Eye on the Scarecrow

By Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947 Nathaniel Mackey

—“mu” twentieth part—

     The way we lay
  we mimed a body
   of water. It was
this or that way
                        with
         the dead and we
       were them. No
                             one
     worried which...
       Millet beer made
 our legs go weak,
                           loosed
  our tongues. “The dead,”
                                       we
       said, “are drowning
    of thirst,” gruff
     summons we muttered
  out loud in our
                        sleep...
    It was a journey we
 were on, drawn-out
  scrawl we made a road
of, long huthereed hajj
                                  we
    were on. Raw strip
   of cloth we now rode,
      wishful, letterless
                                book
        the ride we thumbed...
    Harp-headed ghost whose
      head we plucked incessantly.
 Bartered star.       Tethered
                                         run...
   It was a ride we knew we’d
 wish to return to. Every-
     thing was everything,
nothing no less. No less
                                   newly
   arrived or ancestral, of
     late having to do with
  the naming of parts...
    Rolling hills rolled
up like a rug, raw sprawl
                                    of a
       book within a book
     without a name known as
        Namless, not to be
arrived at again...
                           It was
   the Book of No Avail we
were in did we dare name
  it, momentary kings and
                                      queens,
     fleet kingdom. Land fell
   away on all sides.

                             Past
Lag we caught ourselves,
   run weft at last
 adequate, shadowless,
                                   lit,
    left up Atet Street,
  legs tight, hill after
      hill after hill.
    Had it been a book Book
 of Opening the Book it
    would’ve been called,
                                    kept
under lock and key...
                               Hyperbolic
   arrest. Ra was on the
                                   box.
 It was after the end of
the world... To lie on
     our backs looking
   into the dark was all
      there was worth
                               doing,
  each the aroused eye
one another sought,
     swore he or she
                             saw
   we lay where love’s
 pharaonic torso lay
     deepest, wide-eyed
                                  all
night without sleep...
                                 “String
   our heads with straw,” we
  said, half-skulls tied with
     catgut, strummed...
                                   Scratched
    our strummed heads, memory
made us itch. Walked out
  weightless, air what eye
                                      was
      left...

               Someone said Rome,
      someone said destory it.
Atlantis, a third shouted
                                    out...
    Low ride among ruins
 notwithstanding we flew.
  Swam, if often seemed,
underwater, oddly immersed,
                                           bodies
        long since bid goodbye,
                                           we
   lay in wait, remote muses
      kept us afloat. Something
 called pursuit had us by
    the nose. Wafted ether
                                      blown
low, tilted floor, splintered
       feet. Throated bone...
   Rickety boat we rode...
                                      As
     though what we wanted
  was to be everywhere at
                                       once,
an altered life lived on an
                                      ideal
       coast we’d lay washed up
         on, instancy and elsewhere
                                                 endlessly
    entwined

Nathaniel Mackey, “Eye on the Scarecrow” from Splay Anthem. Copyright © 2002 by Nathaniel Mackey. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Splay Anthem (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2006)

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Poet Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

 Nathaniel  Mackey

Biography

Born in Miami and raised in Southern California, poet, novelist, editor, and critic Nathaniel Mackey received his BA from Princeton University and his PhD from Stanford University.
 
Mackey cites poets William Carlos Williams and Amiri Baraka, in addition to jazz musicians John Coltrane and Don Cherry, as early influences in his exploration of how language can be infused and informed by music. In a 2006 interview with Bill . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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