from Double Trio

By  |  September 3, 2019
“Out of Body” (2015), by Tschabalala Self. Oil and fabric on canvas, 72 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Thierry Goldberg Gallery New York “Out of Body” (2015), by Tschabalala Self. Oil and fabric on canvas, 72 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Thierry Goldberg Gallery New York

 

Song of the Andoumboulou: 214

  It was after the rain with no rainbow. The
    rainbow dried up, wept before it went,
white grievance had hold of it we heard.
                                                                                    We
    weren’t traveling, we were being chased
     it turned out, the bullet holes in Amadou’s
 body come back to instruct us, Andrean-
   nette’s inconsolate kiss. We ran amending
                                                                                          our
     slave state sutra, endlessly extended it
 seemed… The little books we had were all
   we had, little books we made pressing
our tongues to the backs of our teeth. What
                                                                                           was
    timbre, we wanted to know, was it grain
or the grate burning wood fell thru, the catas-
  trophe we knew could come at last come.
                                                                                        We
      winged it as we could, watched our votes
  float away, paper hats blown off to sea…
    Nub whose we would not be ours arrayed it-
self, say what we would against it no matter,
                                                                                            say
    what we did, it adored itself. Mr. Hot Pot’s
      heavenly glance atop his body had gotten
out of hand, Andreannette’s body its antidote 
  we thought but Andreannette’s gloom lay like
                                                                                                lead.
We knew no alchemy we knew, the way it lay,
    stood a chance, all the weight put on us pathe-
  tic, the band we’d be, everyone’s wanting the
                                                                                              want-
    ing we’d pipe, some sub-equatorial squall’s
humid poultice, exuviae caught in the wood we 
  blew… “Sonance, be our boon,” we piped.
                                                                                        We
were Papuan Udhrite birds, whence we took
    the names of our belovéds. We were lovers
  taking ourselves as precedent, hostages to
                                                                                        qual-
    ification though we were, sex-polis, apostol-
ic redoubt. Remembering the night I fell in love
  with Imas Permas, I piped loudly announcing
                                                                                              my
      name was hers. Our weeping surroundings
  were the polis we brooded on, red-eyed sojour-
    ners that we were, secret cargo, immune to 
                                                                                            the 
  enveloping 
lash

106 feat Mackey Self2“Bodega Run” (2015), by Tschabalala Self. Oil, pigment, and flashe on canvas, 44 x 30 inches. Courtesy of Thierry Goldberg Gallery New York

                 

    The scent of the beloved said to encumber
the tongue, the tongue’s blue bewilderment
  song we’d been taught, the school of who
                                                                                       when
      loving die. Love but only begun, we’d
  been taught, barely begun, the book of its
    bare beginning our book were there a book,
the book of the would-be our book… Book
                                                                                         meant
  more than calculable, the lovers’ bare recum-
    bence naked beyond quantity, ordinance’s fig-
ures’ forfeiture, ordinance’s numbers’ retreat.
                                                                                             The
      beloved’s bodily waft what respite impelled
  us, we the band we were, we the band we’d be,
    everyone’s wanting our wanting. Naked recum-
bence all we knew, naked recumbence all side
                                                                                              and
  sly pondering, the slide of what would but be…
    The scent of the beloved said to waylay the
tongue, talk though we would in some erstwhile
                                                                                                    man-
    ner, the reed’s lament never not audible, listen
      to the reed as we would. The reed wrote a letter
we heard. What we’d hear was the letter the reed
  wrote, the scent of the reed’s opening the scent of
                                                                                                      the
    beloved, burnt opening intimate with lip, spit, eye
tooth, burnt, odorous opening blown across. The
  reed’s burnt opening smelled of breath we heard
                                                                                                     or
would hear, spit soaked into it we’d smell we heard
    or would hear, reed of the beloved’s departure,
                                                                                                    reed 
  of the beloved’s 
kiss 

