Ghost of a Trance

By Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947 Nathaniel Mackey

—“mu” sixty-first part

    Gray morning, blue morning, a
feather blown between. Mashed
  earth incumbent, gone up from,
      more naked if ever to be naked,
        brink what it was to be on...
  Where next we came stick-figure
    people greeted us. Abstract
abstract, also something else. Line,
    shape, extension each other
   than itself, of number we’d have
       said the same... Aspect arrested
     us, riveted we stood... Stick-
   figure epiphany held us in our
       everyone’s bones in full view...
     morning, blue morning, an unheard
string between. Bad heads’ morning
   reluctance, ennui’s next-day dispatch...
       were chill, shiver, exegetic sweat, backed-
     up interpreters put upon by sluff, none
of us could say what was what. Pale
  admonishment poised upon lack,
     to unlike, pale strain recumbent, re-
       combinant, rude amniotic straw...
   Took leave, leave long since taken,
       to what would otherwise not have been.
We contested birth, we wanted to be pre-
  andoumboulouous, done-dead gnostics
     Sound bubbled up, it kept bubbling, sonic
   residue, sonic remit. A fickle sonance,
fraught sonance, warning we knew nothing,
    stick-figure entourage otherwise issue-
  less, beginning to be remiss it seemed...
 while ecstatics’ lapsed enchantment, trance
     gone none could say since when...
        of what lifted us, ghost what lifted us,
      enchantment between... Fell back, full-out
  extended. Pilgrim someone called me, I said
    no, then I said yes... Brax was on the box
was what it was, toned uncertainty Stick-figure
       counsel all air, edge, angle, down from where
      been and we were again where the Alone lived,
          adage, had it not been so abstract, it might’ve
        been... Long day of the abalone-shell sunset...
           among redwoods expecting the worst... What
        was of note and what abjured nothing. What
      all, none, one, all the


      It was a ghost of a trance. I was a
guest of the trance. What went on we
  blamed on the ghost... It was the
        ghost of a trance, each of us a 
    of the trance. No two times were the
       When we hit a wrong not we said
   nothing. When we hit the right note
      we said so what... Tell my horse,
        we were told, fluke solace, horse
       were mounted by... What was done
        was done by the ghost, gray morning,
     morning, eternity be-


   Told my horse we would gather at
     Nod House, down drinks at the
 no-host bar. Dirt was in the drinks
  drank, planet sludge. Double-take
told its horse whoa, told it unwhoa,
   back and forth and back without
       end... Talk spun our heads,
     our horses ride on. Unresolved
  which to insist on, stick with. Could it
       whoa unwhoa's ramble unresolved...

     Spinning heads made us feel we sat on
    seats... Double-take talked us in,
us in


      Sat again at the same table, no two
        times the same, twinship long since
    gone. Leaned back, the back legs of
our chairs broke, Nod House Nub's
  address... A straining look made our
        faces look raw, made our skin flush...
      Dreamt each other's dream, donned
        other's costume, hosted one another,
        stepped in as
      one stepped

Nathaniel Mackey, “Ghost of a Trance” 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, The Body, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Relationships, Family & Ancestors

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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, The Body, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Relationships, Family & Ancestors


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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