Poetry

Eleanoir and Huff’s New Blues and Gospel

Nathaniel Mackey

– ‘‘mu’’ two hundred thirty-eighth part –

  The air lay lit with a kind of dread. Expec-
tancy’s arraignment it felt like, the oud’s
  outer inurement all there was, inside out.
                                                                           The
      conundrum the backs of our heads hit
  was death. We thought of it the least often
    we could but a lot, the closer walk being
                                                                           what
   it was. ‘‘Rue not the day,’’ we’d been told. . .
      Happenstance rode us like an orisha, the
unawares heaven we were in without knowing
                                                                                   it
    almost to be beheld, recession a kind of res
       cue, not to be held on to. A kind of circling
  it seemed or it was we could not find a way
                                                                               out
of. Huff and Eleanoir, sudden lovers, caught
      unawares was only part of it, verities pur
  veyed in a row the least part of it, the it whose
                                                                                       it
      we would be. . . We stared out our windows,
Low Forest green a cathedral. Leafed limbs hung
        over us as we rode and were ridden, the green
                                                                                         com-
        edy said by some to be clear profusion. The
   dry cliffs of Bandiagara were a far cry away but
      we might’ve been underwater crossing Mu,
  Huff so wanted it so. It was he who breathed life
                                                                                         in-
     to it all he’d’ve had us believe, the wobbly cap-
        tain who steered our boat a god decked out in
 shades dark enough to blind. One saw the passion
                                                                                           and
     the pathos of it, Huff’s pathetic boast backed
       by someone inside each of us hollering would it
     were his, would he had his way, someone inside
                                                                                         Elea-
          noir the most, the bodies they newly saw they
   wouldn’t always have now newly poignant, lit
      with a new appeal. . . It was all creation myth,
creation ythm, by now, Sophia said, was but hadn’t
                                                                                           al-
    ways been. How to break free of the said she impli-
      citly asked, whatsay’s world dominion, silence
long since no option, the underwater tissue of leaves
                                                                                               we
      drove thru. She was the wise one, ever the one
          we’d heard of, always our luck to hear from. She
       pressed her lips together, soft wrinkly flesh nixing
                                                                                               talk,
      nixing kissing, adjourning all surrounding sound. . .
We were on Cornwallis, passing under 15-501, the
   daily for the moment immortal, preserved in amber,
                                                                                              what-
    said lag let
go

                                             •

      Ythm was a corollary life riding with us, a concur-
rency, a wrinkle in time. Accompaniment it could
   also be called and Sophia called it that, the green in
                                                                                               the
          blue, the blue in the green. . . Not since embou-
  chure met nerve-end had it been so close to see, so
      wise or so conducing to wisdom we pounded the
                                                                                            heels
 of our hands together, pressed our tongues to the
       backs of our teeth. . . It was all one to us whether we
     came or we went, mythic or mystic the ythmic ride
                                                                                               was,
      drained or adjoining Mu we
trekked

                                          •

   So too with Huff and Eleanoir’s romance, the
      lens they slew history with or made it with
history with, made history with. It was history
                                                                                    cut
     down to size. ‘‘Let us never put forth any-
        thing unless it be parcel, part,’’ Eleanoir had
  said. ‘‘Breath and light beyond any before,’’
                                                                                    Huff
      had said, ‘‘bodily breakdown bear me thru.’’
  So much of it was they wanted to speak that
     way, so much emotion a pretext for whatsay,
                                                                                        So-
   phia would’ve said had she not summarily adjourned 
all sound. . . It was a moment under
the overpass, traffic noise cancelled as well as all
                                                                                         else,
     more than a philosophical pause but also that,
      a nonsonance none but Sophia knew was there.
Whatsay’s collapse into nonsay rode with us now,
   momentary though the muting had been, return
                                                                                           to
     sonance though we did, nonsay itself the blue
vessel we bore thru green in. We rode along saying
    nothing now. It was all a corridor of green leaves
                                                                                              and
         light, the standing-pat of trees between which
    we once debated if God could lie. We sat now
      tasting our tongues. . . All e√ortlessness it was now
 or it seemed. Everything attested its place without
                                                                                              call
      or complaint, ‘‘mu’’ as in mute, made clear. I
  too sat tasting my tongue, Nub’s descent into Nur
      a kind of coating, nothing not a√ected by Nub’s
                                                                                              un
    mer-
cy


