Issue 9: John Latta
Out with the dog. Dusk.
Rake of headlights against hedges,
end of day noises, a
hammer’s final big ritardando, its
clang of being flung into
toolbox. ‘Traceries sufficient to other’s
need’ is how Olson put
it, a kind of domestic
engineering, a rock, finger-rubbed.
Beyond the tidy neighborhood: a
sergeant, thirty-one, brought up
out of Iraq in a
bag. The home address, ‘American
Samoa,’ stacked jerry cans, WWII-
era airstrip. Empire makes its
own refuse, and eats it.
A piecemeal story. ‘Fugue-tongue
in crotch-din. Thigh-light.’
Some days all language is
just a muster of palliatives
against the violence of truth,
the way a man in
the laundromat topples a mountainous
load into the dryer and
spells it out for everybody:
A perfect story. Big aperçu
in run-off. The water-
cuts ducks make in pond-
scum etch out a faint
diminuendo and swerve, hieroglyphic. A
scrupulous vocabulary of leaving out.
‘The musickracket / of all ownership’
is how Olson puts it,
the scuff and connivance of
things, big endless rehearsals of
object-counting to no account.
Put cup in the cupboard.
Knife in drawer. The exterior
smear captured through the draperies,
out in the mestizo tempo
and slurry of the uncodified
night. Out where the conjecturalist’s
need to say something apt
bottoms out in random off-
gradient stitchery, and the unsedimented
refuse of daily rhythm grinds
its own plenary stochastic truck.
‘And so back to Halicarnassus—
bust’d-up port of brine-
sprung breezes.’ So Herodotus, one
thinks. To compile the savage
notes, to lop off digress
and lurch-step, stories sprung
of ‘daintie-mouthde dronkardes,’ never
the ablest informants. To taut
up the fact-patterns, and
erect a kind of warren-
slotted deep municipality, something to
gull and delude the masses,
that man-rabbitry, epically superfoetant
with stories—some furred, some
naked and roseate and barely
formed, some inconceivable, or ‘modern.’
John Latta’s first collection, Rubbing Torsos, appeared in 1979 (Ithaca House). His most recent is Breeze, winner of the 2003 Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, and available from University of Notre Dame Press. Recent poems found in Lana Turner, Chicago Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Zoland Poetry, OR, Jacket, Notre Dame Review, and Critical Quarterly. He writes regularly at Isola di Rifiuti.