John Latta: Seven poems

  John Latta

  Seven Poems

  To ‘A Face Imperfectly Beheld’

Hippocrates called the brain
‘the Metropolis of humidity.’
The hieratic Ezra Pound,
inclined to simplify, called
it ‘a sort of
great clot of genital
fluid held in suspense.’
Nicholas of Cusa counseled
a studied looking ‘off’ —
the slant apprehending of
God through ignorance doctored
up with faith’s own
sidelong benignant swerve &
unabashed guile. The seizure-
prone Emily Dickinson, un-
reservedly pragmatic concerning human
limits, dashed out some
lines impetuous with avoidance,
decrying the way ‘Interview — ’
meaning live reckoning — must
‘annul a want / That
Image — satisfies — ’
                                      So enormous
black crows like parallelograms
aimlessly sail the sfumato’d
aerie of morning with
its smutch-work clouds,
sapping all desire. I
slip against the tensile
dent — a razorblade lifted
by a skin un-
piercing the watery surface —
and my God-waiting
is a sexual wait.

  To Paul Klee

Mediocre fermata of
a slanted off
moon with punctum
of a lemony
Venus ascending like
a pfennig’s worth
of prawns. How
valiant form is,
its brusque taciturnity
a shill against
the garrulousness of
the constantly combusting
natural world. Light-
concocted and unassailable,
the hundreds of
magazine-sized gardens
stretch out, proofs
of an impeccably
nervous attention. Like
cupric tympani lashed
by arrows of
rain! They boom
and boom and
boom, booming through
a cartoonist’s lunch
at the Simplicissimus
offices, through sirocco-
battered meals chez
Jäggi in Tunis,
where the ‘sonority’
of green-yellow
terracotta milks off
the glottally ratcheted
keening of women,
consumes the blue-
gold coffin of
the bey pulled
by six mules:
a way of
completing the lyrical
submerging of one
human animal, timepiece
built of blood.

  To The Unfinished

Diffusory light and an indistinct
towhee riling up the downed
oak leaves, zealous and companionable.
Stevens says The imperfect is
our paradise, beau utility of
the passe-partout, so we
saddle up a duck, spur
it gently toward the suburbs.
Proximity’s a secular god, grub
epicureanism the motto of the
merely satisfied. At the end
of a rapturous day begun
at sun-up, we see
how fixed and uncomprehending is
the ruse we so greenly
fomented in puzzlement and lust,
how the resultant heralded camaraderie
stabs back at the uninitiated
expedient chord of the pinchfisted.
Oh wow. The field guide’s
rufous-sided bags it for
good: amiable nonsense in lieu
of messianic utterance, everything moving
against the stays of constricted
light, its auto-da-fé
casuistry underlining the nonce immobility
and through-put of finish,
the moment of the had.

  To The Greeks

Art itself is a fix:
the crux of the matter
is that, without its singling
exultant note, all things commingling
merge in constant flux unfocussed,
a smear of forms without
boundaries, unlimned and skint by
the lassitudinous gods for whom
clarity is a kind of
decay, a fissile force breaching
the phenomenal mud. Up leaps
a proviso with a club
hewn of buckthorn, a story
torn up out of madness,
bacilli, eidola, or the like.
A breeze is calling out
the name of a sun-
blacked cathartic some girls used
to chew in the dog
days in Thessaloniki, sweating out
a singularly limb-slacking stink,
presumptuous as a scholiast. Or
a cypress-toothed hill near
Patras, general in its refusal
of the dissolute, is loathe
to offend by scheduling anything
beyond its momentary persistence. A
scuffle must ensue. A sobering
radiant punch-up and grunt
dalliance with the helmeted gods
who post-coitally slurp too
noisily at the ordinary soup.

  To Complacency

Dogging it lately, riding the mephitic vapors of mere self-
presence, yoo-hooing
up a routine commodity, ready-shucked
et faussement chaleureux.

It’s enough to put one off
the regular feed of rue-
skirting tenacity and holy bric-a-brac: that formulaic line
heedlessly recording

the constancy of upheaval’s surly smell.
And isn’t it complacency
that continually rehashes the lunging Sunday walks, solo
under the green-

veined flowering dogwoods? The redbuds just beginning
a rinse into the unashamed hills
insobriety’d prevented
my knowing a thing about?

The inter-
mountainous air convenes abruptly, a cold down-
draft in a hollow,
or a black bear

scents the queasy clash of ungodly gratitude with terror
and lumbers its ominous bulk up a sapling-
covered hill
and there it is,

unassailable as a sandwich, tunelessly mouthing some dog-
patch planh
with a tempo
like that of the early Yosemite travelers

going up and down
the Sierras in fit regimen
with ‘perennial yellow gaiter, and ostentation of bathtub’
looking for no bigger lie.

  To Hart Crane

Surely the moon’s white Benzedrine
rinsings looked aslant and glorious —
like sun-shafts directed at
the manger boy’s haloed knob —
pouring cloud-interruptedly down whilst
the Gulf delivered up its
final oceanic caul to fetch
you under. In an austere
lot behind a wide-porched
and white-painted Chagrin Falls
Victorian, black liquid overflowed a
rose. Stars fell like czars.
Who recalls Verlaine extracted with-
out tact by a yielding
sailor, half-riant in rain?
Who the seminal casuistry of
of the anguished bellying up
against a friendly lick, liquor
in the offing? Who bled
off the saintly excesses of
the groins into such prodigal
verbal sync and synth? Gargantuan
the energy that gathered, unpatented.
That querulous eyebrow-arching word
circumflex got rhymed with sex.

  To Inconsistency

A field of the mad-blighted
dogs of intelligibility, sturdy couriers
of what not to expect.
Behind the story’s ‘thrust’ is
a man thinking about yellow
acacias, or how the sun
looks like a silk blouse
just out of the wash.
Fuck that. A story’s a
palmed orb, a fiery-colored
globular sac pitched with intent,
an ornery cuss blooded with
capillary networks that fan out
against the albumin light, making
spending global and coagulatory. Like
capital. Here in the city,
convergences of eulalias grab sex
arcanas off the instructor’s clip-
board: husbandry is for money.
Like that. Fuck capital. Inconsistency
is rolling into Lubbock, Texas
with a dapper canary. Blithe
merch, accessible as a swarm.
The bread in the grocer’s
tubs is angelic and white:
heaven itself is heaving out
its broke-down chronic fiat
against clampdown, bullying, and dystopia.
No use. The mad chirren
go madder, an unheard-of
rose. That century’s gone, sweet-
meat, my cheat, today’s story
is how implacably the rich
bait and sucker the poor.


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