
It’s Trump and family


“It might just seem like a pointless detail to you, but it’s a symbol, is what it is.” He leaned in close to me, so I could smell the garlic and cigarettes on his breath. “A symbol of who I am. A cog in the machine. But not just any cog, oh no. A rusty cog, with a chipped tooth. It was once destined for greatness, but now it just grinds away. Dreaming of its lost aspirations. Waiting until it’s replaced by a newer part. Titanium, not steel. Steel was part of the past. Steel has lost its relevance.” He sat back, sighed, and found himself staring at where the two walls met the ceiling. I watched him in silence, thinking he was done. And then, in a long, defeated exhalation, he spoke: “It’s never a small detail to a small cog.”

My story began before I did

My story began before I did,
Written on leather and linen,
Papyrus and stone.

I was born in the taint of the oppressor
Stained white with a fabricated purity
Invented by men
Then forced into the mouth of God

My story was hammered into drying clay
Like pigeons’ feet
Across the centuries.

My myths were chanted
Around snow-ringed fire pits
And quilled onto leaves of hemp.

I cannot deny what has been braided
Into the sinews of my skeleton.

My story began years before I did:

This skin I wear was stitched
From killers of witches
And slayers of Indians
And enslavers of Africans.

This sin was born of the false piety
Of misguided faith.

O, that I could peel this skin like a snake!
But the venom that poisons this blood
Is not drained so easily as that.

My story began years before I did
But it does not end until my final breath.

— ptkh 051517