Song of the Andoumboulou: 85

By Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947 Nathaniel Mackey
 
    Came now to another crossroads.
Stick people stood awaiting us, to
  the left, straight ahead, to the right.
         What was that song you sang,
                                                                they
   asked, spoke without sound sound’s
     immanence, not without song but
only one song, the one song summon­-
  ing song’s eclipse... The one song
                                                               sang
      song’s inconsequence, crooned it
    could not’ve been otherwise, song
          song’s own lament... The one
       song sang song’s irrelevance, we
                                                                   were
    exhausted, we looked straight ahead,
                                                                        left,
 right. The stick people’s question fa­-
   tigued us, glyphed riddle whose
decipherment they said we’d someday
                                                                      be,
      exegetes against our will... Lack,
    reluctance, pallor, eidolon. Crossroads
cryptogram, they themselves were sing-
  ­ing, nothing not what could be seen they
                                                                             said,
   soul not sign if not eyelight, song more
     what could be seen than they could
say, wan unwillingness they said... Slick
                                                                         stick
  people, tricky, soul a sick thing they said...
Signs all said Stick City. Stick City straight
       ahead, to the left, to the right, signs pointed
                                                                                        every
     which way... Stick sublimity sent us reeling,
   a we that wasn’t we against one that was. Mass,
intangible we it was we were, beads thrown off
  in a row... We’d have given anything to get to
                                                                                     Stick
         City and there we were. Whatever way we
       took would take us there. Stick City loomed
  ahead and to the left and to the right, any which
    way but in back of us, Stick City meant no
turning back... Signs all said Stick City. We
                                                                               read
      them all out loud, “Stick City.” “Styxicity,”
                                                                                   Itamar
   quipped... It wasn’t water we crossed, it wasn’t
      hell we were in. Stick City housed our hearts’
desires we were told, Stick City stood without
  end or assistance, line long since what stuck...
                                                                                       Line
        was all point, point all extensity, stick’s own
    deictic drop... No longer point less point than
      point’s target, Stick City made them one and the
  same... So it was on to where the signs said next,
                                                                                           Stick
           the one place we were yet to arrive at, Diddie Wa
       Diddie’s twin. A winding road it now was we were
         on, so curved we could see our backs. No work,
     no worry up ahead we heard, music’s utopic
                                                                                       stir...
         Hogs lay stuck with knives and forks, chickens
       likewise we heard. A wall of beats for backup, Stick
                                                                                                    City
     way off somewhere... As quick as that we were there,
Stick City. It wasn’t the way we heard it was. Everyone
  limped, walked with a cane, no way how we heard it
                                                                                                 was...
      As quick as that there we were. Stick City lay before
  us, lied about. Legbaland it might’ve been... Diddie Wa
    Diddie’s non-identical twin if twin it was, no way the
                                                                                                    way
      we heard it
    was



                    •

   Stick-figure escorts ushered us in,
pointed out what was what. Stick
      people's gait was flawless, they
    said, unstick people limped on
                                                             sticks...
  A strand of horsehair lay in the
    road, hair from a horse's tail. Come
rain it became a snake, would-be stick
                                                                      though
      Stick City said no... It was getting
                                                                   to
  be late again, the arcade's light less
intense... Come night we lay under
     a horse, shouted voiceless trying
  to wake each other up and woke up,
                                                                     coiled
  hair stiffened with earwax, as if at last
    we were Stick City's own... Not
so we saw soon enough. No home, no
  haven was it, noise what of it we could
                                                                         keep...
    West L.A. it might've been, Saint-Pierre
  it might've been wélélé no matter where
     we were... Stick symphony. Ictic sashay...
Head bob atop watery neck, nod homage,
                                                                            noise,
   names came loose. What of it we kept we
       kept in name only, “Stick City” ours
          to hold on to. Chance it might've meant,
     I Ching, no place but we were long since
                                                                               gone...
      Where sign had been sound X marked it,
 stick bisected stick. Signal some said, noise's
   alternate, half where we were nowhere near
                                                                                    where
we were, were where's discontent... It was getting
    to be light again, noise the new day's largesse.
  Sound was what sign turned out from, sound
      itself exed out... What the song was we sang
                                                                                      no
    longer what we were asked, stick inquisitors
gathered, mum to the bone. Frown, furrowed
      brow, grimace the glyphs met us, faces
  lined up in a row. Line was what pressed us,
       point egged us on, what the song was we
                                                                                 sang
    no song we sang, what the song was we sang
   moot... The strand-of-horsehair-become-a-snake
became a rope around our necks, rope what the 
  song we sang was. We'd have given anything
                                                                                    to
    say Stick City was where we were... Breath it
                                                                                      was
  we gave, rope round our necks... We were neck-
less, bobbing heads, barbershop xtet, calabashes
    hit with sticks. Whatever we were, whatever
       noise there was we made ours. “This is our
  dispatch,” we said... Euphemistic necktie,
                                                                              eu-
    phemistic float. Horsehair tickling the tops
of our throats. Wet, euphemistic scruff... As it was
  getting to be noon we got our necks and bodies
     back. A cartoon watch dog bit us, a pinscher
                                                                                      with
  painted lips. We were stick people now, initiates.
                                                                                            Stick
  legs only a blur, we were running, pant legs and hem-
lines ripped... Cross. Chiliasm. Crisis. Stick bisected
       stick. More hopeless the less we needed it, less
    real the more shot with stick vaccine, less real the
                                                                                                more
  stick we were... Stick inquisitors fell away as we went
      in. Stick City disappeared as we ran deeper. Too
    late to turn back, we were twigs, kindling, dispatch
                                                                                                 gone
  up in smoke... We were jíbaros, hicks, cuatro ping
                                                                                             in
  back of us, howled, “Aylelolay lolelay.” We stood
absorbed in what felt like advent. We stood on a plane
      cut thru an adverse cone. Low, rummaging burr, the
    sound we sought sought us, we the make-believe dead
                                                                                                       more
dead than we knew... Syllabic run was more alive than we
     were, bass clack bugling disaster, brute sun outside the
                                                                                                         nod
   house door



             ______________

    Crossroads though it was it seemed an
impasse, stick as in stuck we thought. Stick
  as in stone's accomplice, Quag's bone-
          yard remit... Insofar as there was an
       I it fell in, a brass bell's everted lips
                                                                        now
   convergent, shush we were hollowed by.
 Insofar as there was an I it was as each of us
      insisted, as far as there was an I, stick
   beating stick, there was an X... Crux...
                                                                         Cross...
      Crutch... Legs' Osirian soulstrut lost,
   Legbaland it was and we limped on, limped
       in, Stick City's outskirts endless it
     seemed, no matter we leaned on sticks...
                                                                               Were
  there an I it stood like a stick, mum-stuff
      crossing itself. Insofar as there was
    an I it was an X taking shape, there but
to be gone if not no sooner there than gone,
                                                                                glass
   house holding
its own



             ______________

    We knew we wore skeleton suits. We knew
we walked holding placards. “Dead from
        Day One” they read, part requiem, part
     rebuke... What lay around us had the
                                                                          sound
        of steam. Low-motion lurk. Time-lapse cascade.
           Stick City city limits notwithstanding, glass
  intangibles allowed what was lost otherwise,
                                                                                   gripless
           in the house outside the house... It slipped
       away and we slipped away and it slipped away,
                                                                                             Stick
         City a mirage nod concocted, not to be be-
    lieved but we did though it receded, nod Nub's
                                                                                         emic
        retreat

Nathaniel Mackey, “Song of the Andoumboulou: 85” 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, Religion, Other Religions

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, Religion, Other Religions

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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