the scars book center for books and chapbooks

Secret Knowledges?

Secret Knowledges?

a book by Matt Robinson

secret knowledges?

matt robinson
scars publications and design
chicago usa

secret knowledges?

Matt Robinson

Scars Publications and Design, Janet Kuypers, Publisher

First Edition
Printed in the United States of America

Published by Scars Publications and Design
copyright © 1998 Matt Robinson, Scars Publications and Design

All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reprinted
without express permission from the author

Other Productions by Scars Publications and Design:

Children, Churches and Daddies, print and electronic magazine
Hope Chest in the Attic, poems and short stories by Janet Kuypers
Sulphur and Sawdust, poems and short stories by assorted writers
The Window, poems and short stories by Janet Kuypers
Slate and Marrow, poems and short stories by assorted writers
MFV: The Demo Tapes, compact disc by Mom’s Favorite Vase
Autumn Reason, novel in letter form by Sydney Anderson
Close Cover Before Striking, poems, essays and short stories by Janet Kuypers
Infamous In Our Prime, essays by Rochelle Holt & Virginia Love Long
Blister and Burn, poems, essays and short stories by assorted writers
( woman. ), poems, essays and short stories by Janet Kuypers
Anais Nin: An Understanding of Her Art, essays by Rochelle Holt
Seeing Things Differently, performance art compact disc by Janet Kuypers
The Electronic Windmill, novel by Pete McKinley
Contents Under Pressure, poems, essays and short stories by Janet Kuypers

...for (and thanks to) little, big fella, nick,
and the clique.

“Though it is perhaps a good idea under the circumstances to pretend at least to be proceeding with one’s great work on “Secret Knowledge,” then one can say when it never comes out that the title explains this deficiency.”

- Malcolm Lowry, in Under the Volcano


would it matter
the capitalization,
(in this poem),
some pseudo-political/linguistic statement,
a broken keyboard?)



i had a rubber band
that i wrapped
around a chapbook (filled with rough drafts of poems),
and one day
i took the book (out)
to read.
now, while removing that restraint
that kept it all together,
(all neatly in the book - bound (and gagged)),
it broke.

word shrapnel: phrases, commas, periods -
all on scraps of paper, envelopes, and
old pay stubs -
came violently alive.

no longer neatly stacked and filed -
an alphacarpet for my floor.

i didn’t rush
to clean it up, (put
them neatly in their place),
it seemed they need not have


licks my skin.
nature’s kiss,
in this her


this wet climax-
rain; after long(ing), sultry
waves of summer heat.


this heat
licks my skin-
reminds me of how
you(r houses) were.

and this blue oxford cloth
clings to me
like memories and/of
fishing trip bug spray,
and this tie chokes


i must’ve cut my finger today
(at work?) -
but unlike sylvia
and her wondrous wound -
i didn’t notice it.
there was no blood.
only after
that 11 hr. shift
and the drive home,
(shirt and tie on the floor),
and a microwave dinner -
in the quiet space of
a shower stall,
alone and naked -

it stung.
i felt it.

i see it now.

it still stings.

“the park”

after $5.89 for 2
used books,
($6.00 really, because
i didn’t want change),
i’ll walk down barrington st.-
in all its sticky post-rain
i’ll read (alvarez’s) “new poetry”
and keep my thumb under
the cover:
ignoring that evil freckle-
(yesterday’s new acquaintance).
i’ll walk to parks that i
don’t know;
and the cemetery
by that school
that dad went to,
(and stop- to take a look).
i’ll say “hello” to dogs,
ignore their owners
(and that pen-mark
oddity; my
sickly thumb tattoo.)

“power outage”

candlelight flickerings and
i sit here,
passing melting wax minutes
with a burning passion
for t.v.,
and a computer screen.


motion marries snap-shots.
culture/commerce conglomerate.
tee vee.

“trident ad”

this bubblegum sonnet
with its b b c c (cups) rhyme scheme.
carefully crafted:
meticulous musical meter.
brief, but intense.
quite like the classics,
simply one of a sequence.
complete now, with
that required finale
of perfect(ly rhyming) couple(t).

“public gardens”

closet santa clauses-
these pavers
have wrapped
asphalt ribbons around
this wood/bee gift
to a city.

gates: wrought irony,
spring garden rd.
ferocious marigolds.

