Devin Johnston Telepathy
Paper Bark Press Sydney 2002
“To start with, I look up ‘Devin’ / and approach my subject with circumspection. / I find, half hid in etymology, / not a person at all…”
; a landscape mosaic, lush as snow, and laid etymon for etymon as if they had never been misplaced.
Telepathy, as collection, provokes the [mother] tongue from land. its language making translation a matter of time rather than place, reviving words otherwise laid to rest, rendered both into a sense of this-moment mythology. and although Johnston takes care to momentarily relieve us of the anguish (“Though anguish shares / no etymology with anguis - / ‘snake’ in Latin”) of a language made foreign, there remains much that is read as sound only; echoes that make the sense of “Bats” - “The sky is / chatoyant. / The earth is grum, / and we are cant.” This being a sense capable of mapping a terrain out of a sound.
Telepathy, as titlepiece, spans the signifying moments of one woman’s life into the grave. her impassables to language as self-directed existence find eventual expression in a “melisma of misery” uttered from the grave, otherwise the recollections of her life are void of the faculty of speech. her diary entries are the voice translated as occupied space. one’s own. they share the same format as “Journal Entries”, the only other selection to so succinctly prove the occupation of a woman’s mouth, “The hardest fact / a little stone / held in the mouth / and wetted, shone”, by the obscuration of her word.
“I found the simple face / of unrelenting snow” inscribed with the histories/topologies of unspoken words a particularly tactile form of ‘distance feeling’.