                 

  We stood wondering what explained the comb-
    over. What was love, what was meaning, what
was breath, we were asking, now that Nub had
                                                                                                made
  up its mind. We were the lovers we not yet were,
      the lovers we serenaded. We would not soon be
    done with them we knew nor would their like
                                                                                                   soon
  come again… “We the pipers rub Nub the wrong
    way,” we announced, “we who went to school
at Djamil’s knee. Love’s low eminences, we among
                                                                                                          the
    rushes, recumbence all we know, we of the Udh-
rite school.” Letter less than edict, so read our reeds’
  decree. We drank beer brewed with polar ice melt, 
                                                                                                         we 
      the dead who died of love’s inconsequence. Wave
  were it particular, water had it been thirst, Nub whose
    bread would be the bread of sorrow someday, Nub
so without soul we staggered back. A prepared place it
                                                                                                                was
  loomed on high, an Osirian recumbence we were in… 
    Angered by the comb-over’s rise, we stood wonder-
ing, recumbence not as yet sex-polis, sex-polis not as yet
                                                                                                                   hope’s
    remand. All it was was a flap of hair hiding something,
      all it was was tit for tat. We played on as we always
had. My new name Imas burred my intonation, a don’t-let-
  me-break-down sound I took toward bliss, the reed a bit
                                                                                                                    whose
horse I was. The reed’s letter was its parlay-cheval-ou, the
    reed’s complaint its tell-my-horse, the reed I bit down
  on and blew, the reed we all bit on and blew, overghost as
                                                                                                                       we
    always had… I remembered the night I fell in love with
Imas again, a reed among the rushes, one among many,
  the band in which each was all as well as one, each with
                                                                                                                  our
    sweetest remembrance gone bittersweet, an anxious taste 
      on our tongues. We were marching now. I lugged my
bad leg, its hitch gave us ythm, deep ourkestral heave and 
  misgiving. Legba strode with us we knew. Imas’s voice 
                                                                                                                 flut-
      tered like a candle flame caught in a draft, what world 
  was left a ball of dirt we strode across… As Majnoun
    had lain eyes on Leila, my ears heard Imas’s voice, a
                                                                                                            hoo-
  poe with clipped wings it seemed. The night I fell she
    took me to Java, another Java music made of the one 
where she lived. The way she sang had a straining way to
                                                                                                                   it.
    We buttered our bread with suspect butter, ate raw meat
we were told had been cooked, lied to about the simplest
  things. There was a gunmetal taste on our tongues, a feeling 
                                                                                                                           for 
      bullets and what was to come… Oyo Suwardi’s reed 
  worried mine, the suling’s lament unignorable, the suling’s
    weeping-daughter complaint. We were in the Moving
Star Hall, unbeknownst. We were in the Moving Star Hall,
                                                                                                                        dis-
  posable earth at our feet. We were in the Moving Star Hall,
    overghost… Even so, I fell. Even so, fell hard. It was 
the night I fell all over again. Even so, I was alright with it, 
                                                                                                                   al-
    right with not being alright, beginning to leave myself, as
we all were, apart from ourselves, overghost.  What would
  Nub’s next move be we wondered, caroling light, light not
                                                                                                                      oth-
      erwise to be had… Light not otherwise to be heard, we
  piped on, live in the Field of Reeds, live on the Plain of
    Quill, a feathered sprawl’s excursion, gravelly word coax-
ing gravelly word. A lipless face suddenly loomed, moonlike,
                                                                                                                           sang
    with its eyes it seemed. We buttered our bread with suspect
      butter again, laughed at the infernal comedy it was, we 
let the reeds have their say. They wanted to say the world was
  wrong, the world we built the world built on our backs, and
                                                                                                                     they
said it, wanted to say it might be made right… It was that part
    caught them up, caught them out, hope with its hand out 
  again. Overghost all of us, more than we could say, side-eye 
                                                                                                                           and
    shade’s do-
main

