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New Song

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After William IX, Duke of Aquitaine

As sweetness flows through these new days,
the woods leaf out, and songbirds phrase
in neumes of roosted melody
incipits to a new song.
Then love should find lubricity
and quicken, having slept so long.

The bloodroot blossoms, well and good,
but I receive no word that would
set my troubled heart at ease,
nor could we turn our faces toward
the sun, and open by degrees,
unless we reach a clear accord.

And so our love goes, night and day:
it’s like the thorny hawthorn spray
that whips about in a bitter wind
from dusk to dawn, shellacked with sleet,
until the sun’s first rays ascend
through leaves and branches, spreading heat.

I have in mind one April morning
when she relented without warning,
relenting from her cold rebuff
in laughter, peals of happiness.
Sweet Christ, let me live long enough
to get my hands beneath her dress!

I hate the elevated talk
that disregards both root and stalk
and sets insipid pride above
vicissitudes of lust and strife.
Let others claim a higher love:
we’ve got the bread, we’ve got the knife.

Source: Poetry (May 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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New Song

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  • Born in Canton, New York, Devin Johnston grew up in Winston-Salem and received his PhD from the University of Chicago. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Far-Fetched (2015), 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 Other Essays (2009). A former poetry editor for the Chicago Review from 1995-2000, Johnston co-founded and co-edits Flood Editions with Michael O’Leary.

    A lyric poet influenced by Yeats, Johnston whittles the lines of his poems, compressing imagery that is at once allusive and immediate. “While his lexicon is rich and particular, Johnston's line is severe, unadorned, and keenly cut to measure out the subtle, counter-pointed music which so strongly marks these poems,” observes poet Forrest Gander of the poems in Telepathy.

    He lives in St. Louis and teaches at Saint Louis...

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