Nathaniel Mackey

 

Tu boca es mi perdición…
                                                —Camarón de la Isla, “Pañuelo a Rayas 2”

____________________

 

Itamar’s Netsanetian Sojourn


—“mu” one hundred eleventh part—


“So goes it,” Netsanet said, began
    by saying, lip let hang, dejected, all
  the more inviting Itamar thought.
                                                                       Lip
      summoning lip he remembered,
  made-up memory, mouth all his, hers
    not to be had, all the more inviting
                                                                           he
      thought… Sweet Ethiopian mead
  made their heads turn, mouth massing
    ruin, sweet reticence, boon they’d
                                                                          all
but kiss… Tantric restraint they called
    it, ythm’s would-be jump, an if so
  thick they tasted it, tej what kept at
                                                                          bay…
      They stood watching smoke rise at
  the edge of Low Forest, the light a
    bomb gave out going off. Netsanet
City the plot it all accrued to, site they
                                                                             saw
    tej portended, tej gambit the book
said it was… They took to their lips the
  dry mead cup’s brim. A throwback
                                                                        Zeno
      called it. Zenette called it so as well,
  of late on the scene again. “We were
    too hot,” Itamar said to her “So goes
it.” He said, “Cupped Ethiopian horn
                                                                           light
      cooled us, bowed light curved our
  way…” He said, “Had it not been so I’d
    have insisted, a cupped hush the rub
                                                                               sound
      tej made. ‘So goes it’ goes only so far,
  not far enough…” Beggarly thought,
    thought’s compass collapsed. Beggarly
thought, mere thought, all thought… An
                                                                                    un-
    spun wheel they’d
  be

 

                    •

      Netsanet City soon faded, place one
  with comeliness up in smoke. Flash
    thought fallen away, fleet mingling,
glimpsed extension kaput… Mouth
                                                                         rum-
    maging mouth mere conceit, no sol-
ace. A new city of sad children lay
  ahead… Retreat to the hills though
                                                                          they’d
      have wanted to, from Athens back
  to Addis they’d come… They’d eaten
    meat with bits of orange in it, ret-
sina washed it down. Their tongues
                                                                         tast-
  ed orange peel and resin when they
    kissed, kiss they’d held back from on-
ly to resume kissing, Tantric letting be
                                                                              let
  go… Quick as they were in they came
    out of it, retsina’s cry far from tej
gambit, Greek to both of them. Again
                                                                              they
      drew back. Tibet they might’ve been
  in… A tale was being told. No one knew
    who told it, synaesthetic sound of
orange in the air, sound itself new to
                                                                           them,
    strange again, both beginning to ask
what sound was… Against my will I was
  a tiptoe ghost. Nobody knew it but me,
                                                                                 soon-
    to-be gumshoe ghost. A soft-shoe croon I
      let out, low croaks for emphasis, intent
  on lying low inside what sound was… A
                                                                                    tale
      was being told. I told no one I told it. I  
  tiptoed around it, sheer perimeter, stark pa-
    rameter they’d have known had they known
                                                                                             what
    sound
  was  

 

                •

                                       
  There would be the announcement of
    things digested we were told, intent on
our low incline to what sound was,
                                                                       en-
    dured it said in some accounts. The
much alluded to book lay open, pages
  ripped away by the wind. This no
                                                                      more
      than a glimpse, then gone… So it
  was or so we’d say it was, Netsanet’s
    visit heuristic, a wrinkle the air got
thick with, Itamar’s ledge as much
                                                                     my
    ledge as his, hers as much as ours
if not more… So it was or so we’d say
  it was… So it was and so we said it
                                                                        was,
    a feather caught in a crack. A feather  
      lifted up as we saw the whole of Low
Forest lift, a feather lifted up on an up-
  draft, Netsanet yanked it free… Thus
                                                                              the
    new book would begin, the Low Forest
levitation of yore. Lift whose like never
  again to be seen, such it was we’d say
                                                                            we
saw… A certain self-installment we saw.
    A certain circularity we’d have wanted
  to say tej gambit was, honey stuck to
                                                                            the
    roofs of our mouths not letting go, a
new lease on sweetness we’d have sworn
  was what we saw, so not knowing yet
                                                                             what
      sound was… Stuff happens we’d in-
  sist even so, knowing not knowing all the
    same as we could see, now no longer
sure what see was, say that we did though
                                                                                     we
    did, sure as we were what say was… This
      we knew, some sort of tale was being
told and would be told, “mu” as in mouth
  again, “mu” as in ground, Netsanet country
                                                                                          the
lay of the sayable, unlay’s roll going off into
    water, would it were Lone Coast, white
  water petticoats, Netsanet’s under cloth…
                                                                                       The
    moon tugged at her dress and so did the
wind we heard it said. The world we looked
  out at underneath it gave off light, Netsanet
                                                                                          the
      singer, Netsanet the song, Ornette’s lonely
  woman with breaking wave accompaniment,
    seals barking under the pier… So sang the
singer, so went the song, unsprung ictus what
                                                                                            it
  there was left of it, Itamar’s namesake what
    what was, Itamar’s whatsaid whoosh. A
bird it might’ve been blew in, blew out, a
                                                                                   gull,
      a storm petrel, a gale it said would come,
  white water rolling like drums, run come,
    run the white lace we’d see… Was it Netsa-
net’s whatsaid web we were in we wondered,
                                                                                          Net-
    sanet’s namesake net. Gray water, gray fog,
      fey underness. Was it thus the ledge was we
  wondered, lift we lay under looking up at,
                                                                                       Lone
Coast underness overness, lift we somehow lay
    thru… Netsanet’s namesake net it must’ve
  been, ledge part lid, part hammock, something
                                                                                                some
    said was what sound  
  was

 

          ____________________


    Itamar, for one, stood up and stepped away.
He moved his arms like a swimmer, in over
  his head he wanted to say. Wanting back
                                                                                    in
    on his perch, he said instead, “Ledge that
      I want you ledge…” Low Forest mist
  might’ve been low clouds on Lone Coast. I
                                                                                        saw
      it now he was Brother B, he blew cave can-
        ticles. I saw he came out of it bleeding…
    Netsanet no longer with him, a name in the
                                                                                             air
  if that

 

          ____________________


Netsanet’s valerian silence, nonchalance…
    Perimetric intrigue. Parabolic hover…
  A say-it-without-saying-it sonance
                                                                         ed-
        died about them. It met the say-it-
    again sonance head-on… They scooped
      honey from thought’s cup, a beggar’s
                                                                                  bowl
        it seemed. A echoic shell it
      sometimes
    was


Nathaniel Mackey has received numerous awards including a Whiting Writer’s Award and a 2010 Guggenheim fellowship. He is the Reynolds Price Professor of English at Duke University and served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007. Mackey currently lives in Durham, North Carolina.