Beginning ‘We the Migrating They’


    —andoumboulouous étude—

      We the migrating they we
  instigated, those in whose
name we went. To get where
    they were going and lie
  was all we wanted, love’s
      choric voices convening,
caroling home, home ex-
    ploded long since… It was
        up and be gone again,
      shell taken for sun where
  there was no sun, without
    or about hope no one could
      We the migrating they we
  stared out at, prodigal wish to
burn elsewhere intransigent,
    Stella’s high skylight were
      suddenly one of us, she the
    one who said move on…
        They were not the dead
  dolls of the dead, a dream of
    coming back as we were going.
Eyes wide but eyes nothing
        out from, effigies adrift in the
    A parsed pomp and circumstance
  it was, not being there but the
      image of being there what they
were caught in, lagleg retreat,
    advance… Inside the bubble
  the house became we saw each
      awake one, puffed-up
ascendance all there was of
    ing back, an effigy of each if
  each its own effigy, each an un-
likely remit… Everyone someone
      knew, resemblance mocked us,
    faces doll hard, clavicles crossed.
Each with a big mouth, telling on
  everyone, what so-and-so did,
    so-and-so thought… Who they
      otherwise were we fell away from,
equate their going with our going
  though we did… Who they were
    otherwise were, the away what there
  of it still


—andoumboulouous étude 2—

      We the migrating they they
  said come see, lean though
we did and look, sort of see,
    night sky no less remote.
  were the stars, we the stars’
      understudies, night’s
love love’s lit recompense,
    night’s far fetch a black
  dipped into, horns’ bells
      burrowing in… Would-
    be recompense. Ythmic
largesse… Far fling as if all
  touched other, we their
    outward unimpelled…
  the open sea and we the raft
I clung to, left leg scissored
      by hers, we lay ensconced,
    within the we they elicited,
      ours newly raveling out…
Not to be attached we told our-
  selves, ratchetless advance
    come abreast of lip to inquis-
      itive lip, tongue to ingenuous
  tongue… Lift it otherwise was
matter, we drew back, we’s rum-
    maging they let go. An exercise
  in touch it turned out to be, we
      their would-be stand-in, pre-,
    pan-pronominal consort, to see
ourselves we set ourselves adrift…
  Curve and declivity. Protuberant
      Immanent ether. Astral dispatch…
    They light’s arrival’s delay, we
  their someday stand-in, ages we
        to reach them, we the migrating
      That they were roots in the sky
    moving's muse insisted… Star flux…
  star… Far fix


—andoumboulouous étude 3—

      We the migrating they their
    studies in touch. Stand to
their step, a studied pass, we
  stood… Studies inasmuch
        we were steps, we stood.
      Studies, we ran in place…
  Stood what they’d have called
    we called ready, poised on a
        brink we saw fall back…
      Stood, we wanted to say,
  chance there was were chance
        in doubt, step stand’s re-
      condite flicker, step stand’s
    duress… ‘Blue Bossa’ came
in from a distance, a version no
  one had yet heard. Step some
      indigenous drift it turned
    out, led to export stay, Stella’s
  date notwithstanding, end wanting
      what would not be there… It
    wasn’t music but a stepped ab-
scondity, a music before music’s
      promise. Stand resisted step, step
  stand, moot martyrdom, stride’s
    true marriage’s bossa, Itamar
Stella’s vow… A stepped incon-
        sequence it might’ve been,
    automatic étude, step’s new
      nonchalance. They the migrat-
  ing they the step we took, step
stand we took… Step, we wanted
    say, stood in stay’s way. It was
  the old and new school we were
        enrolled in, syllabic devotion
      recalling Baul, Bengali, qawwal…
    academy grads though we were, we
bit our tongues, beat back say’s ex-
  cess. They the migrating we were
      automatic, step’s expected star
  imminent a winding stairway it was
we were on… School of tangency,
      glancing contact… Blasé stasis…
    tend impasse… Never not to’ve gone
but be going, a stepped incumbency…
      Step’s evacuated finality. Finality’s
  uated fit


—andoumboulouous étude 4—

      We the migrating they trans-
  lated. Draft meant drift meant
    scheme meant sketch. We
        migrating they were back
    in school… Step’s incline
      toward stride, we stood in-
  structed, theirs the advance
      were learning, rote’s auto-
    mata, rail we were bound by
scraped as we verged outward,
  the magnetic they they turned
    out to be… Step fell away
the longer we lasted, collapsed or
      contrived itself anew. There
    a rail one stood at, stuck where
      one stood, caught by Stella’s
backsides the way she went
  forward, celestial mechanics,
      mic rump… Itamar called it
    astral, heavenly. Chant the names
        of God we were told… Ita-
  mar. Stella. Scrape, caress,
      reen… Crab, sun, bell ad
  infinitum… A worked incerti-
    tude it seemed albeit abounding,
insist, “I do believe,” though
    did. Scrape, caress, careen,
      crab, sun were all names.
  Bell another name, they went
on and on… Stride, bubble,
    mage a rut we were caught
  in, ran only running in place.
      Rotating stations we worked
    way loose from, effigy, skylight,
  Ran as though pedaling, knees at
      one's chin. Curve, doll, declivity.
    Lip, leg, star. Name after name
sang change, rang changes, God’s
  not to be still… String the names
    as one we were told, one with-
out need of us though they were,
      the migrating they again going,
    raft, root, tangency, touch… A
studied sputter, spin, step taken
  Ratcheted, not yet ratchetless. Fix,
    flicker. Brink, stair-
  way, step



[Nathaniel Mackey is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which is Splay Anthem (New Directions, 2006); an ongoing prose work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, whose fourth and most recent volume is Bass Cathedral (New Directions, 2008) and whose first three volumes have been published together as From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate: Volumes 1-3 (New Directions, 2010); and two books of criticism, the most recent of which is Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).  A new book of poetry, Nod House, is forthcoming from New Directions in Fall 2011.  He lives in Durham, North Carolina, and teaches at Duke University.]

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