The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2021

All Issues
SEPT 2021 Issue


To Speech

Uh, okay. Along the continuum
of forms someone ‘deigns’ an
harrumph and it’s you, heart-
shorn and craving to interject
some nullity about the snow,
or how the mountains look
nearer in the morning light.
They do. Yes, they do.
They look like a prop
dropped in a puddle of
run-off, fished out with
a pole and upended by
a dour stage manager who
rarely grunts out anything beyond
a goddamn it all, weighting
the moveable uprights with sandbags,
and clamping a fraying spit-
sopped cigar between teeth no
dentist’s de-plaqued for decades.
(That’s not speech.) Without voice
audibly badgering the undaunted mind
with its cue-card normalcy
and sententiousness, it’s somewhat difficult—
shhh, I’m trying to talk—
to proceed without veering off
into the verbiage-choked jungles
of the mind talking to
itself: graceless, extraneous, ungaffered, lit.

To a Notebook

Unplumb’d the thistle is
spiny rambunct’d ‘tweedled’
all thumbs.

A plunge
the Perseids
suck up

Molybdenum in the actuarial
record like a skanky girl
at a fish fry.

Missed going three for
three at the opener,
long foul to right

the pudgy first baseman
chased down and dove
into the seats after.

bare ass’d  hors de

angelic      like a swizzle

I got boo

Nil fuit      unquam
Sic  impar sibi

The Nile only goes one way
says my incomparable sis.

To a Painting

  (John La Farge, ‘Hillside, Long Island,’ 1860-65)

A muddy field with
something like a dog’s
snout or a cataract
of yellowed leaves marring
it with a skewed
semiotic up where it
meets a noticeably vacant
sky. Thin blue. Inapproachable
rusts knot a dimple,
a hapax legomenon of
weeds the color of
the word farouche, or
chert. An Irish setter
running a shuffle-step
with a white moon
in its mouth. Parmenides
pulling a long stem
of liquid, absinthe green,
up a long bulbed
pipette. Looking’s plenum arrogates
‘to itself’ every distal
inch, feigning prehensile moiety
with the attending motor
of the tongue, who
swears it is all
for naught, or says
so anyways: abruptly shutting-
up ‘like an ironist.’

To the Literary

Stunning the number
of books un-
consumed, stacked up
against my sun-
set years, my
futurity of genial
camaraderie. Lenin says
the end result
excuses all manner
of ruthlessness. The
metaphysical distance approaches
like a dog
barking in its
sleep. I am
a member of
the bicycle battalion.
A two-fisted
adherent dubbed one
of the ‘gaga
and sinister’ out
of some colossal
ordinary breach of
the arbitrary: style
is a mask.
(Lenin says: No
revolutionary practice without
revolutionary theory.
) Oh
nobody likes a
pre-declared suc-
cessor, you’d better
eat without me.

To Romanticism

That untamable ape Coleridge in the Gutch Notebook:
And write impromptus
spurring their Pegasus to tortoise Gallop.

Flying adz of the radical propensity to talk,
endlessly talk, unthwarted by the drag
of writing’s scratch-ass carapace,

its rigidity and final stoop. He’d con the plow-
boy Boötes down out of sky
with that yak implacable, talk

splitting the green bark of the heavenly tree
of talk. The shill heights of it, climbed
by spurious mounting nasals and vagaries.

I sync it to rut fervencies in a poor-
house of denim-stripe mattresses.
Échantillons of the midriff, plumpish, un-

stately, and scissor-chopped hither bangs.
A transport to somewhere, November off Tehuantepec,
or Dezembrum’s puckish arias, sunk deep in red

plush under the un-girdered vault of sky—
I fucking love that sky.
I fucking love that sky.

To a Heat Wave

The sun’s a Quaalude so I go soporific mid-
fens, end up lagging behind the coot-
baffled dog home. O my ‘mildness of repose in swiftness.’

O my glacial demeanor notwithstanding. Such roughs.
A crisis of indistinguishable blues—with 300,000 yellows
abetting—clutters up the upended spring, its sky.

Such a lark. We humans bunch up too, and gab,
interchangeably adept at sassy retorts in a clutch:
Ain’t it a God-damn scorcher? Interrogatory rendering

the fat of reply. Ain’t it, though. Avowal
by slender means. The world’s hunkered down on its useless
knees like a jai-alai player in Nova Scotia, strapped for cash,

wheezing like a guillemot. The sun’s a fevered beast,
Eros in jockeys stretched out cockamamie and awry, ouch.
The sky’s a banged up cauldron, cock-

eyed and off kilter and liable to pour Henny-
Penny pearls of cloud-offal steaming down into Pittsburgh
or Jakarta and no Yankee machinery is big enough

to shoot it down, the sun or its minion weather,
e’en wee pecuniary chits hath not th’advantage. Make
that shits. One winces to conclude and it’s getting hot.


John Latta

John Latta is the author of Rubbing Torsos (Ithaca House, 1979) and Breeze (U. of Notre Dame Press, 2003). Between 2006 and 2015 he regularly put together notes and quotes for a blog called Isola di Rifiuti. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2021

All Issues