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  • Sound and Severance
  • Nathaniel Mackey (bio)

“mu” fifty-ninth part Suddenly two, they sat side by side. He and he looked out the nod house door… They wanted to go back, wanted not to                 know what they knew, looked out at the receding world, eyes whiting over, in dreams repeatedly bid goodbye… Choric escort…                 Chronic dispatch… Wondered what but andoumboulouousness awaited them. They were waiting to be born it seemed… It wasn’t one                 was it, one wasn’t enough, he nor he the I and I’s he and he of it, he nor he the he and he’s I and                 I… Gnostic imposter each according to the other. Falsetto. Birdbone flute. About to be born or about to be bodiless, flew, soon to find out                 which… Featherless wren said to be what soul was, wren if not robin, picked on, plucked, he number one’s endangerment, risk he number two now took… Saw one’s other self it                 seemed [End Page 876] or at least one said so, he number one he number two no end… A hole at whose edge one stood, looking in, unspun incumbency’s engine, the moment, what there was of it, all there                 was… But if both neither he the he of it. “Time’s tongue,” he said, meaning to say, “Time tough.” Bad leg pulsing with pain at the hip, he and he the quintessential he…                 Time’s tongue was a scroll he unrolled and wrote on. Beaked we’d be we read andwere, book blown open by wind, he wrote, winged we’d be, bereft… He                 and he read out loud in unison, a net of X’s                 each annulling the next… Looked out the nod house, looked into each face. We’d seewhat face was only front for, he wrote…                 Saw from before, early in life, an earlier life, eyes looking to see beyond sight… What lay beyond, intimated by look, what lay behind, look’s far side soon come… We’d be beside ourselves, he                 wrote, a succession of X’s. Rapt ecstatics, we’dsee ourselves outside… Faces wherever he and he looked, each an invitation, soul a certain bareness he and he thought… He who wrote was less a he than a committee,                 he and he’s X’s’ I and I. Time’s tongue a rough rug, part brush, part papyrus…Water crept under the door… He and he sat side by side braving the nod house. What was to come all but already there... Quizzical hedge if                 not would-be trump if not nothing… Nothing.                  None- theless                  near                  [End Page 877]

The book bit its tail and became a disc. Spun sonance he and he were the proof of. What was to come lay caught between planks… The                  floor torn loose or begun to be, he and he sat looking out the nod house door… He and he knew nothing if not unlikeliness, scrounged amenity                  what was left were not everything lost. Antiphonal spin toward what tore                  loose, prolegomena, epilogue and prologue both, prologue                 both                 [End Page 878]

The book as it turned acoustic became a disc, The Namoratunga NextetLive at the Nod House, he and he’s eyes were in the sky… Forehead                  scoured by starlight… Cheekmeat scuffed by meteoric scree… Face wanting to be what soul was… He and he’s eyes were rocks outside their                 sockets, lids blown shut by inclement wind,                 cosmic acidity,                 drift                  [End Page 879]

Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey is a poet, fiction writer, editor, and literary critic, whose books of poetry include Eroding Witness (1985) and Slay Anthem, winner of the 2006 National Book Award. His most recent book is Bass Cathedral (2008), volume four of his ongoing epistolary fiction From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate.



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