Lone Coast Anacrusis

By Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947 Nathaniel Mackey

—“mu” fifty-third part

 
    Some new Atlantis known as Lower
Ninth we took leave of next, half the
  turtle’s back away. Whole bodies
        we saw floating, not only heads...
     Endless letting go, endless looking
                                                                     else-
   where, endless turning out to be
 otherwise... Woods all around where
       we came to next. We’d been
    eating wind, we’d been drinking
                                                                wind,
   rumoring someone looked at God eye
 to eye... In what seemed a dream but
        we saw wasn’t we saw dirt sliding.
      We were back and all the buildings
     were gone. What were cliffs to us
                                                                  we
  wondered, blown dust of Bandiagara,
                                                                       what
the eroding precipice we saw... Ground
    acorns ground our teeth now. All but
  all gums, we were where the Alone
      lived, came to a clearing lit by light
                                                                       so
    bright we staggered, Nub it was we knew
        we were still in... The mountain of
      the night a mound of nothing, Toulali’s
                                                                              burr
  what balm there was. Toulali’s burr what
    balm, remote though it was, lifetimes
behind us now... Voice laryngitic, lost
       and lost again, blown grit rubbed it
                                                                        away...
    Someone had said something came to
mind. Someone had sung something, what
  its words were no one could say. Sang
                                                                        it
      bittersweet, more brusque than bitter,
                                                                            song’s
    cloth endowment stripped... Choric strain,
        repeatedly slipped entablature. Given...
                                                                                 Given
          endlessly again... No telling when but
        intent on telling, no telling what. Wished
                                                                                   we
      were home
   again
 

                    •
 
  Refugees was a word we’d heard,
raw talk of soul insistent, adamant,
      the nonsong we sang or the song
    we nonsang, a word we’d heard we
                                                                    heard
  was us... Wept in our sleep, again
one with what would never again be
    there, raw talk rummaged our book,
                                                                      the
         backs of our hands written on with
      cornmeal, the awaited ones reluctant
                                                                          again...
            The city of sad children’s outskirts we
      were in, woods notwithstanding, woods
       nonetheless, bright light the light we
                                                                           saw
            as we were jolted, raw talk spiraling
                                                                              away...
               We were there and somewhere else no
             matter where we were, everywhere more
               than where we were... Where the Alone
         lived we donned abalone-shell ornaments,
           light’s clarity conceded, night yet to relent,
                                                                                          Toulali
                smoldered on, semisang, semispoke, wrestled
        with his tongue it seemed... We trudged in place,
              barely lifted our feet, backbeat hallowing
            every step we took,       moved us albeit we
                                                                                          stayed
                   put. We were where we were, somewhere
                 else no matter where, evacuees a word we’d
                                                                                                 heard...
     Stutter step, stuck shuffle, dancelike, Toulali’s
        croon enticed us, toyed with us, ground gone
                                                                                          under
   where we
stood



             ______________

   Day of the new dead or a new day
of the dead, La Catrina had we been
       farther south... One of us out
    of Mexico remembered, with us
                                                              from
        no one could say when... Day
      of the new dead a new day of the 
                                                                  dead...
   Wind in off the water blew us there.

     A beat before. Beginning's beginning.
Never to be there again... Beginning beaten
   back, aboriginal. The Alone collecting
                                                                        shells
    on Lone Coast... They were the awaited
                                                                            ones'
        grudge not the awaited ones, the awaited
    ones' wish not to be there... Grudge or its
       ghost, grudge against going, grudge to've
     been anywhere at all... Gnostic hostages
                                                                              down
         on all fours, then-again's beginning, beat
                                                                                    before
         beginning be-
      grudged



                    •

    We were in the woods again circling,
not far from Lone Coast,        kids again,
  wondered why anything was. The city of
          sad children a mood swing away,
                                                                       we
      strode imagining nothing, redwoods
   everywhere, muttered barely audibly,
         “Nothing is, nothing ever was,”
                                                                  chill
 so intrinsic we shook... No lament was
     it, not exactly insight, precocious not
   quite what it was. Beginning's beginning
it seemed we came abreast of, beginning's 
  beginning's ghost... We shivered, would've
                                                                                shed
        chill's incumbency had we been able,
      close but absconded with, all but all 
                                                                        done,
             sperichill we called it, numb... Had
                                                                             there
          been a song, had someone asked who
      sang it,         whitecaps rushing the beach
    we'd have said, whitecapped anacrusis we'd
        have said, long since there and gone...
                                                                              Lower
      Ninth had ffallen off, protobeat, protobegin-
ning, blow borne before it began borne again,
   the one coast it all had become now crumbling,
                                                                                          world
       edge, world rebuff... Circling no end it seemed,
          except we stopped, stood looking at the sunlight
    streaming in. Churchical some would've said but
       we resisted, felt it that way but wanted not to. Not
                                                                                                   was
   no guarantee... Circlig no end it seemed... Same crowded
                                                                                                           same
   crowded same, ad infinitum, beginning's
  beginning's
bluff



             ______________
 
  No Tchoupitoulas. No St. Joseph's.
 The Alone's Lower Ninth by default.
     When we stopped we stood, picked
                                                                     our
 teeth with fishhooks. The Along lay their
nets out to dry we imagined, nets made of
     nothing, nothingness, the non-thing
                                                                       we
            surmised we not-saw... They lay
         their nets out in the sun at the base of
           the slope the woods were on. We
                                                                       were
         them, they were there again, evacuated
       we that we were... We were slaves or
          possessed by slaves, the Alone the
        indigenous ones... I wanted to break
                                                                           free
             but fell as I took a step, felt my knees
           and hands hit the ground, I got back up,
                                                                                    syn-
         apse what there was if anything
      was



             ______________
 
     Wind in off the water lifted the water.
   Body of waves lain with lain away from,
        caught in crawlspace, barely got out.

      Caught in crawlspace, barely got out,
   an alternate state the nonstate we were
citizens of... Pyramids to projects the
       hill we were on, drift infiltrated for-
    feiture, frame, image not to be lived
                                                                      up
        to... Up never again to be one with
                                                                        itself
     soul dissipate what soul was, beginning's
                                                                                begin-
   ning's de-
cree



             ______________

  Stray nation sworn allegiance to seceded
from... Abalone necklaces we wore around
      our necks... There was a trance I was
   otherwise in, beside myself, a new, no
                                                                         longer
         blue attunement I drew back from,
      another new cut was on the box. Another
   cut on the box, another nick, a new notch,
                                                                                splay
     state sung to rescinded as we sang, reprise
                                                                                   we broke
   free from
again



Nathaniel Mackey, “Lone Coast Anacrusis” from Nod House. Copyright © 2011 by Nathaniel Mackey. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Nod House (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2011)

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Poet Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Living, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 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 Living, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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