#tbt: Dennis Hinrichsen, “Autobiography”

This week’s selection for Throw Back Thursday is “Autobiography” from Dennis Hinrichsen’s Collection The Attraction of Heavenly Bodies (1983). His newest collection of poetry entitled Kurosawa’s Dog (2009) was published by the Oberlin College Press and is available through University Press of New England.



The city of my birth
is renowned for its mathematical
confusion of streets. Each day
they merge until they become like hands
that can only point in one cardinal direction at a time.
These all point down.
And there are always creatures lining up
on them, juggling their wares,
applying their make-up for the one or two lines
they will speak.
How to tell them their lives
have become as unassuming
as the underwater life or rivers and lakes:
hard to believe anything really exists there
except heat the the edges and weeds
until the random splash or swirl,
the exaggerated shouts of a fisherman
as he hauls a forty-pound catfish,
one of this earth’s truly ugly creatures,
out of the river.
They will insist, I know,
on auditioning in ill-lit rooms,
reciting from memory the exits and entrances
they have loved.
How to tell them I’ve moved.
How to inform them of the growing similarities
between the cities of our country and the country.
It would make them a little nervous,
I know, and unsure
of their professions.
They would stop repeating each other
the famous stories they keep
and begin on themselves—
always a little out of sync yet touching,
like antibodies
relegated to the inner rooms.
I can’t go in there.


DENNIS HINRICHSEN is the author of five collections of poetry; Kurosawa’s Dog, The Attraction of Heavenly Bodies, The Rain That Falls This Far, Detail from ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights,’ and Cage of Water. He lives in Lansing, Michigan.