To the Reader:

Tristan's poetry, with very few exceptions, was spontaneous composition, unrevised. He wrote verse only occasionally, and he left scraps and pieces of it here and there: in notebooks where he'd scribble poetry amongst the math problems or lecture notes of a college course, or in notepads that he'd take with him to the beach in the middle of the day and night; sometimes he'd jot down words on loose leaf paper, and rarely he would compose at the computer. Scattered amid the verse, drawings or musical chords can sometimes be found (see examples below), the latter indicating that he had perhaps been thinking of the phrasing for use as lyrics.

During the summer after Tristan's accident, I collected all of these bits, carefully deciphering, typing and proofreading. Most, if not all, of the work can be accurately dated by the simple archaeology of rummaging through the remnants of a life, and sometimes Tristan would note dates marginally. By and large, I can narrow the origin of a particular poem to a precise month and year from the many accompanying clues. However, for now, I have decided simply to append the year.

A few specifics notes on editing should be offered:

  1. Titles --- not too many of the poems had titles, but some did. Those that didn't, I would use the first line as the title.
  2. Wording --- I never added any words, but sometimes (not very often) I corrected spelling or deleted a word or two.
  3. Punctuation --- I didn't add much, but occasionally (for consistency) I placed comma or period where he had left one out; of course, these were almost all first draft poems, so correcting some punctuation seems appropriate.
  4. Form --- This is where I took the most liberties. Since these are almost all handwritten poems, how Tristan might have prepared them for publication is hard to say.

I doubt Tristan considered himself much of a poet, although clearly his stuff matures and intensifies through the brief years of his scribbling words on paper. One such notepad was found in the clutter of his bedroom a few days after the accident. It opened with a brief prologue followed by a dozen poems. He was eighteen years old when he wrote this, living in Jupiter at the Honors College of Florida Atlantic University:

[introductory page of spring 2003 poetry notebook]

This seems an apt prelude for all of Tristan's poetry, for in these brief words we find release from the anxiety of peering where we might not be welcomed. We hear the tongue-in-cheek tone and know that even at his gravest Tristan does not commit the cardinal sin of taking himself too-seriously. And, lastly, we face the reality that Tristan was haunted by a presentiment of his own mortality, by a tendency to think of self in the past tense.

While it is clear that these writings were for Tristan merely a diversion --- a stepping-back from and suspicious-eyeing of the Sturm und Drang of everyday life rather than a way of life itself --- I am confident that even the casual reader will find a truly unique voice amid these often-accidental words, a "beautiful soul," an individuality so finely-tuned at so young an age . . . and now lost, save for these glimpses into who he was and what he might have become.

Zachary Adrian Burks                       


First draft of Human; note the omission of "Transcending I suppose" in the final version.

Original of Two Paths Lay Before Me, partial.

Here, the accompanying drawings lend further insight. The uppermost drawing indicates that all paths -- all choices -- lead to the same, inevitable end, that choice itself is an illusion. The lower drawing is a comment on the second part of the poem which is a stanza from Pink Floyd's Sheep (note the exchange of "weak" for "meek"). Waiting in the "valley of steel" is our predestined end, death. In this vision, our demise comes not on a peopled slaughter floor with human hands on our backs and at our necks, but even more cruelly, thoughtlessly, efficiently: through a mobile "shred-o-matic" into which we trod obediently with just the slightest urging.

Original of Turn Into the Rags . . . My Noose in margins of class notes.

Original of In the Dark Morning, A Rider Approaches in the margins of algebra notes.
Below the poem is a compelling aphorism: "If power escapes me in reality, I shall fake it in story."

Original of My Dreams of Late are Often Mazes.

Original of Under Attack — Give the World Nothing to Look At.

Original of Characterized by a Willingness to Empathize.

An unincluded poem, largely indecipherable.