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John Latta

Five poems

Le Neutre / To Stupidity / To a Hack / The Charts /
To James Schuyler in Heaven

Le Neutre

Up to the point of
tumult the discourse is neutral:
a drawing of a mud
dauber, a lithograph’d sketch by
Daumier torn out of Le
Charivari — of three buxom blue-
stockings gripping a man’s hat.
A book by a man
call’d Roland, discerning and mercurial.
To conjugate is to join
two things: rapport bandy’d into
tenuous composure with duress preempt’d.
The inventory welcomes it: indices
of light screen off contagions,
a table is retain’d, suspend’d
up in the air without
a word. Unfinish’d books flop,
Spinoza catapult shoe-in. A kind of
utopianism accedes to the hand-
work’d memo: ‘of reduced Circumstance.’

To Stupidity

Ruddy is the morning
hen against the excrement-
drench’d slant of coop
made of mill scrap
and other chuck’d redeemables:
human-etch’d effluvia, a
museum of. “That one’s
name is Ulysses.” I
advance with a scoop
of turd-color’d pellets
mock-loft’d against the
yellow girdle of sun:
Introibo ad altare Dei,
etc. Working myself up
into an unredounding lather
in the dewy green
arena. Stupid to canvass
the sturdy and inattentive
natural world with such
lowly tub-lumber, oughtn’t
one stick to singing
some sick old romance
of swarms inexplicable — a
sweater-shaped cloud of
bees flapping its arms
or a squad of
devils in logical colloquy
with a tempest semblable?
It is nearing spring.
Fat is the desperado
who makes the jug-
reiterating tut-tut-tut
of the American robin
for anything beyond dud
minstrelsy. “You said it.”

To a Hack

Inchoate is the chit-
chat of a declining
age, the cursory ob-
fusc’d sub-complacencies of
the dour days gang
hoo-doo’d by foot-
loose poseurs with un-
rebutt’d rodomontade parlance, their
decant’d vernacular fetch’d up
to unstopper any in-
dwelling spook tenancy of
means: men are just
like that. Sauce tomate
deliver’d by a particularly
blade-like linguini, vesicles
of blood and milk
in wild contract, a
nettling spurge call’d Euphorbia.
Or designs cut directly
out of magazines. Berryman,
jut of cigarette dropping
ashes un peu partout:
“I scrounge ensamples violent
by choice.” Buckets of
minnows — mostly squads of
red-sided dace, Cyprinidae —
and one hog-nosed
snake feigning death inside
a lacy pillow case.
A vial of laudanum
with a plug made
out of a page
of the Mercure de
France announcing a poetry
that is neither déformante
nor formulée, its lingual
fixity trump’d by fat-
finger’d torque accords of
the torn off voice:
unstoppable, bent, strident, blue.

The Charts

Pre-fit linens clothespin’d to the squall
line flap out taut. Out
beyond the cistern’s spigot

pipe: anonymous yellow light bellying up
against a sprawl’d juggernaut of clouds.
Anomaly scrapbook reveille.

Memory is made seamless by rash
impercipient traffickings, dash-
random seizures of work. Like the donkey

braying out its squeeze-box conniptions,
tether’d to a post. Or the prow end of the tug-
boat, its muss’d mustachio look.

One Saturday I turn’d north
off the Chicago road, skirt’d
Constantine with its Monsanto seed

corn plant, brute linchpin of the dying
small farm. Hires up to two
thousand temps for the brief

“detasseling” season, scads of pinch’d
off kids, unguents of the global
economy. As at Río, so along the Red

Arrow. The charts in the office tell
the story, disreputably awry. The boarding-
house dog’s meagrely thumping tail.

To James Schuyler in Heaven

That impediment assails me, the way you pinch’d off the quasi-
Glottal r, buck’d it up amongst the teeth to flat it out: The turrets,
Self-conscious and vulgar… Loved a voluminous seed catalogue
To thump the porch in early March. Kindly repairer of the lop-
Sidedness of bouquets. Oddly fragile for a man shaped like a butt
Of Virginia ham. Now the snow is going and the leach’d out fungible
Grasses scuffle in the yellow air, low buffoonery of
The monocotyledonous subclasses. Who knows where
To put anything? Long-ponder’d reunions that the gods
Allow to come off so casually just by trudging one day up
The hill to the farm stand for cobbler peaches by the peck.
What the heck: a splash of yellow the color of sun-
Light un-accoutre’d is resolving itself inch by heavenly inch
Into a boon companion with a desperado’s “Hey nonny nonny
Oh!” Quince and vermilion for the common man. There’s nothing
Beyond that jonquil plumping itself up in the window, that
And a pound of Yuban bold on the Zurbarán-strewn dinette
Set in a kind of cogency of happenstance, remedial like a ribald
Siesta or a rework’d sestina. That’ll do, says Tom, and do it

John Latta, photo by Giancarlo Latta

John Latta, photo by Giancarlo Latta

John Latta’s books are Rubbing Torsos (Ithaca House, 1979) and Breeze (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003). Recent poems are in or forthcoming in Lana Turner, Zoland Poetry, Critical Quarterly, and OR. A chapbook, A YEAR (Days Off), is forthcoming out of Longhouse in Green River, Vermont. He writes regularly at Isola di Rifiuti

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