     ____________________

         

    The scent of the beloved said to encumber
the tongue, the tongue’s blue bewilderment
  song we’d been taught, the school of who
                                                                                      when
      loving die. Love but only begun, we’d
  been taught, barely begun, the book of its
    bare beginning our book were there a book,
the book of the would-be our book… Book
                                                                                       meant
  more than calculable, the lovers’ bare recum-
    bence naked beyond quantity, ordinance’s fig-
ures’ forfeiture, ordinance’s numbers’ retreat.
                                                                                            The
      beloved’s bodily waft what respite impelled
  us, we the band we were, we the band we’d be,
                                                                                                  every-
    one’s wanting our want-
ing

     ____________________

 

    Nostrils wide with the scent of the beloved,
Mr. Hot Pot beheld Andreannette’s approach. His 
  eyes lit on the ground in front of her, her
                                                                                      feet, 
        her ankletted ankles, her calves. All-out 
    wonder between her knees and waist as his 
      eyes moved upward, love’s own suzerainty it 
  seemed… Bodies were parts of bodies, parts
                                                                                            of
      bodies the realm again. He remembered the
        feel of her sphincter tensing around his finger, 
    she the same, his tightening around hers, love’s
                                                                                                     empy-

      rean body’s bodily
  fate

     ____________________

 

  Still, they fed us fish with hard potatoes,
    shrimp so tiny they were brown we were
told. We scattered, crawling out and away.
                                                                                        It
      was Nub wanting its face back, no other
  way could we read it, up to any torment, 
    fit sonance permitting… Some same story
                                                                                         was
          on again, played out again and again… 
      Tell-my-voice took issue with tell-my-horse… 
        “Look at what time does,” we were saying,
                                                                                               sad, 
      looking down at our-
    selves

 

106 feat Mackey Self3“An Engagement” (2016), by Tschabalala Self. Oil, pigment, fabric and acrylic on canvas, 96 x 108 inches. Courtesy of Thierry Goldberg Gallery New York

 

Brother B’s Rumpstruck Recital

    —“mu” one hundred ninety-fifth part—

 

    Barred at the gate where the music went,
no time soon would he be done with it he 
  knew but went on pretending, what would
                                                                                          nev-
      er, he was loath to admit, be made right,
  marred copy of what was true. We scratched
    our heads looking at him scratching his,
sat making what of it we could. Was it over 
                                                                                          now, 
      we asked him, could he let go, let it go, be 
  done with it, move on. He said he’d long since 
    cut it loose but no way, we knew, could that 
                                                                                              be 
  so… The tumbling out of it the it of it, the it
    of it going on. Was it love or the love song he
cut loose but couldn’t cut loose we wondered,
                                                                                             an-
      other Anuncio in love with the sound or the
  song of it, barred entry but entranced. We wanted
    to know was it a state he would give it up for, some 
just and adjoined array of others wanting voice, the
                                                                                                         we
    our cresting récit mused and made mention of,
      the we he’d make real we hoped… Crepuscule
and candomblé wrought the we we sorted, what
    would not, least of all, turn out to’ve been govern-
  able, his to have exacted, his to have inspired, all
                                                                                                      our

    bumped imbroglio made worthwhile. Brother B 
      had been speaking to that effect. Telephone poles
  whizzed by the dining car window as he let out a
                                                                                                      cry, 
      convinced it would all be ours now, caught up in 
  the cry and the calculi behind it, the new next aim
    our train sped toward. It was now, we knew, a train
                                                                                                             we