“the saturday i didn’t work”

a wonderful(ly) empty friday night
of anticipation.
a morning of getting up
driving brother to work),
picking up coffee (43 cent tip)
at the tim horton’s
(drive-thru, of course).
home to early morning sports on cable
and that nowjustright
ssssip of coffee-
single/single, because even @
23, i’m not getting any younger.

a morning of cutting
ban a n a s
and of whecat bread,

of reading a newspaper
and some purdy poems.

somehow, i fit a shower
in there-
and @ 5 2 11 (in the morning)
i’m thinking that,
just in case,
i should head to
work to check out next
wk’s schedule.


all that i left
her with,
(with her),
cd’s -
2 i think -
and i miss

“states, (not united)”

is that most amazing state.
it’s a (+),
it’s a (-),
but you rarely carry the 1 (with you).
like stepping from a day grown grey with dusk
into a lights out room,
and you can’t find
the switch-
(-ing places in a way).

and i read somewhere
that “non-existence is the only perfection”-
but keep in mind
someone wrote it down.

“‘night hymns on lake
nipigon’, (for the six o’clock news)”

(mr. scott had this to say:)
“whispers before us...”
“then they have vanished”-
“lapses in blackness”
“hunted the savage”
“adeste fideles”,
“uncouth and mournful,
down into darkness”
“to rest in the silence”
“back into quiet”
(and, coming up...)
“ringing like cymbals”

(up next...-)

“ode to winter, ice,
and snow”

i like today because
it’s cold,
and windy,
and there’
s ice on all the streets.
and i can barely keep my
and i revel in it
all (as i struggle not to fall);
not because of that raw
beauty nature.
simply since this wind and ice
(in all their wintry bluster),
have given you a reason-
in this a
frigid season-
to grab and hold my arm.
(and f u r t h e r squeeze it tight).
why does winter feel so

“rush hr.”

little green cupid appeared:
coaxed us.
you towards me,
me towards you.
we ventured into/onto that
precarious place between.
and for that brief, but
we shared a space.

all too soon
we passed by.
and a thundering urbanity took its’ place
between us.

star-cross(walk)ed lovers,
we were.


pick-up-stix over/
scattered (in this downtown).
concrete and steel,
a magnification
(dramatic re-enactment?)
some monopoly game:
hotel/utility/apt. (buildings),
this traffic, a mess of game pieces-
spills across the board.
the length of this (red) light
feels like miss a turn.

“(b)layton(t) sexuality”

as i read
through (t)his volume of
the repeated # of
references made/
deference paid to
breasts and thighs
(with accompanying sighs)
is enough to make my mind stray:

from stanzas, and verses, and
ballads -
to meals deals, and french fries,
and salads;

(while he
plays (t)his game
of chicken
with his critics).


tired and dull with
the aftermath of drink
i lie here
(reading poems):
swallowing verse in silly, eager gulps.
in a hope that
it can do what
beer has failed at.

funny, how our vices
take so many shapes
and how the one
makes an academic and
the other
a drunk, and
there’s really not much


it ended with her underground.
the perversity-
akin to layton’s still life.
snapped shots
of a crumpled mess of lives.
the metaphors, (too easy),
need not be stated.
apparently neither will she.

“(on) writing the
gaspereau review”

a real postman,
these real words:
an editor’s response.
a swift kick to the kroetsch.

just like he’d predicted -
there was no one
to receive my application(s):
my words,
not real(ly).

i’ve worked in a garden ctr.
five yrs. now,
even managed a summer
or two;

but it seems the
climate’s just not right
in wolfville for
anything in my
seed catalogue to

i’m up against it.)
and it’s
really not that fertile.

“learning to write letters”

the “bread-and-butter note.”

when you have stayed overnight or have spent a weekend in
someone else’s home, good manners demand that you acknow-
ledge this hospitality in a letter to the hostess. your note should
be specific, expressing how much you enjoyed and appreciated
your visit - and it must be prompt.
a bread-and-butter note is always written to the hostess. even
though you may have been the guest of the son or daughter,
the first letter you write is to the mistress of the house. make
her feel that all her efforts for you were worth while.

