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.’
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
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:
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.
Copyright © 2021 by John Latta, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.