As If It Were “This Is Our Music”

By Nathaniel Mackey b. 1947 Nathaniel Mackey

— “mu” one hundred eighteenth part —


  Heaved our bags and headed out again. Again
      the ground that was to’ve been there wasn’t.
Bits of ripcord crowded the box my head had
                                                                                   be-
    come, the sense we were a band was back,
the sense we were a band or in a band...    The
   rotating gate time turned out to be creaked,
                                                                                   we
    pulled away. Lord Invader’s Reform School
       Band it was we were in, the Pseudo-Dionysian
Fife Corps, the Muvian Wind Xtet...    The sense
   we were a band or were in a band had come
                                                                                   back,
    names’ wicked sense we called timbre, num-
bers’ crooked sense our bequest. Clasp it tee-
   tered near to, abstraction, band was what to
                                                                                    be
there was...    Band was what it was to be there
     we shouted, band all we thought it would
   be. Band was a chant, that we chanted, what
                                                                                    we
    chanted, chant said it all would be alright...    
A new band, our new name was the Abandoned
   Ones, no surprise. We dwelt in the well-being
                                                                                      that
       awaited us, never not sure we’d get there, what
   way we were yet to know. I stood pat, a rickety
     sixty-six, tapped out a scarecrow jig in waltz
time, big toe blunt inside my shoe...    Who was I to
                                                                                           so
    rhapsodize I chided myself, who to so mark my-
       self, chill teeth suddenly forming reforming,
   who to let my heart out so...    To be at odds with
                                                                                         my-
    self resounded, sound’s own City the wall I hit
      my head against, polis was to be and to be so hit...
  We heard clamor, clash, blue consonance, noise’s
                                                                                             low
    sibling
  sense





             ________________

  We pumped our arms as though they were
    pistons, elbows in and out. We nicked our
name to Abandon. Abandon was our name
                                                                               now...
      Thus was our music no music. Music too
  we left behind. Everything beside the point
    that there was no point, everything thus the
point... Thus was being there sibling sense
                                                                              gone
    treble, the balm to be a band the true amen-
  ity music was, the fact of having been there
                                                                                 new
      to its Buddha-nature, the fact of having been
                                                                                        there
    moot


                        •


To have been there wasn’t dasein. No Hei-
    degger told my horse. Trussed up to
  the side it sat, pressed and preponderant,
                                                                              sov-
      ereign, self-contained, were it music the
  music we sloughed... Slipped accompa-
    niment, surrogate cloud, rapt adjournment.
Agitant. Surrogate cue... I kept clear of it,
                                                                            caught
    up at arm’s length, all but caught out I came
to see... Thus was our music no music it seemed
  I said, mujic more than music I might’ve said,
                                                                                      might
      as well have said, no matter I mumbled other-
  wise under my breath... The Freedmen’s Debate
    Society our name now was, the Ox Tongue
Speaker Exchange. Fractal scratch. Nominative
                                                                                        ser-
  ration. Cutaway run, cutaway arrest... Thus was
    our music no music I did say, say’s default on
sing such as it was... We called it history even
                                                                                    so,
    insisted it, the it crowding the corner of eve-
ryone’s eye. None of us were not crept up on,
  none not required we sing it, say it. Thus was
                                                                                     our
  say not
so





             ________________

  Beginning again for the muleteenth time,
    we counted off. It was our muleteenth
breakdown, muleteenth new beginning...
                                                                           Brass
      rubbed off on our lips, reed rubbed off as
    well, string steel left on our fingertips, stick
                                                                                    wood
      left on our
  thumbs

Source: Poetry (June 2014).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2014
 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 Arts & Sciences, Music

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Series/Sequence

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