... 24,feb./97

dear ,

last night was really great,
and i hope
that you enjoyed it too.
sorry about your carpet-
(musta’ been that last tequila).
hope you’re feeling better than i
do this morning.

oh gawd! what a headache.
your keys are by the phone.
see you downtown
next weekend?

have a good wk.

yours, ________


now, the guide doesn’t say, so
does this go on the
or the night stand?


he grew a beard to cover up those neck scars.
but wrote real and
close to the skin. his pen betrayed him.

we all wear beards-
carefully grown,
sculpted even.
they help, we hope,
to keep out the bite
of frosty winds.

in the thick of a
beard, it’s hard
to square a jaw
or read lips.

i long for the day
that i can both
adequately grow a full beard,
(shaggy as a sheep dog),
and live
magnificent and shorn.

“almost halloween”

an old $2 blue sweater chill
in this air,
and these chameleon
leaves smell
like school and pick-up football.

no shoulder pads
in this itchy autumn jersey-
but it blocks
a blitzing breeze well.

hands deep in pockets-
straining seams, because
it’s cool.


this city’s trees:
those back-to-school punks,
with their
multi/technicolour haircuts,
parking/speed piercings,
love tattoos.


where do all the ducks go,
when lagoons are all frozen
and the park is all snow?

why do you want to know?
as you sit in their cabs,
the park covered in snow,
why must you keep tabs
on where the ducks go?

holden, why does it matter?
why do you ponder such questions?
among cabbies and tourists and pimps
you continue your search for suggestions.

“letter to holden caulfield”

o holden!
i read your diary again-
finished it today.
i underlined a lot
of it, the stuff (the reallyreal, not phony parts)
that seem more than newsprint and ink.
when you sit or smoke there, it’s like it’s here-
but i really can’t explain it.

i wonder where the ducks go, too i

i (can only) hope to comfort you by writing this-
to let you know
some things do stay the same.
each time i talk with you
you hold fast (save for the
occasional typo in the odd edition).

or wait! is that what you were

even when we’re down in print-
permanent, (it seems),
there’s always something bound to

maybe it’s not that i wish
we’d never met,
in fact i’ll bet
just i wish each time
could be the first.
(it sent a tingle down the spine...)

the rye-runner in me
thanks you.

i hope that didn’t sound too phony.

i’ll say “see ya ‘round,”
not “good-bye” and not
“good luck.”

“phone call”

i made a holden caulfield phone call
stumbled up the stairs of some
hole in the ground bar.

(and it was literally below street level,
jam-packed with perverts and phony old
men- all smoking and carrying on...)
anyway, like i said, i made this phone call-

just like holden caulfield, except
i was in halifax, (of course), and well,
he was in new york: the big apple, as
they say.

but it was just like holden caulfield-
reminiscent of the book, as i stumbled up
the steps and listed over to the phone.
i got a quarter from my pocket, as there

were quite a few in there. you know
you always have all quarters, and loonies
when you’ve been out for a night of
drinking. drinking draft beer all night,

i had. lots of quarters for the phone.
so i dialed up this old girlfriend -but
i got the # right the first time-
although holden tried a few.

so i’m a nineties holden caulfield
standing drunk there at a payphone,
calling sally haynes in the wee hrs.
of the morning. ‘course her name wasn’t

sally haynes, and it was summer, not
winter as i stood there. but i was
drunk and on the phone just like holden
caulfield late at night.


and she answered, (the girl i called),
not her grandmother like in the book.
but she did ask where i was just like
sally had asked holden. yes, i was

drunk just like holden caulfield on
a payphone late at night. and it
seemed just like the book itself, but
perhaps i haven’t got it right.

“poem with seven
words in the title”

a professor of mine,
in teaching, (or actually
professing, as they are known to do),
brought the attentions of the class,

cue flashback:
“and I cannot stress this enough, now...”
end flashback;

to the titles
of the poems
the autopsies on.

he said, that professor of
poetry 400.0,
(now known as poetry 393.2),
that the
(of a poem)
could not,
should not,

cue flashback:
(“and will not, in this class...”)
valued/analyzed/etc./etc./etc. ...”
end flashback.

the title is always
extremely important to
the poem’s overall meaning,
and worth,
and so forth.


i remember that class,
(that ass)-
so now i write
just for spite, a
poem with seven words in the title.

