Devin Johnston

The Sudden Walk
June 9, 2012 Johnston Devin

The Sudden Walk

after Franz Kafka


When evening comes to find you still

at home and settling down to stay,

when the last rays have lit a cloud

of fingerprints on the storm door

and television’s lambent flame

plays across veneer and glass,

when you have dealt a hand or two,

the dinner dishes cleared away,

and shrugging on the familiar robe,

you open an atlas of the world

to archipelagoes engraved

with light of other longitudes,

when a cold fog descends and drives

every creature down its hole,

when you have sat so quietly

that your least movement brings surprise

to everyone, and when, besides,

the stairs are dark, the deadbolt locked,

and in spite of all, you start up

in a sudden fit of restlessness,

shed your robe, snap a coat

and bang the door shut more or less

emphatically, according to

the pique you fancy having stirred,

and when you find yourself once more

at unexpected liberty,

absorbed in rhythms of breath and limb,

attention racing on ahead

and then returning like a dog

through hawthorn blooming in the dark,

that rich potentiality,

when Mars and Jupiter ascend

above the cloudbank, bright and crisp,

then you become a clean stroke

of ink-and-brush calligraphy,

a lone figure strolling west

on Shenandoah Avenue.


Returning home, still full of such

euphoria, you stop to watch

flitting across your window shade

at this late hour, the silhouettes

of children loosed from all constraints.

Devin Johnston is the author of four books of poetry, including Far-Fetched (FSG, 2015). He works for Flood Editions, a nonprofit publishing house, and teaches at Saint Louis University.