Song of the Andoumboulou: 55

By Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947 Nathaniel Mackey

—orphic fragment—

Carnival morning they
  were Greeks in Brazil,
    Africans in Greek
disguise. Said of herself
                                            she
       was born in a house in
    heaven. He said he was
     born in the house next
 door... They were in hell.
   In Brazil they were
                                       lovebait.
      To abide by hearing was
         what love was... To
       love was to hear without
    looking. Sound was the
                                               beloved’s
     mummy cloth... All to say,
 said the exegete, love in
    hell was a voice, to be spoken
  to from behind, not be able
     to turn and look... It
   wasn’t Greece where they
                                                  were,
 nor was it Benin... Carnival
morning in made-up hell, bodies
    bathed in loquat light, would-be
 song’s all the more would-be
     title, “Sound and Cerement,”
                                                          voice
      wound in bandages
   raveling
                lapse

                  .

    Up all night, slept well
past noon. Awoke restless
  having dreamt she awoke on
     Lone Coast, wondering
   afterwards what it came
                                               to,
     glimpsed interstice,
                                         crevice,
       crack... Saw her
  dead mother and brother
pull up in a car, her brother
   at the wheel not having driven
     while alive, newly taught
                                                   by
   death it appeared. A fancy car,
                                                           bigger
  than any her mother had had while
     alive, she too better off it
appeared... A wishful read, “it
    appeared” notwithstanding, the
  exegete impossibly benign. Dreamt
                                                                   a dream
      of dream’s end, anxious, unannounced,
   Eronel’s nevermore namesake, Monk’s
         anagrammatic Lenore... That the
       dead return in luxury cars made
                                                                  us
        weep, pathetic its tin elegance,
                                                                pitiable,
          sweet read misread,
       would-be
     sweet

Nathaniel Mackey, “Song of the Andoumboulou: 55” from Splay Anthem. Copyright © 2002 by Nathaniel Mackey. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

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

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Activities, Travels & Journeys, Arts & Sciences, Music, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Series/Sequence

 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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys, Arts & Sciences, Music, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Series/Sequence

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.