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Badly Burned Mathematician 

Declines Prestigious Fermat Prize

P. W. Bridgman

There were implacable vicissitudes

& no wine in his cup. There were flies.

There were 18th C. prints of modest women bathing under cloudless skies.

There were sharp left turns, & abrupt right ones, in his moods.

There were unfilled prescriptions & hieroglyphic notes in his wallet

& a card with the number for the mental health clinic. (If only he’d call it.)

There were handwritten villanelles in his desk drawer,

yellowing dissertation chapter drafts & a commendation from the dean.

There were scattered proofs & calculations, a half-written cinquain.

There was no wine in his cup. There was a locked door.

There was romance trapped inside him, Wordsworthian & pure.

There was nowhere, beyond his verse, that he could channel it. There

was somewhere, someone—illumin’d under cloudless skies—

who would see past his disfigured face & hands, the clutter, the flies

& the pizza boxes. Someone who’d recognize that his love for caesurae,

rational numbers & Schrödinger his cat

could never fill his cup. Meanwhile, simultaneously alive and dead,

he thought—perhaps irrationally?—sod the bloody Fermat.

Badly Burned Mathematician Declines Prestigious Fermat Prize was first published in P.W. Bridgman’s second collection, Idiolect (Ekstasis Editions, 2021). The first line and rhyme scheme are borrowed from Sean O’Brien’s “There Were.” That poem appeared in the Autumn 2017 issue of Poetry Salzburg Review at page 8.


P. W. Bridgman

P. W. Bridgman

P.W. Bridgman’s third and fourth titles are Idiolect (poetry) and The Four-Faced Liar (short fiction), both published by Ekstasis Editions in 2021.  His work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in The Maynard, The Antigonish Review, Grain, Skylight 47, The Moth Magazine, The Honest Ulsterman, The Bangor Literary Journal, The Galway Review, The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies and other periodicals and anthologies in Canada, Ireland, the UK, the USA and elsewhere. Mr. Bridgman has given live readings of his work in British Columbia as well as in Glasgow, Dublin, Melbourne and (most recently) Belfast. Learn more at

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