Song of the Andoumboulou: 55

—orphic fragment—

Carnival morning they
  were Greeks in Brazil,
    Africans in Greek
disguise. Said of herself
       was born in a house in
    heaven. He said he was
     born in the house next
 door... They were in hell.
   In Brazil they were
      To abide by hearing was
         what love was... To
       love was to hear without
    looking. Sound was the
     mummy cloth... All to say,
 said the exegete, love in
    hell was a voice, to be spoken
  to from behind, not be able
     to turn and look... It
   wasn’t Greece where they
 nor was it Benin... Carnival
morning in made-up hell, bodies
    bathed in loquat light, would-be
 song’s all the more would-be
     title, “Sound and Cerement,”
      wound in bandages


    Up all night, slept well
past noon. Awoke restless
  having dreamt she awoke on
     Lone Coast, wondering
   afterwards what it came
     glimpsed interstice,
       crack... Saw her
  dead mother and brother
pull up in a car, her brother
   at the wheel not having driven
     while alive, newly taught
   death it appeared. A fancy car,
  than any her mother had had while
     alive, she too better off it
appeared... A wishful read, “it
    appeared” notwithstanding, the
  exegete impossibly benign. Dreamt
                                                                   a dream
      of dream’s end, anxious, unannounced,
   Eronel’s nevermore namesake, Monk’s
         anagrammatic Lenore... That the
       dead return in luxury cars made
        weep, pathetic its tin elegance,
          sweet read misread,

Nathaniel Mackey, “Song of the Andoumboulou: 55” from Splay Anthem. Copyright © 2002 by Nathaniel Mackey. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: Splay Anthem (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2006)
More Poems by Nathaniel Mackey