The Obfuscationism Artist


There is the known known, the bureaucrat famously formulated:

the pear with its tree, its crate, its price
and its bruise, its past as
seed and its future as dung.

The known unknowns freeze to stay secret,
the way they abandoned
history’s warehouses and fled on foot.

The unknown known is too tedious to dismantle –
heartbeat rates, reptile-brain fight
and flight, the lust for asparagus
betraying the silent need to methylate DNA.
We after all know so little of
what we know about so much.
There, the places on city streetcorners
meant for sitting but empty
tonight because of the rain. See?

It’s the unknown unknowns that bedevil us –
the men and women in your house
30 years gone and how they loved the wolves
in the closets, the hunger no one heard,
as the kites burn up above the clouds
and only the boys with string still hope.

They know, as you do, that they know nothing
about what they could never suspect.
The god forgets what he meant by everything.
Leave him wandering. The roads are not the maps.

About the Author

Michael Atkinson‘s first book of poems, One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train (Word Works), won the Washington Prize in 2001. His poems have been in The Threepenny Review, Ontario Review, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Michigan Quarterly Review, Chicago Review, and elsewhere. He teaches at Long Island University, and works as a longtime film critic, late of the late, lamented Village Voice.