devin johnston

 

PHANTOM DWELLINGS

for Stan Brakhage

 

 

i. 

Since last I wrote 
my little bird
has turned into a cat, 

horizon hedge 
to bauhaus block
since feather touched the page. 

The names I knew
have all been struck
from sidewalks marked in proof, 

and consequence 
divorced from act—
as thought divorced from
sense— 

since last I put
my burnished steel
engraver to the plate. 

ii. 

Particles far smaller than those
of surging water or smoke
outstrip them in mobility,
moved by a slighter impetus. 

In the first autumn rain,
nettles disperse;
smooth calculi
scatter in the flood. 

Thought is light—
its fabric swayed
by mere images
of smoke and mist. 

A puddle of finger’s depth
formed in the hollows between
the highway’s cracks
offers to the eye 

a downward view
of such scope
as the vertiginous sky
that yawns above. 

The velocity of surface film
accelerates at night;
painted cellulose acetate
smothers the steady light. 

iii. 

In anticipation of the night,
Mimi arches
against the
screen
while Red circles the rug. 

Light softens, and the sky begins to snow;
lacquered larches click
against the glass. 

Nearby, phone-lines crackle with
the shaky tones of break-up: 

exhausted by pretense 

a voice repeats 

I just don’t know—I just don’t
know. 

iv. 

Though living in my head,
I would speak my mind— 

my mind has changed /
I’ve changed my mind. 

I stand behind
a wall of flame 

which some have called
screen memory 

and others call
the hollows; 

in back of which
amongst the summer trees 

a sudden flock alights—
something to count on.