A Geometer Relishes His Fear Of The Horizontal Axis

a shape mouthed to the hitch
of the immaculate before frenzy, lavish
with the curriculum of quicksilver
his hands have become; spits small crimes
of erasure, flint-fisted and posthumous, spits

plunging curves and the noose
of her nomenclature, spits garbled lattices
ruined and haughty, planes clutched, planes
sagged with asymptotes; corrugated wrists
twisted with the husk of each slope, the flinch
of tangency; spits

the bough of something
swallowed by itself, the churn
of each projection splayed in his space
without pause, the strewn inspectors
of a narrowed eye; spits this confluence of exactitudes,

what doubt? He’s built
a steel claw for his shuddering
beneath every point, raking each surface until
what won’t be stomached
quiets to the pivot and croon
of the place numbers go when divided
by zero, the line
between fear and awe.



I have discovered a truly marvelous proof, which this margin is too narrow to contain.
-- the mathematician Pierre de Fermat, in his copy of Diophantus’ Arithmetica

The platform tilts us onto its tongue, wets us with
theorems of light, a film of honey trembling in backward shafts
to its axiom, to the place
all the train-tracks wind in a mirage of convergence,
like vessels flush with the afternoon shunted
onto the evening. We sit, fingers stretched
toward the unstripped certainties of each rail, wait for six o’clock.
I have a recurring dream where it’s only five fifty-eight
when the train lurches to life, and the axioms spread their arms
wide in welcome. Sometimes I’m the blind man stumbling
after the train, each steam huff
a newly mimed factor of too late. Sometimes the deaf man
tripped by the pores of the sound. Sometimes the shuddering man
rehearsing unsaid lemmas into the pale V of his wrists in the traincar
as he wonders if transit could be a home. Soon I’m alone,


Shakthi Shrima has been restless with words ever since she could read. When she isn’t doing math, rereading Nabokov, or writing, she can be found behind her camera, drinking coffee, or humming at obnoxious volumes. Her favorite poets are Mark Doty and Neil Aitken. She will probably cry if she doesn’t get to be an algebraic number theorist, and currently resides in Austin, Texas with her Dracaena braunii, Aristotle.