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
   where, endless turning out to be
 otherwise... Woods all around where
       we came to next. We’d been
    eating wind, we’d been drinking
   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
  wondered, blown dust of Bandiagara,
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
    bright we staggered, Nub it was we knew
        we were still in... The mountain of
      the night a mound of nothing, Toulali’s
  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
    Someone had said something came to
mind. Someone had sung something, what
  its words were no one could say. Sang
      bittersweet, more brusque than bitter,
    cloth endowment stripped... Choric strain,
        repeatedly slipped entablature. Given...
          endlessly again... No telling when but
        intent on telling, no telling what. Wished
      were home

  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
  was us... Wept in our sleep, again
one with what would never again be
    there, raw talk rummaged our book,
         backs of our hands written on with
      cornmeal, the awaited ones reluctant
            The city of sad children’s outskirts we
      were in, woods notwithstanding, woods
       nonetheless, bright light the light we
            as we were jolted, raw talk spiraling
               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,
                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
                   put. We were where we were, somewhere
                 else no matter where, evacuees a word we’d
     Stutter step, stuck shuffle, dancelike, Toulali’s
        croon enticed us, toyed with us, ground gone
   where we


   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
        no one could say when... Day
      of the new dead a new day of the 
   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
    on Lone Coast... They were the awaited
        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
         on all fours, then-again's beginning, beat
         beginning be-


    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,
      strode imagining nothing, redwoods
   everywhere, muttered barely audibly,
         “Nothing is, nothing ever was,”
 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
        chill's incumbency had we been able,
      close but absconded with, all but all 
             sperichill we called it, numb... Had
          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...
      Ninth had ffallen off, protobeat, protobegin-
ning, blow borne before it began borne again,
   the one coast it all had become now crumbling,
       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
   no guarantee... Circlig no end it seemed... Same crowded
   crowded same, ad infinitum, beginning's

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

     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
        to... Up never again to be one with
     soul dissipate what soul was, beginning's
   ning's de-


  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
         blue attunement I drew back from,
      another new cut was on the box. Another
   cut on the box, another nick, a new notch,
     state sung to rescinded as we sang, reprise
                                                                                   we broke
   free from

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


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

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 Nathaniel  Mackey


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


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