The Hypatia State

My father said, “You will be
a perfect human.” And I
wondered, as a child,
if I was not human,
was I serpent, perhaps?
perhaps circle,
eclipse, or parabola? the curve
of a flat plane cutting
through a cone? Was I,
at all, beautiful? Women,
they said, were not human.
My algebra was different,
but my students never left.

When I would not bend
to bless their christ,
they carved my skin away
with slivers of shell.
They quartered my
body and not for the heavens,
though I knew those heavens
and how they might hold me.
I was an equation
with multiple solutions.
I saw every possibility
in every kind of person,
not just the shapes at
the ends of my fingers–
but the divine forms
transfixed, rooted in
the sight of truth. I chose
to fall in love with wisdom
and reason. I might’ve
been your perfect human,
I might’ve been your
philosopher king.

Photo Credit: HeinzDS Flickr via Compfight cc

Jen Rouse

Jen Rouse’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Midwestern Gothic, Wicked Alice, Southern Florida Poetry Journal, Yes Poetry, Crab Fat Magazine, Up the Staircase, and elsewhere. She was named a finalist for the Mississippi Review 2018 Prize Issue and was the winner of the 2017 Gulf Stream Summer Contest Issue. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at and on Twitter @jrouse.

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