By Roark Habegger
Creative Writing Senior Honors Thesis English Department
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
April 4th, 2020
2 Supercritical Pitchfork
By: Roark Habegger
I want to write about my mom. 3
Black Hole 5
Enduring Odysseus (Abridged) 7
The Limiting Cases of Sex 9
How I see you 10
Evening Angle 11
Break Point 18
Cowboy Coffee 21
Holding Cell 22
Scattered Sunrise 23
Phase Space 25
I want to hug my brother, like we did in the hospital. 30
Segmentation Fault 31
I think I know 33
01110011 01101000 01101001 01110100 35
How I forget you 37
6am and it’s still dark out 38
I want to write about my mom.
I don't know what I felt
when I came out of my mother: she says I cried. They gave me to her and I stopped. I nuzzled into the nook of arm that I’d know better than my own. That happy moment
escapes me when I try to imagine how it felt, how the back of my pink head
rested against her arm, her hairs poking against my newborn scalp. Were they soft? Did I feel
that phantom itch I get when my legs rub their hairs against each other?
Babies tend to be fat: I was fatter than that.
I can't imagine the rolls
of skin on my wrist, those folds
of epidermis, ever being on my wrists today. Seeing
me wash my hands now, mom laughs: she tells from
memory how each night she'd pinch
the rolls of fat and with pressure run them through the soapy water sure
to clean every inch of sweaty skin. So much effort - thanks
to my fat baby body. She'd just look at my red giggling cheeks
4 knew before I did
I'd soon be passed out in a crib.
You have said, whenever the topic arises, that you'd prefer cremation
to coffin. I am not certain if it will be easier to breathe if I see the lid shut
or the door lock.
Either way, I will remember to count the seconds of my inhale and exhale
like you taught me when I sat on the counter and you held the nebulizer mask in front of my face:
training my lungs to hold more air. Dad gave me asthma
That hole we dug (my little brother and I) had a flat bottom and he could stand tall inside and not see out the top - stuck in a cylindrical cut of Earth. I pulled him up, and down below
saw the dark where sunlight failed to dig.
Pawing at the bottom of a hole sounds Sisyphean
even though Sisyphus fights gravity by trade:
he tries endlessly to grip to reach
toward the top. It’s a shame he isn’t stuck
When Messier's 83rd object sings
light waves toward us, climbing outward through time and space, we put the sounds in pixels: pings
from the dark field tell of prime creation, design, and death. Whining pearls
of flame, each sphere adrift, a solo bark of rapid particle collisions. Another spark
in the night: bronze street light shows the flight of flakes of snow floating down to the quiet car. Try to guess where each crystal will fall, glide or melt. When you fail to find orbit rings
and defined paths in that winter climate remember the swirling arms which arc through granite sky, the gouged spiral mark in spacetime. You expect to bend
the flakes to your will, curling them like the ends of the galaxy. Instead they ride errant gusts and flows of atmosphere brought from every direction. Take a picture, print pilings of ink onto paper and let the frozen movies move in our head.
combined with branches and leaves in a heap, we lit a flame to embark in the chaos, then built bins and filings for every fire since every burn brings destruction and pilings of ash. The soot
left in backyard fire pits sits, smolders and dries, caking ashes on the linings of the pit, blemishes on the metal bowl, soft pockets on molded steel. Scoop a pile, wet your fingers, and drag
Enduring Odysseus (Abridged)
I'm 'at odds with' the odyssey its stochastic drift
shearing wooden ships tensioning arrows
polygonal rotations of Nobody amidst aegean tidal forces
Zeus charges ions in arcs through clouds
Poseidon dashes salt in beards with two-dimensional sinusoids
decades of decimal steps home Gods deny
and effect Catastrophe
the butterfly pinches its wings together and beats them down
The burn of Bacardi and Coke in my eyes. I'm sorry
I said you were attractive as a neutron star
with magnetic fields
along its surface. You degenerated my compliment into its opposite: they are dense,
The Limiting Cases1 of Sex:
(1) the chase of release: You use me, then I use you. Simple physical attraction between sacks of meat piloted by electrical pulses of neurons.