“the write 1”

some girls i’ve dated were a stanza
or two.
some, a poem.

i want a girl
who makes me one.

“at the nudie bar...”

the 3 of us get out
of the car
and walk up to,
this movie;
leave the parked neon, (no harley), in the lot.
we’re (on a) set, this soundstage-
all decked out.
complete with mirrors and metallic pole.
biker bar background,
80’s hard rock-
(van halen)
as i’m inhaling this
smoke machine atmosphere.
“hot nuts for a quarter,”
notes a sign in the corner.

and this w(hole) place is cloaked
only in irony.
she’s done. then
some guy with windex
wipes down mirrors
we can see ourselves.

“snow angel”

sweet snow surrender:
i fall,
back into,
an angelic (in a sense),

but playful in this mock flight.
a snowsuit armour
against the growing cold.

“religion, organized”

that it has stood
so long
is no guarantee.

we made this, we
(of earth),

[i thought:
i scrambled out into the scandalous sun and saw
an old man, collapsed
upon a stair,
i thought, to his knees.
the river we had forgotten to invent
(but went in anyway)
received us- everyone.]

...have made this.
it will stand today,
gasping for air, and one.


things must be going well,
everything’s gotta be o.k.:
i looked at my hand today
and my fingernails
were all there.
i can stare at them now.
i don’t know how
they grew, i never knew,
(realized), i’d stopped biting them.

ahem, ahem, i’ll clear my throat.
this is bizarre, way too far-
fetched, i can catch
a glimpse of a manicured future.

this realization,
a complication-
something’s (back, i’m under
eating away at me, i’m
eating away at me.

“to my friends:”

i am a chest of drawers, antiqued.
out of style and awkward.
work me open - struggle gently
with my resistance: sticky compartments
that (have) refuse(d).
pull me ajar and
fill me with woolen sweater memories
(folded neatly),
safe and worn.

hide your fashion(ed) disasters
with me.

i will sit in the corner and be functional;
i will compliment the wallpaper.

“in my backyard”

there’s this maple
tree in my backyard; in our
and it’s been there forever -
(as long as i can remember).

smack in the middle of a cranapple bush
that’s tried to push
it out.
my dad used to cut it back
each and every year;
but never thought to tear
it out.

i saw it today-
the maple is still here:
getting bigger, branching out.

and i think it’s a metaphor
for something.
and i don’t know what or
if i want to.
i can’t get it out
of my mind.


hey buddy!
if you’re right, then
i’m caught
(between just sitting here waiting,
or getting up and jumping/yelling/pleading,
“pickme! pickme! pickme!”)

turning this whole thing in-
to an afterschool game
of street hockey.
who’re the captains, and did anyone call

“playing dress-up”

after morning after morning of scrubbing myself
those break-of-dawn baptismals,
i become tuxedoed.

all black and white and proper:
no tattletale
all ironed: straight and creased;
these mock form(alitie)s.

you must (re)present yourself accordingly
at these things:
all black and white and straightened.
everything goes only where it belongs.


this sketch is
of a memory of
what(?) i thought
i saw
(right now).


everything is a word.
we don’t have a word for everything.
removed from purity:
we are syntaxed.


i dream us freed from the pen.

some animal(s) are we-
goaded/shepherded to these troughs,
down this slop-
py alphabet (soup)
in silly, eager gulps.

chew on this? no;

simply swallowed whole. -
fed, we are over
up on two feet:
bloated and starving.


up until this winter
when it got cold,
i thought you were running fine;

you knew
we were running out of time.

150km/h on a late-for-curfew rollercoaster.
seats that go back.

one-sixty to pictou-
ferry god mother watching under us.

i remember.

you took me places
i’d never been (to),
showed me faces
i’d never seen (too).

i re-re-re-remember.

you’re dear,
but i’m caught in headlights.

“i hope your heart
is not brittle”

i hope
your heart
is not brittle


1.the name of an album
i own, (spelt just like that. with no capitals.),

2.melodramatic: a cliche still
waiting tables in language hollywood,

3.a prayer to myself, tho’ i’m not

4.something i say quietly to
myself when i’m lonely
and the tears won’t quite come,

5.what i thought when i met

exactly what i mean.

