By Devin Johnston b. 1970 Devin Johnston
A mockingbird
perched on the hood
of a pay phone
half-buried in a hedge
of wild rose
and heard it ring

The clapper ball
trilled between
brass gongs
for two seconds
then wind
and then again

With head cocked
the bird took note
absorbed the ringing
deep in its throat
and frothed
an ebullient song

The leitmotif
of bright alarm
recurred in a run
from hawk
to meadowlark
from May to early June

The ringing spread
from syrinx to syrinx
from Kiowa
to Comanche to Clark
till someone
finally picked up

and heard a voice
on the other end
say Konza
or Consez or Kansa
which the French trappers
heard as Kaw

which is only the sound
of a word for wind
then only the sound of wind

Source: Poetry (July/August 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2014
 Devin  Johnston


Born in Canton, New York, Devin Johnston grew up in Winston-Salem and received his PhD from the University of Chicago.

Johnston is the author of several collections of poetry, including Sources (2008), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Aversions (2004) and Telepathy (2001). His prose writing includes the critical study Precipitations: Contemporary American Poetry as Occult Practice (2002) and Creaturely and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Animals, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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