(2) the soaking of you and me in each other. I trace trails across your soft skin specked with rough
regions: you whisper stories, capping them with slight giggles after you adjust my glasses for me. Feeling
across the mountain range of our shoulders
and hip bones.
Neither of us wants to make it to the end of the trail but both of us want to keep going:
down the rocks and roots and mossy rounds of earth. Up switchbacks,
leaving the splash of river flow below.
How I see you
I’m at a crosswalk
waiting for engines to rest. Above my head, the street lamp's heated filament spreads its photons out casts my shadow onto the asphalt where a car
your car stops
after the traffic light pulses yellow.
Your windshield passes the beams of light into the air-conditioned car
and onto your face. That mole near your nose reflects the darkest light.
Once, my nose was pressed up against that mole and I saw your eyes
without anything between us.
We used to take our glasses off before our clothes. And now while the bass rattles your car, the walk sign flashes on: I stall.
Once, I ripped your ventricles out with a phone call.
Now I can’t find a place in your peripheral as your engine picks up and you continue
with feet pointed toward window blood drains
toes to ear
under the moonlight
aura of worn out storm clouds: my back is wet.
The craters make the moon feel closer: a friend showing scars,
sharing stories of paternal
cigarette burns. Concrete potholes dot the lap-dog asteroid
as it tugs the tides
back to its side of the bed.
In the black screen
white delimiters & neon green commands etched across my forehead
electronic tattoos brighter than the moon in the window
behind my head. Another static midnight passing parameters and compiling code. Stuck on an orbit
between desk and bed: one is the apogee
Over time, tectonic plates shift and curl up
in one another.
My body's atoms roll off and away from me.
Where am I on average? Not my house or bed. The grave
is where I will spend the most time, unless my kids roast my body and keep me in a vase. Then I will just be particles in a ceramic cylinder.
Over space, as heat radiates, the Earth warms
and I can only be on a single point of space. The average spot
of all humans is the cities,
the interstates, and highways.
The droplets pluck the thin chords of mesh draping around the tent. The poles
prop up the rain fly, the fibers flush against the wet metal. The fabric wicked
water away before. Then the bowing sheet made a paraboloid valley which pooled until a drop burrowing through the green plane condensed
on this side. Now the bubble plummets to my forehead... eyebrows push up: the splash fills the parallel divots. Relaxing, the moats spread back out.
Slipping out of my sleeping bag
cold air on unwrapped chest brings bumps on follicle ends. I find the tag
of my shirt and pick it up
with that reference point in mind, I move my hands down the garment without a light, slip it on: a blind as the sun's pink roses slink through
the mottled porthole to my left. When my toes touch wet, the rifts in the clouds burn for a moment, my exhale fogs my eyes, and mist
Spinning, oblique, solid, or celestial. Held by gravity or surface tension
standing on the shoulders of giants and white dwarfs:
I hope the electrons degenerate me
so I can be an infinitesimal bump the one deviation
can be a nightmare.
When I was changing the most I'd wake to a crusted range, peaks pushing beneath my skin. I could feel the bottom of one from inside my mouth,
making a space under the peach-fuzzed dermis.
Brushing my finger tips across my forehead I bump a new mound and nerves yell- so I go to the mirror
and pinch until some of the pressure releases.
To release pressure, I had to apply pressure
Trees tense like this. They tighten ‘til their red and orange leaves get pinched off-
Drifting on a cusp catastrophe: a plane folded on itself,
a wave lapping at the beach, hoping to reach a stable neighborhood nearby.
How long can I straddle and not slip down either side? The flow
drags me down in turbulence swallowing and coating me in swaths of particles.
I grasp at the ledge,
the wave's crest. If I let go, stop fighting the current, and just float in salty brine... can I come back?
Or will I be stuck on a new trajectory
towards new folds and valleys?
In this wash I’ll wish and stay at this roaring above the troughs. I can wait for amplitudes to decay
This supercritical pitchfork couldn't pick up hay if it tried.
