On Antiphon Island

By Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947 Nathaniel Mackey

—“mu” twenty-eighth part—

On Antiphon Island they lowered
the bar and we bent back. It
  wasn’t limbo we were in albeit
       we limbo’d. Everywhere we
                                                          went we
  limbo’d, legs bent, shoulder
   blades grazing the dirt,
                                              donned
andoumboulouous birth-shirts,
    sweat salting the silence
 we broke... Limbo’d so low we
     fell and lay looking up at
   the clouds, backs embraced by
                                                            the
       ground and the ground a fallen
                                                                 wall
  we were ambushed by... Later we’d
      sit, sipping the fig liqueur, beckoning
 sleep, soon-come somnolence nowhere
     come as yet. Where we were, not-
withstanding, wasn’t there...

                                                     Where we
  were was the hold of a ship we were
                                                                    caught
      in. Soaked wood kept us afloat... It
wasn’t limbo we were in albeit we
    limbo’d our way there. Where we
 were was what we meant by “mu.”
                                                                Where
     we were was real, reminiscent
  arrest we resisted, bodies briefly
                                                              had,
 held on
to
                    •

     “A Likkle Sonance” it said on the
record. A trickle of blood hung
    overhead I heard it spurts. An
  introvert trumpet run, trickle of
                                                             sound...
      A trickle of water lit by the sun
        I saw with an injured eye, captive
  music ran our legs and we danced...
                                                                    Knees
bent, asses all but on the floor, love’s
      bittersweet largesse... I wanted
   trickle turned into flow, flood,
        two made one by music, bodied
                                                                  edge
          gone up into air, aura, atmosphere
              the garment we wore. We were on
            a ship’s deck dancing, drawn in a
                                                                         dream
    above hold... The world was ever after,
                                                                           elsewhere.
Where we were they said likkle for little, lick
     ran with trickle, weird what we took it
  for... The world was ever after, elsewhere,
                                                                               no
 way where we were
was there

Nathaniel Mackey, “On Antiphon Island” 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

 Nathaniel  Mackey

Biography

Born in Miami and raised in Southern California, poet, novelist, editor, and critic Nathaniel Mackey earned 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 Forman . . .

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SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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