  were on… This was in the distant past and only a mi-
    nute ago. He sat holding forth in the dining car as
we sat holding forth, the car a car the train long since
                                                                                                              no
      longer had. So what were we we wanted to know
  and where and how so, the he we projected having 
    something of an answer, his the we we badly wanted 
back. We were nothing if not of the moment, alive to
                                                                                                               it
  declaring itself. Brother B was Mr. Hot Pot now. He
    wrote as though he wrote the reed’s letter. No mention 
made of his own low member, no mentioning the stiff
                                                                                                                bou- 
    quet emanating from it, he wrote in praise of Andrean
nette’s nether lips. He wrote extolling her low beard’s
  accelerant musk, all of it a dream of some kind he awoke 
                                                                                                                     from 
      sweating, nakedness newly doomed he thought… He
  was truly Mr. Hot Pot now. He wrote as though he wrote
    the reed’s letter, his dream a dream of Andreannette’s
                                                                                                                  jel-
  ly. It was, he wrote, the world’s one respite, the world
    old and mean, set in its ways. All this on a train that
had been a bus that had been a car that had been a house,
                                                                                                                    a
  rant and a holding forth it was all we could do not to
                                                                                                               rat-
ify

     ____________________

 

  “I said some things it felt like life had wrung out 
    of me,” Brother B announced, back to himself,
back to being someone we knew or we thought
                                                                                                  we
    knew, at home with him and him at home with
us. Founding a new religion wasn’t what he in-
  tended, sound as though it was though he did. A
                                                                                                     First
        Church of Jelly it might’ve been had he been
    intending it, a new and old gospel of Andrean-
      nette’s perfume, waft he’d lain waylaid by… It
                                                                                                    was 
    all an immaculate odor, no scent but the sound
      of it, a run he went off on, what always and anon
would lie underneath. “Up from under,” he whis-
  pered, “I need bottom,” something else life wrung
                                                                                                       out
      of him we took it, the train approaching a tunnel,
  the train going into the tunnel, the train coming out of
                                                                                                                   the
    other
  side

     ____________________

 

  Something seen in a face we’d long been
    chorusing. Something seen in Andreannette’s 
behind he now held forth about, of late come 
                                                                                             to 
      ask was that all it was… “Tail,” he not so 
  much announced as expelled, spat as he ex-
    tolled it, Udhrite mince and remit. It was on-
ly a word, a word he threw down, only as if to
                                                                                                say,
    “Deal with it”… A rumpstruck recital was 
      what it was, all it was. At odds with himself
  we’d have said of him, himself caught in his
                                                                                             wan-
    dering eye, caught looking, wondering where 
                                                                                                 else 
  it might
rest

106 feat Mackey Self4“For the Gods” (2015), by Tschabalala Self. Oil, fabric, and pigment on canvas, 68 x 36 inches. Courtesy of Thierry Goldberg Gallery New York

Song of the Andoumboulou: 216

We sought refuge, decapitism at us wher-
    ever we looked. They were starting the next
  war, they were stealing the sky’s ozone, it
                                                                                        must-
      ’ve been we were in Rum. It must’ve been
  we were in Mur, more and more talk of a
    wall going up, more and more moving back-
wards, Crater more and more dug in… Sister
                                                                                            C
  looked in of a sudden. She wanted to know
    what was on the box. We lived on a bub-
ble of sound, not to be messed with. The box,
                                                                                              we
    said, had gone out to sea. The box had been
ours we thought but wasn’t, this or that intuitive
  book our box we thought, sweet reason itself
                                                                                               we
      thought… Crater was calling itself Cradle,
  words now words’ collapse. We were all the
    more the Udhrite phalanx we’d be. To speak
                                                                                               as 
with a new tongue we were seeking, tongue tip
    to tongue tip, tongues up on each other, the
  new tongue a double tongue it seemed. That the
                                                                                                      word
      be on itself and be one with itself, tongue met 
  demanding tongue. A slow, lingering kiss was all
    we had could we have been said to have that,
spoken for already, inimical words put on our lips,
                                                                                                        all
      with, at the end, “what I’m talking about”… A
        fickle sonance announced as much could we 
  have heard it, a leak or a trickle of sound from 
    far away, Neptune some would say, some would
                                                                                                       say 
  Jupiter… Space was our claim to kinship… Static 
      mussed our radio… Compensative light lit our 
                                                                                                     way 
    that was no
  way

