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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
                                        down
  was all we wanted, love’s
      choric voices convening,
caroling home, home ex-
    ploded long since… It was
        up and be gone again,
                                          crab
      shell taken for sun where
  there was no sun, without
    or about hope no one could
                                               say…
      We the migrating they we
  stared out at, prodigal wish to
burn elsewhere intransigent,
    Stella’s high skylight were
                                           Stella
      suddenly one of us, she the
    one who said move on…
        They were not the dead
                                             but
  dolls of the dead, a dream of
    coming back as we were going.
Eyes wide but eyes nothing
                                          looked
        out from, effigies adrift in the
                                                     dark…
    A parsed pomp and circumstance
  it was, not being there but the
      image of being there what they
were caught in, lagleg retreat,
                                            emic
    advance… Inside the bubble
  the house became we saw each
      awake one, puffed-up
ascendance all there was of
                                         com-
    ing back, an effigy of each if
                                                not
  each its own effigy, each an un-
likely remit… Everyone someone
                                                   we
      knew, resemblance mocked us,
    faces doll hard, clavicles crossed.
Each with a big mouth, telling on
  everyone, what so-and-so did,
                                                what
    so-and-so thought… Who they
      otherwise were we fell away from,
equate their going with our going
  though we did… Who they were
                                                    they
    otherwise were, the away what there
                                                           was
  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.
                                          They
  were the stars, we the stars’
      understudies, night’s
love love’s lit recompense,
    night’s far fetch a black
                                        well
  dipped into, horns’ bells
      burrowing in… Would-
    be recompense. Ythmic
largesse… Far fling as if all
  touched other, we their
                                      press
    outward unimpelled…
                                       They
  the open sea and we the raft
I clung to, left leg scissored
      by hers, we lay ensconced,
                                               we
    within the we they elicited,
      ours newly raveling out…
Not to be attached we told our-
  selves, ratchetless advance
                                          we’d
    come abreast of lip to inquis-
      itive lip, tongue to ingenuous
  tongue… Lift it otherwise was
                                                 no
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-,
                                                   post-,
    pan-pronominal consort, to see
ourselves we set ourselves adrift…
  Curve and declivity. Protuberant
                                                   hip…
      Immanent ether. Astral dispatch…
    They light’s arrival’s delay, we
  their someday stand-in, ages we
                                                  took
        to reach them, we the migrating
                                                         they…
      That they were roots in the sky
    moving's muse insisted… Star flux…
                                                            Far
  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
                                          as
        we were steps, we stood.
      Studies, we ran in place…
  Stood what they’d have called
                                                pat,
    we called ready, poised on a
        brink we saw fall back…
      Stood, we wanted to say,
                                             what
  chance there was were chance
        in doubt, step stand’s re-
      condite flicker, step stand’s
                                                tonic
    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
                                                  man-
  date notwithstanding, end wanting
      what would not be there… It
    wasn’t music but a stepped ab-
scondity, a music before music’s
                                                 com-
      promise. Stand resisted step, step
  stand, moot martyrdom, stride’s
    true marriage’s bossa, Itamar
                                                and
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
                                                 the
stand we took… Step, we wanted
                                                    to
    say, stood in stay’s way. It was
  the old and new school we were
        enrolled in, syllabic devotion
      recalling Baul, Bengali, qawwal…
                                                        Scat
    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
                                                     so
  imminent a winding stairway it was
we were on… School of tangency,
      glancing contact… Blasé stasis…
                                                         Pre-
    tend impasse… Never not to’ve gone
but be going, a stepped incumbency…
      Step’s evacuated finality. Finality’s
                                                          evac-
  uated fit

 

—andoumboulouous étude 4—

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

Copyright © 2011 by Nathaniel Mackey, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.