Two Poems — John Latta


‘I am the shy okapi’

Is what I announce sillyly

To my boy Giancarlo, five,

Who winces ‘na mare than

A geaunte at the pincynge

Of a waik man.’ Talk

Offers no ‘corumpcioun,’ is assuager

To this ‘sad and dyly-

Gent pourveyance’ the body.

Variant renderings gauge what pluck

Brings to charge audible meanders,

Untangling cross flourishes, flytings, fables.

We paint the earth with

Wanton array, and thereto cling,

Clay clot to clay. No

Space do we not occupy.


The Story Anyway

Goes like this . . . And there is a sequence of words
Tending—if the story is a good one—to place
Us in a milieu, a stony field sloping down to the blue

Suck and reconnoiter of waves
Marching in sloppy regiments
Up out of the Adriatic, where a boy of nineteen is undoing

The rope of the sleeping bag
He carries slung long over shoulder like a rifle.
He jostles off a khaki musette of sundries—

Hat, sweater, poncho, book.
He is here after walking some miles out of the port town
With its nightclubs and millionaire’s boats, its suckling

Pigs turning on spits in artificial light.
He is here to test a capacity for indifference, to charge lonely
Bewilderment to no slim credit,

To debit the empty column of a soul all it owes—
As if it owes its blank slate
To the hollow cough of the twentieth century

Feeding like a cancer on its own proliferations, skinnying out to nothing
Thanks to its monstrous rampant accruals, the victuals
Of its global supping,

A century of eating all previous centuries, fat
With history, scrawny with truth.
The field that boy slept in that night is long gone,

Converted twenty years back to housing, to white-
Washed bungalows with sticks of olive trees dying
In courtyards made lousy by the heat and roar of air conditioning units.

Any way the story goes it goes back
To us, and that night
A horse stood next to the boy’s head, a looming boxcar

With hooves, nuzzling between stones for tufts of chicory-smelling weed.
The boy woke to horse-noise and fuss.
That’s the story anyway. Us, horse. Horse and us.


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