Issue 7: Nathaniel Mackey

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.