In The Event of Full Disclosure, Cynthia Atkins (CW Books, 2013), Reviewed by Barton Smock
“…At the dinner table
tension played mirror, mirror.”
from Family Therapy (I)
As a writer, Cynthia Atkins is a tipsy conversationalist, exploratory but not disruptive. A therapist in a room with two clients busy sharing the same past. In my own maintaining that simile finds things while metaphor leaves them, the disclosure Atkins internalizes may never have had a first coming. Her poems hover above family, above woman, above disorder, above dailies- a mug shot in search of a line-up. Where many would endeavor to shed light, Atkins uses ‘heft and kindness’ to allow the discovered to glow. In reading those poems as located in her collection In The Event of Full Disclosure I became displaced and recalled this line issued by the poet Ellen Bryant Voigt in her collection Two*Trees: ‘Digging a hole to where the past is buried, one covers the living grass on the other side.’ As a starting point, such recall gave depth to the straightforwardness of the book’s language which plummets unpredictably in the absence of clairvoyance. This is digging. This is not revealed. This is displayed.
“It is the greed inside your prayer.”
“…-a kind of grace
nestled in, to protect us from
the elements and the answers.”
The title of the book alone allows that there is a future after which there is not. In the event of presence, we may need not image but the reportage of wordplay, as in the poem Order/Disorder/Order:
“The afternoon had a picnic.
The afternoon had a 10 car pile-up.”
Honest without being static, Atkins seeks restlessness. Illness, outdated technologies, updates, downgrades, the trying to walk from room to room without commenting on the simple need to walk from room to room. Though already full of shadows, the elevator stops for one more.
“My voices often speak
at the same time.”
Deftly, using both the offhand and the declarative, Atkins imbues the common with nothing less than commonality. There is the carriage itself
I am a little pregnant.”
from Family Therapy (I)
and the carried off
beat out their rugs with the silence
and they can be switched. Atkins transposes her will.
“…where the moth
I drew an hour ago, just flew off
As one thought leads away from another, Atkins says ‘I am’ but seems to have a disbelief that is its own unscheduled event. Is there healing? Is this even a wound?
“…The family dog
can’t fathom these domestic
complications. He eats and sleeps,
avoids eye contact, and hides under
the bed during storms.”
from Family Therapy (III)
Atkins ghostwrites a narrative of unsettling joy by uttering I am learning how to be a member of my family. Elements and answers be damned. Here is a book on preparedness for which the available supplies are intuitive.