devin johnston




memories. I lay in a perambulator.

six to nine months. On my right were two horses—

the brown one was staring at me

very intently

(I had the feeling

it was someone I knew)


The plane trees were

quiet yet articulate;

the horse would speak but could not.


memories. I hovered in

one year old. syringa’s meager shade

where the keeper cupped

a little bird. Its eyes looked

back into mine, I felt

frightened when he said

this is a creature like yourself


animals. It was not until the war

being slaughtered. that I learned to eat meat,

and now I am learning to

do without it again.


My mother was confined

and I heard her cry out.

I had the feeling of

an animal in distress.


I have a very keen sense

of smell, with my eyes bandaged

I can pick out by smell

people I hardly know.


recurrent dream. I saw a tongue of land

breakers had hemmed in.

a woman sprawled with arm

wound around the stem


of a palm. With her

left hand she reached

towards a swimmer;

the foam hid all


but neck and skull.

You saw his eyes?

Only once, under



but can’t recall–


paternity. In burbs of F______ a telegram

arrived as father did

in time enough and light enough

to cut a catapult from elm


or make a nickel disappear.

Both impressed his eldest girl

with all the worries that arose

from his “lack of earning power.”

Once I’d left behind

the rigid and passionate

character of youth, I grew

a regular mirror of virtue–


marriage. And grew to be a loving wife

though bearing only ghosts—

barren as Rachel, I supposed.


From the well’s mouth, roll a stone.

At the hour of twilight

on the eve of operation


I was a dimness seeking flame.

What word obscured, lamps could not light.

The failing spark–the shame–


was his. Naturally I suffered

a temporary collapse–

which I vainly sought to hide.


an incident. Three paths were open to me,

all equally impassable:

unfaithfulness (cf. paternity)


renunciation of the ghosts,

or legal separation.

All equally impassable.


I used to fasten [anstecken]

sheets with safety pins, revealing

my husband’s contagion [ansteckung]


dreams. Telepathy comes upon us,

distant yet invasive,

neither swallowed nor expelled.

An amber foal’s carcass

or weak sun on cold fields

can, after all, portend itself.


cephalophore. The problem of belief:

to be as St. Denis

who stooped to lift

his severed head

on martyr’s hill


and staggered yet some way

(archive held at arm’s length).

The first step’s hard–

the rest easy.


in the grave. When shall we be done changing?

What word obscured

by fastened sheets


melisma of misery


baal rises–in what whiteness–