The trees were breathing in and breathing out
      for us, transitory support we rode on.
    The realty show was depleting Low Forest
                                                                              and
      we cruised even so, an ambiguous boat
         amid a sea of green. ‘‘We took a real trip,’’
     Trane had said, ‘‘on a real ship,’’ imaginary
                                                                                    sound
         more real than the wind riffing the leaves,
     the hum of rubber on asphalt, the ones that
        were there. . . A faint, far eastern keening had
                                                                                          one’s
          ear, Nub’s descent into Nur a kind of croon
    it prevailed against, hatesay remanding the
      we we’d be, ‘‘mu’’ as in moot. Turned away,
                                                                                       we
      rode our boat of longing, locked out of the hea-
         ven we’d been in not knowing we were in it,
                                                                                          immi-
      grant wish the boat we
rode

                                           •

  It was Huff who had called it all myth, all ythm,
      a clipped or some other way compromised
rhythm. There was an imaginal sound, he said,
                                                                                      loud-
          er than sound we could hear, boat of soul
    the school of oud, oud as old as wood some said,
      some said even older. With the wood’s daugh-
ter Eleanoir took issue, wood not to be said to
                                                                                    have
     come later, she said, subsequent to the oud’s
        pear shape, the pear not possibly prior to
   the tree that bore it. Shape, she went on, was no
                                                                                            ab-
       straction, shape was even less possibly prior.
    ‘‘Enough with the ‘some,’ ’’ she said. ‘‘What do you
      say?’’ she asked. . . It was the beginning of hesaid-
she-said, cosmogonic wuh rebutted by cosmic
                                                                                     flirt,
      things began to come apart. ‘‘Wood was less it-
self before oud was,’’ Hu√ answered. ‘‘Oud is what
   made wood matter, oud itself more virtual than
                                                                                          real,
       especially the school of it. Oud is only illuso-
  rily matter, imaginal sound beyond concrete
     audition.’’ Wood’s daughter, whose dream, after
all, it was we were in, her dream of the blue
                                                                                truck
   that might’ve been a bus, might’ve been a boat,
      said little. ‘‘Wood is wood,’’ Eleanoir said. Then
she said no more, said nothing, not-saying saying
                                                                                           more
      than saying would. ‘‘Trouble ahead,’’ Ahdja whis-
          pered in my ear. . . Huff himself not knowing,
  Eleanoir had no way of knowing eucalyptus trunks
                                                                                                bare
      of their bark were a Lone Coast memory, a grove
of them Huff’s dream, his blue remit. A long way
     away and a long way back. He spoke of wood as
                                                                                             one
        who spoke of flesh, as of a grove of legs, bark
  stripped away showing lionlike whiteness under
     -neath, a Greco-arboreal mytheme or ythmeme,
‘‘leaves’’ informed of which he’d long read. Oud, she
                                                                                                had
   no way of knowing, he himself not knowing, was
      a transposition eastward, troubadour stuff, court-
ly legs he saw, dreaming westward, an erotico-ecologi-
      cal polis he saw proposed by the worry lines on her
                                                                                                 face. . .
         How Eleanoir dreamt her not knowing, how dream
   could specify what she didn’t know without inform-
      ing her, none of us knew. How she dreamt Huff’s not
                                                                                                       know-
      ing we could see. Her dream was to know with-
   out knowing and to know more than he knew. Ahdja
     whispered all this to me. . . We ambled along leav-
ing the philosophic nonsonance behind, the overpass
                                                                                               be-
   hind, wood’s daughter’s falling silent of a piece with
      it though we cruised away, blue truck, blue bus,
  blue boat, whatever it was we rode on or in, heroines
                                                                                                   and
     heroes of her dreamt
récit


All hands were on deck as we exited the
      nerve church. We saw there was nothing
   not stained with motion. The animate
                                                                        out-
      cry ‘‘We’ve been had’’ echoed all thru
the trees. . . Eleanoir and Huff, having fallen
     in, were now falling out, the pathos their
                                                                               would-
       be polis aroused gone against polis itself. . .
A bare limning taking place took the place
    of the solid as their chances grew long,
                                                                          they
and we the fools it took turning wary, more
                                                                              likely
    to’ve been trawling
sleep

Nathaniel Mackey is the author of Blue Fasa and Double Trio, a three-book set from which the poem in this issue is taken.
Originally published:
July 1, 2019

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