Like two roads diverging in a yellow wood the strands would fall through its scrawny arms through the parabola
and on to the ground. The sound of leaves crunching, the paths covered
When I said goodbye
I lied. There was nothing good about letting your hand drop back to your hip
and looking away from your pale face. Nothing was comfortable
in the front row of the funeral house. I sat in a chair with a back
Someday we'll go out west. But tomorrow, you'll go
to your 8 am class. I'll wake up first, pull my legs into a high knee,
get out of bed -- not messing the sheets -- and leave a soft kiss on your forehead. Downstairs I fill my metal pot
and pour coffee grounds in: they float in the cold water settling into an island
of chocolate sand on the stove top.
After heating, some light
peaks through the window and I hear the water boiling, a ringing just beneath the grounds. The breathing quickens,
the boiling bubbles push through
forcing the grounds into the convecting maelstrom-- when the grounds disappear
leaving a pot of coffee, I pour two mugs
In this crowd of walking students all I see are sun-dried scalps cracked with static hair. Stopping my feet, each student simply bends left or right, small adjustments to avoid running into me: last step variations as I enter their peripheral vision.
I see one tall student shortened as he bends like an upside-down J over his phone, silencing
his own steps with metallic ear muffs. He notices me early and looks confusedly at me before looking back down... Yes, I am odd for standing still
but I hear the bird
and the creaking of bike chains.
I see the light bending through the leaves and the robin.
I smell the fresh mulch
From invisible vibrating sky Rayleigh's rays refract past atmosphere and they ply the clouds apart, a few
stick to the plush edges. The waves of light echo their way down to hedges which chirp and ruffle as orange
spreads in the blue. The slain gas is rolling, boiling slowly above my head, bending rain and red and green away
from each other, all but blue. Floating dust in the wind can absorb those long hues. But even they expunge the light
Revolution is a pretty thing: cities ablaze, setting a bronze hue to every surface, the righteous chants from crowds and towers ring throughout the flames as the few are dirtied, their bumbling spineless
bodies tumble down stairs
the many built. Tomorrow, we set the laws through honest debate to remake the state of affairs in balance and equality to let everyone have a first rate
life in a new, golden order. Then, as flecks turn to white ash
and the months disappear a single man slams fist with charisma and smiles
few is now one and the many have been thrown back down stairs.
Resurrection is an ugly thing: rocks rolled away, green grass pressed underneath, the silence unsettles the dog whose fence has rotted away with its glass bones creaking as its whining
grows, it searches for its master, who is gone in the burnt morning light. As birds delay their flight and chirp a storm of one promise after another, four
tires begin to turn and crunch gravel. The sleepy master, dry eyed and heavy browed reclines, a frown etched on his face as the car lurches
lake-pocketed Wisconsin, I realize one hard left turn is my distance from lake bottom.
lets me think my weird thoughts. I don't have to explain
to my mom twice
Even if I joined you
in the car - lured by the oscillating dials - and we drove to the woods,
even if you held my hand and we lived under the stars for a day,
I couldn't tell you why I stick my nose
in a textbook after dinner. At least I don't mind
you rolling your eyes when I laugh at the limerick about parabolas the author tossed in.
I don't know how to say your caress and hug
to cleanse the extra variables from the equation, to purify the page of its tautologies
28 The meaning of words
has changed for me:
intercept was a defensive catch now it's where a line crosses an axis. Axis meant evil now it means a graph edge.
Growth and decay now have a prefix: exponential. Relationships
are linear or quadratic, positive or negative. Fields
are not waves of grain but stacks of arrows
stabbing space and ordering particles.
is still my bunk bed wobbling, Mom's chocolate pancakes wafting through the hall and up the stairs. It’s my bare feet landing on carpet: soft and warm. Syrup soaking, butter sliding in the pool, savory maple and smooth fat...
Ceramic-white door with piece of printer paper at the center. My name plastered in thick Blue Expo strokes:
if the 5 letters were 4 and the blue was green I wouldn't be different, I'd just have a new address.
