The Opposite of Knowledge

The Opposite of Knowledge
Michael Atkinson

The thing about secrets is,
like tabernacles, they’re always opened.
The deer’s belly was opened
over the Tyska’s fence, so I could smell
the organ ghosts as I walked by with the garbage.
The meat was another secret –
stored away or sold by the pound
when the strikes loomed at Grumman,
where still other secrets were built:
my father bringing home discarded blueprints
for radar surveillance planes
after inhaling a six of tall boys
in the parking lot and masturbating
into a condom. Another secret:
he kept the used rubbers in a shoebox
in his Chevy trunk, always hunting
for a discreet dumpster.
The Oldsmobiles had secrets, too (weak
head gaskets), the lawns (moles), the woods (…).
When the sideyard door opened,
it was always secret, even
if Sherry Brock came in crashing,
crying, holding her hand out so
my mother could see the concentric
burn circles targeting her palm.
Ice, more crying, shushes, none of which
I could understand, despite the opening,
despite the naked rage and shrill realness.
Summarily catechized, the blessed things before me,
I wondered about the tiger lilies
outside, and why it was that their
afternoon yawnings revealed nothing,
but their vespertine closures
so clearly indicated dreaming, and escape.



Michael Atkinson‘s first volume of poetry, One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train (Word Works) won the Washington Prize in 2002. He’s had work in Crazyhorse, Northwest Review, The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, and elsewhere. He teaches at Long Island University-Post.