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Supercritical Pitchfork

By Roark Habegger

Creative Writing Senior Honors Thesis English Department

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

April 4th, 2020

Approved:

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2 Supercritical Pitchfork

By: Roark Habegger

I want to write about my mom. 3

Black Hole 5

Flow 6

Enduring Odysseus (Abridged) 7

Inverse 8

The Limiting Cases of Sex 9

How I see you 10

Evening Angle 11

Orbit 13

Ergodic 14

Tunneling 15

Globules 16

Derivatives 17

Break Point 18

Bifurcation 20

Cowboy Coffee 21

Holding Cell 22

Scattered Sunrise 23

October 24

April 24

Phase Space 25

Obsession 26

Decadent 28

Closed 29

I want to hug my brother, like we did in the hospital. 30

Segmentation Fault 31

Nullcline 32

I think I know 33

Recipe 34

01110011 01101000 01101001 01110100 35

Exhaustive 36

How I forget you 37

6am and it’s still dark out 38

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3

I want to write about my mom.

Itch

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?

Roll

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

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4 knew before I did

I'd soon be passed out in a crib.

Exhale

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

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5

Black Hole

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

to pull

toward the top. It’s a shame he isn’t stuck

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6 Flow

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

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7

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

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8

Inverse

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,

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9

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

knees

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.

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10

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

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11

Evening Angle

Rooftop slant

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.

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13

Orbit

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

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14

Ergodic

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.

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15

Tunneling

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

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16

Globules

a sphere.

Spinning, oblique, solid, or celestial. Held by gravity or surface tension

or Atlas

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

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17

Derivatives

Changing

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-

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18

Break Point

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

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20

Bifurcation

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

in rust.

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

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21

Cowboy Coffee

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

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22

Holding Cell

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

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23

Scattered Sunrise

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

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24

October

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.

April

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

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25

Phase Space

Driving across

lake-pocketed Wisconsin, I realize one hard left turn is my distance from lake bottom.

Driving alone

lets me think my weird thoughts. I don't have to explain

to my mom twice

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26

Obsession

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

do nothing

to cleanse the extra variables from the equation, to purify the page of its tautologies

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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.

Decadent

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...

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29

Closed

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."

"You too."

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

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30

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:

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31

Segmentation Fault

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

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32

Nullcline

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

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33

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

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34

Recipe

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

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35

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

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36

Exhaustive

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 --

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37

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,

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38

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

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39 Appendix:

I prefer my arrays wrapped without a bow.

Figure

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