Issue 26: John Latta

Notes Written in June

To return to the random angelic

callowness of the upstart boy who is

‘seen the dews among.’

                             At sunup

he is out scuffling along an esker,

a sinuous gravelly deposit running

like a welt through

                        larch and marsh.

Singular: the chip-burr of a scarlet

tanager high up in a red oak.


A goodly rain fetches up

out of a patchy drizzle &

untangles itself to pitch

down straight at the earth.

Across the river, a golden

prothonotary warbler flares

briefly up in a tousle of

willow scrub. Sweet sweet

sweet sweet sweet.


‘Not in towns and cities,

but in the impervious

and quaking swamps.’


The large oval spots, edged

in ghostly white, found on the thorax

of the beetle are a form of self-

mimicry. Eyes to confuse or deter a predator.


Uprush out of nowhere:

looking for hellgrammites under

stones in creek beds. Dobsonfly

larva. Two words ‘of unknown origin.’


Bunch of new & old ways of saying

here I am again: two damselflies

doing battle in a green glass bottle.


To court disarray with a sidelong glance,

to render it ‘like a pack of scattered cards.’


Tout à coup: bicycling down

into the plain of Lasithi

with its thousands of white-

sailed windmills lazily

turning in the sun.


Several brown-headed cowbirds,

clumped up like a militia,

sputter and cluck, up in a dead elm.


Idle days with Robert along the Canal

St. Martin, washing down salty rose-colored crevettes, or

Iranian pistachios, with liters of Valstar beer.

‘To enter the lists with these few notes

jotted down in the midst of the action, under

distracting circumstances.’


To succumb to the thorough

blur of the copy, to scribble lovingly

marginalia in the gaps, to dicker

unconvinced at the threshold.


Thoreau: ‘the honest qui vive of the chewink.’


To document variant

constraints, to dally

haply & grandly

disport. To throng forth

deft as the sun: ‘with fell woodness

he effierced was.’


Blue grosbeak, upland

sandpiper, dickcissel. Three knots

in the hem-stitchery of the skirted day.


To tout accidentalism—

‘causelessness in the hap’—

in order to break out

into gratifying bewilderment.


A backyard homily:

two yellow-shafted flickers probe

                 for ants in the dirt

                 between the flagstones.

To intensify the quotidian

muster, to round up ambrosial musts:


At Cherry Hill a Mississippi kite

hawks seventeen-year cicadas:

                                     no layoff

to the murmurous high decibel chorus.


Ricochet off the memory bank:

equisetum (for horsetail) and lycopodium

(for clubmoss), two words my father

liked to use.


Went out Tuttle Hill Rd.

to the makeshift retaining ponds

& dipped on the yellow-

crowned night heron. Oh well.


‘Complete in itself like a porcupine.’


To make a disparity of

         a thing, to adhere to its way of

         dehiscing at the moment of

its formal integrity. Two

         goldfinches bounce along

         a sinusoidal curve, singing

ti-dee-di-di at every dip.


Writing is a rupture.


In Lucas Cranach the Elder’s

Melancholia (c. 1533) rambunctious boys cavort

nakedly, or nap in collapse. A woman with yellow

hair whittles distractedly at a stick,

making it sharper and sharper.


‘Rattling the bushes like a Pinkerton.’


A Sikh squats against a boardwalk upright

photographing cliff swallows zig-

                                        zagging out over Ford Lake.

The birds Audubon called ‘Republican swallows,’

for their mud nests ‘clustered

                                    like so many gourds.’

He collected eggs out of those ‘frail tenements’ with a spoon.


‘That the godly must be dumb

for a while and cease from praysing god.’


A common gallinule foots it into the cattails,

                                       its red shield and bill

rending the marshalled green of its greenery.


A thunderstorm rollicks in

with its sundering light—

                                ‘to transmogrify the dahlias.’


The end of something:

simple sense without figure.

‘And that the whole world

foreclose all scapingplottes.’


Writing is a rapture.

John Latta is the author of Rubbing Torsos (Ithaca House, 1979) and Breeze (U. of Notre Dame Press, 2003). Between 2006 and 2015 he blogged at Isola di Rifiuti. Forthcoming is a batch of poems in The Brooklyn Rail. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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