As If It Were “This Is Our Music”

Nathaniel Mackey is a prolific poet, novelist, editor, critic, and the Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University and a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. Much of his work orbits around and communes with jazz. Here, he explores the human connection as being like a band, and the music is the life we create together.

As If It Were “This Is Our Music”
by Nathaniel Mackey

— “mu” one hundred eighteenth part —
  Heaved our bags and headed out again. Again
      the ground that was to’ve been there wasn’t.
Bits of ripcord crowded the box my head had
    come, the sense we were a band was back,
the sense we were a band or in a band…    The
   rotating gate time turned out to be creaked,
    pulled away. Lord Invader’s Reform School
       Band it was we were in, the Pseudo-Dionysian
Fife Corps, the Muvian Wind Xtet…    The sense
   we were a band or were in a band had come

    names’ wicked sense we called timbre, num-
bers’ crooked sense our bequest. Clasp it tee-
   tered near to, abstraction, band was what to
there was…    Band was what it was to be there
     we shouted, band all we thought it would
   be. Band was a chant, that we chanted, what
    chanted, chant said it all would be alright…    
A new band, our new name was the Abandoned
   Ones, no surprise. We dwelt in the well-being
       awaited us, never not sure we’d get there, what
   way we were yet to know. I stood pat, a rickety
     sixty-six, tapped out a scarecrow jig in waltz
time, big toe blunt inside my shoe…    Who was I to
    rhapsodize I chided myself, who to so mark my-
       self, chill teeth suddenly forming reforming,
   who to let my heart out so…    To be at odds with
    self resounded, sound’s own City the wall I hit
      my head against, polis was to be and to be so hit…
  We heard clamor, clash, blue consonance, noise’s


  We pumped our arms as though they were
    pistons, elbows in and out. We nicked our
name to Abandon. Abandon was our name
      Thus was our music no music. Music too
  we left behind. Everything beside the point
    that there was no point, everything thus the
point… Thus was being there sibling sense
    treble, the balm to be a band the true amen-
  ity music was, the fact of having been there
      to its Buddha-nature, the fact of having been


To have been there wasn’t dasein. No Hei-
    degger told my horse. Trussed up to
  the side it sat, pressed and preponderant,
      ereign, self-contained, were it music the
  music we sloughed… Slipped accompa-
    niment, surrogate cloud, rapt adjournment.
Agitant. Surrogate cue… I kept clear of it,
    up at arm’s length, all but caught out I came
to see… Thus was our music no music it seemed
  I said, mujic more than music I might’ve said,
      as well have said, no matter I mumbled other-
  wise under my breath… The Freedmen’s Debate
    Society our name now was, the Ox Tongue
Speaker Exchange. Fractal scratch. Nominative
  ration. Cutaway run, cutaway arrest… Thus was
    our music no music I did say, say’s default on
sing such as it was… We called it history even
    insisted it, the it crowding the corner of eve-
ryone’s eye. None of us were not crept up on,
  none not required we sing it, say it. Thus was
  say not


  Beginning again for the muleteenth time,
    we counted off. It was our muleteenth
breakdown, muleteenth new beginning…
      rubbed off on our lips, reed rubbed off as
    well, string steel left on our fingertips, stick
      left on our

This poem was originally published online by the Poetry Foundation.

Share with a friend