“like hair”

i want to be a part of poems
like bill bissett’s hair.

have something/part violently
from me
in the creation-
(as close as i’ll get to birth)-

to be real(ly) on
the pg.

it may be a bloody mess.
i hope so.

“television recipes”

an old used-book
store nic-nac.

green cookbook,
a 1950’s kraft? on top
of a pile of print,
it made me think.

television recipes, (we have).
the two foo(le)d groups:
[each feeding us their li(n)es.]

(image in)
all the people...

“old numbers”

old numbers. we find them
(price) tags, telling us what
we’ve paid. birthday cards/mileage markers:
statistics (of a journey).

phone(d) numbers - scraps
of paper.

all adds up. multiplies.

divisions; in the long run,
are the remainders?


funerals of parents
of friends, coupled
my birthday.

i’m up early this morning.
getting ready for the drive.
the tank was full
last night
as i pulled into the driveway;
will it be enough to get us there?

all formalized, i’m wearing suits, and ties,
more often now.
it’s becoming habit.
you all
pile into the car.

our first roadtrip, someone said.
i hope we don’t take anymore,
not like this.
i don’t like the end, the let down,
the part(ing)
where you drop everyone off.

it’s hard to drive home alone.
memories don’t hold up their end(s)
of conversation; they just sit
and listen
with a distant look in
your eyes.

“a new word”

she is
a new word.
better left unsaid
than sullied by this everyday

add verbs or adjectives if you will;
none will do.

i am pavlovian.
beyond cognition
and working only

i don’t under-
this power over

and she and the ink
still wet as this gets joyfully penned.

as i am.

“let’s consider the dead”

out of ink.
writing dry, but still scribbling, jotting, noting.

no tangible words -just impressions-

(the # on a scratch pad that you can see
3 weeks and god knows how many sheets
later, kind).

the kind embedded on a page when
all the hand can do is struggle with
inadequacies of (th)ink. pressing hard.

at the tips;
on the edges.

if you close your eyes
and let yourself feel
(the page)
you will recognize the words, the communications;

with nothing left
to see
you will hear the leaving notes.

“reasons to stay or leave”

i’m given to understatement
at times.
so, that said, don’t be offended
if this seems casual, or
in tone.

this city is what i know,
and most of that i don’t.


the streets tonite are
crystalline; white and

this cold: harder and
more violent than

march should be. mom is

making funeral
arrangements, (but not

to plan ahead). i’ve
come to realize

people die weather
or not; whether or

not it’s rain, sun, or
snow. they go they go.

“sun room”

the walls of this sun room at night
are oddly reminiscent of

backdrops for those near pornographic
calvin klein ads.

both mask their intentions
in tensions.


pages weren’t enough.
in the absence they seamed.
held two parts together;
parts that had
and have

fabrics woven, seemlessly without-

longing only turns
caustic; burns,
when words return.
regret becomes re-
code - a cry, a call for someone.


“villanelle on leaving”

this romanticism of my departure-
self-(indulgent) fantasy that it is,
cannot yet move beyond conjecture.

with any mention of next year; the future,
friends are at pains to(o): miss
this romanticism of my departure.

muted uncertainties, (a question without answer):
the fact is that imagined truth or simple wish
cannot yet move beyond conjecture,

or any other guess at what ties; what sutures
will survive, will overcome this-
this romanticism of my departure

and that next act, or scenes- the future.
no matter what games (of luck) we play, a kiss
cannot yet move beyond conjecture.

obsession like this is not my nature;
(even a hope of unexpected bliss
cannot yet move beyond). conjecture:
this romanticism of my departure.

“up, under”

under the volcano we all live.
don’t we, live
suns that rise and set.
mountains yet
to be- tectonic indigestions;
geo-physical suggestions of what we can amount to.

no wonder we drink; are drunk, of ourselves.
where is our good counsel?

parched throats erupt:
an effort - it seems - to drink of what burns within.


“the drive home”

2 largeblackcoffeequick awake
you make me feel tonight. so now

i will count the street lights;
those manufactured stars/

celestial urbanities,
as i pass them: because i can,

because of you. stars lite, stars bright.
everything shines tonight.


this cold morning tangible breath weds fog.
my fingers remember last night’s embrace.
the cold, the mist, the hour conspire against
tactile reminiscence. my hands: still, warm.