Entering and slamming the door to silence
the humming air in the hall, I flip the light switch-
thoughts passing under the bulb, stars explode with no more impact on me than the filament above.
Grabbing the book on my desk I climb up my bunk and wrap myself in the sheets before reading the Deathly Hallows the part where Dobby dies;
how many tears can a lone paragraph or chapter create? To die thinking that life can continue in words is a blessing.
My mother knocks, and opens my door - "Goodnight! Love you."
She flips the switch and recloses the door as I flip the book shut and set it on the floor.
But I pull my arm up too slow: the darkness under my bed lashes out and latches
I want to hug my brother, like we did in the hospital.
Who told me to study, to absorb deltas, to square points?
I tell myself the only hands pulling my neurons are my own. The circuits and cycles
in my gray matter justify
all my self-conclusive recursion.
Nietzsche's Zarathustra left the cave. Having drooled at solitude,
that scares me. If I were there in the mountain-top cave would I come right back down too? If a prophetic fiction can't stay alone
how could I ignore laughter
and thermal transfer through skin?
We need dialogue
because of the inevitable pull, the torrential welling
behind our eyes.
If you sit with death once and hold its cold final hand and still choose a heaving chest coated in tear-soaked polyester. To pick raging headache & racing heart
and breath once and again:
Looking up at my dad yelling at me
"Do you want to piss me off? Pick up the goddamn box"
He didn't believe in God and I was being a brat I had grabbed at the box felt its weight
and didn’t want the strain and stretch of muscle it would take to carry
so I said I couldn't
even though we both knew I could
When a code fails and says "I can't do that" I groan
and see my frown in the screen... Did it feel the calculation I asked for and decide it didn't want
Trekking across a ridge,
and climbing over spindling roots stretched over boulders
I realize the trees are working
to stay up here while I am trying to leave safely. Trying to not roll down either side into the sea of leaves rolling
toward the valley
where they change to a darker green and roll right back up to the other peaks. The only time they'll get to roll
I think I know
what a contour integral is and I pour hours into equations. I use up all my patience carrying x's, pairing
vectors and values & clinging to the Greek alphabet
until I've bent
my back right angled.
Tangled together this is different
than geometry. I can't complete the square or trace an arc
One and zero Dime, or two
they're still just a line and a circle
remainders of ancient sticks and rocks
Rinds of an orange decorative spindly strips on a chocolate cake
watching cooking how-tos each pixel (I count twenty
to make a rind) is eight ones and zeros not 10 or two
so my computer has over two hundred options to color each tiny square
it made a million choices you made one
tomorrow I'll try to think of those 20 orange pixels instead of one door
01110011 01101000 01101001 01110100
Words linked by empty space and spliced by periods and
commas ramming contextual
background down your eye sockets. Write -- and shove them down someone else's. What right do you have to frighten educate or illicit laughs? Take your words as binary sets
I’m trying to be more selfish eating more and sleeping less reading more and talking less because happiness
dug a cavern in my stomach
a pit where once echoed echoes and oil-less shale
flake off and suffocate the nobodies inside, the same ones carved it hoping to escape
the stoney dry marbling
now the meticulous archways sit alone
without a breath to erode them or fire to warm them --
How I forget you
I want to see the heat shimmer off the road
the wet mirage
the distant asphalt patch -- soaking sky: photons fast
in warm and slow in cold, bending below across thermocline
and up to me. I want
to raise the surface temperature spin the wheels and burn them off
until it’s me, alone
and screaming at dashboard dials whacking fists, breaking
the steering wheel in half.
All the friction,
6am and it's still dark out
Milk crate book stash,
stacks of Mathematical Methods and a Larkin. My hat hangs above the black plastic, sweaty as me. It drips each second away, on to the cover of Poe's
Complete Poetic Works. I made a white-soled shanty
by whipping my running shoes off. I need to shower and make breakfast. Or I could lie here
I prefer my arrays wrapped without a bow.