L. S. Klatt, Cloud of Ink, University of Iowa Press, $17.00 (paper)

When comes the flood, who gets on the boat? Every beast and bird and creeping thing, kind after kind. This assumes that the captain has the means and the mind to sort. A bird or beast appears in almost every poem in L. S. Klatt’s Cloud of Ink, but the poet has serious doubts as to whether man can make adequate or accurate sense of his inheritance. In “Liquefaction,” the speaker finds an octopus in the snow: “And not knowing what it was or why it was there, I gutted it / as if a hunter.” The consequence of hunting, with none of the deliberation. And the confusion doesn’t belong to the speaker alone: “So many mistook my passion for gangrene.” Things quickly take an even sharper turn into the surreal, as they frequently do in Klatt’s poems. However, while meaning is elusive, it is not cryptic. In “The Pear as Wild Boar,” the hunter replaces fauna with flora, with no appreciable change in ritual or consequence: the speaker “comes upon the wounded pear / & puts fingers to neck // &, feeling / the pace of its breath, slits its throat.” Klatt’s terraria and aquaria don’t surrender their secrets so much as defeat the very idea of them. Cloud of Ink has a naturalist’s descriptive power and sense of wonder, but it’s true wisdom is Klatt’s reticence in the face of partial understanding. He notes that “the horse like a hearse / is patient.” More shepherd than hunter, more sailor than captain, Klatt shares that virtue.