from Song of the Andoumboulou: 212

Nathaniel Mackey

—brother b’s roman soujourn—

Brother B gathered his locks, bound   them with a tie at the back of his head.The ponytail made his head a horse’s                                                                                     ass   he proclaimed. He’d gone on a tripand just gotten back. The place he’d  been he called Rum… Next we knew                                                                                      hesaid he came out of a Capuchin crypt,   Brother Bone of late, a bite of sound’s im- position on the air. A bite of sound’s                                                                                   phi-     losophic insistence, he said. A philo- sophic bone recital, he said, bent on   giving one pause. A philharmonic non-sonance, he said, gave him pause… The                                                                                         pony- tail, he repeated, made his head a horse’s   ass. Don’t say that, we begged, hit bywisdom’s idiocy, the wisdom of the idiots                                                                                            his.   We’d begun to be won over, a demonicor a divine cartoon we were in, so quick  it made our heads twist off. A two-headed                                                                                               eagle   had us hoodoo’d, he said, a bite of soundon the air Nub’s ancestry, Nub’s predecessor  address… Once again, he said, the call was                                                                                                   to  love our captors, love them though we did    and got nothing, offer up another cheek. Hewas talking out of his head but we heard him,                                                                                                      his   head a horse’s ass but what he said stayedwith us, what he said sort of tell-my-horse.  Romulus choked Uncle Remus, he said, what                                                                                                       he    meant by which was worldly Rum, he went on to explain, the lesson of ruin all over. By   that he meant to say, he went on to explain,went on to ask, monument packed on monument                                                                                                              mean-   ing what. Quick blood and bone come to naught,     he went on to say, was what he meant, Rum’sfeted mortality eternal… Mrs. Fret said had no busi-  ness there in the first place, picked her own bone,                                                                                                              phi-losophic herself. Brother B paid her no mind. Be-    ing back made it feel like a dream, he said, a  dream he not so much dreamt as he was dreamt                                                                                                            by,   the dream, he raised his voice insisting, dreamthim. A glad sadness came over us hearing him,  sound spilled out of our book…

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Nathaniel Mackey is the author of six books of poetry, the most recent of which is Blue Fasa; an ongoing prose work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, whose fifth and most recent volume is Late Arcade; and two books of criticism, the most recent of which is Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews. His awards include the 2006 National Book Award for Poetry, the 2008 Stephen Henderson Award from the African American Literature and Culture Society, the 2015 Bollingen Prize for Poetry and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University.


Summer 2018


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