Poetry Sunday: The Tinkerer in Terra Incognito

It makes more sense if you read it aloud.

The Tinkerer in Terra Incognito

Tumbling tippler kitchen nights with the warmonger and the barooming
barrister whom fistpoun down on the tabletop political harumphing and tipples
tumblers: tink tink

while I head-lost drug-plump drawl pencilfine subway maps, scape routes
and hatches loveblind sing-a-songs swaying Well well met my true true
love cry saltsea

to form Firmica. One night will crawl way from warm hunger’s mouth
for midnight pisspause—will see-thru propt door barrister bomb baking, stitching
redwires welding black

then looking up grinsinister sneering: Welcome. While the kitchen
faucet sings out rusting drips down to dishes dirty-caked: tinktink tinktink
tinktank tockt


Sometime after college, I became interested in not just drawing from autobiography but also writing poetry that doubled as fiction. I began a loose series of poems about an architect who became involved in a revolution which helped to destroy the world (and thereafter lived as a recluse in a suburban house with a robot, as one does). This poem, written during grad school and inspired, in style and form, by John Berryman’s The Dream Songs is set in the same universe.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t autobiographical elements. The “warmonger” is roughly based on my future-husband, who, at the time, was studying military history in college; the “barooming barrister” is undoubtedly my college friend J, who both went to law school and is fairly barooming. I think it was inspired, too, by the Weathermen. Sometimes I wondered what would have happened if my college friends hadn’t just been dorks but had been truly dangerous. Dangerous people often seem merely charismatic at first. And my friends were very charismatic.

(J turns 29 again this week; please wish him a happy birthday!)