                   

 

            (trill)

 

  I dreamed we lay savoring the small mercy love
    was, Andreannette and I down to it at last. It
was a dream we all had, Sister C and the women
                                                                                                   in-
    cluded, a dream not having to do with whose
body had or didn’t have what. Andreannette might
  have been André, Andreannette might’ve been
                                                                                                 An-
      nette. Andreannette might’ve been Ornette,
  Andreannette might have been Andrea… We lay
    in flight from whose body had what, sex-polis
                                                                                                  ta-

ken over by haystack and wind, straw in every-
      one’s hair, straw on everyone’s clothes. We 
    were on this or that electrical contrivance. They
                                                                                                     were

      saying something about an erectile college. Slav-
  ery lived on some said… A closer look took us deep
    into Nur, backwardswalking Nub’s new low, new
limbo, our reaction to which again was to run. We lay
                                                                                                              run-
    ning, rabbits come after with shotguns and boots. We
      lay regaled, sprawl’s rendezvous with sprint our 
restitution, she of the rumpled pea coat, me of the let-
  terman’s jacket, dream silliness, ruse, regret… All
                                                                                                       bets,
    it wanted to say, were off, armor the way of the
world we were in, the two of us in bed fully dressed.
  We lay still, moving thru the world at our leisure,
                                                                                                        run’s
      quintessence abstract it seemed. A music made 
  of squiggles massaged us, the-box-not-having-left 
    was back. We lay in our clothes knowing what lay 
                                                                                                          un-
derneath, who had what no concern. Grab was now the 
    name we knew Nur by, not no matter we lay with-
  out hands having none of it but its foil, hands dipped
                                                                                                              in
    freezing water, ritual ablution we abjured it with…
We lay unhanded, we lay in flight from Grab and 
  Grope, Nur’s twin principalities. “We lie choked in
                                                                                                         our
      tuxedoes,” I blurted out, unclear why, unclear what
  it meant. “We lie choked in our tuxedoes,” Andrean-
    nette blurted out in turn. Why were we in this place, 
                                                                                                                we
wondered, prone to say who knew what, tongues’ au-
    tonomy law. “We lie choked in our tuxedoes,” we
  repeated again and again… We were in the palace of
                                                                                                            the
 pea coat, housed under Andreannette’s ex’s drab
  cover. Their two cats were in the sun room basking, a
    domestic scene long since exploded she clung to,
all of it come to nothing, all as if it never happened, all
                                                                                                               of
  it wracked and repeating nothing ever was. “Leave it 
    all to them, this ball of dirt,” we were now saying, 
“the Nurians, give them their fill”… We imagined a we 
                                                                                                           be-
    yond all calculation, the billowing pea coat a tent we
congregated under, reckoning love’s more-than-one.
  We opted out, no matter in’s illusory offer, the it of it
                                                                                                               ex-
punged, an it outside its proffer possible we thought, an
    it whose it we lay in whose umbra. “Give it a don’t-care
  damn,” we were saying now, “kiss it away,” knowing 
                                                                                                            why, 
    knowing what we meant… We opted out, no get, no
grapple. We were knowing it would be alright, not being 
                                                                                                                   al-
  right would be
alright

106 feat Mackey Self5“Turnt” (2016), by Tschabalala Self. Painted canvas, flashe, and colored pencil on canvas, 44 x 30 inches. Courtesy of Thierry Goldberg Gallery New York

     ____________________

Camarón sat us down as we wondered what
    next. That the box floated away told our des-
pair, hearts broken by politics again. Nub’s 
                                                                                       face-
    lift had fallen, Nub’s facelift had never 
      been. We heard a hammering in our heads 
and we wanted to hear more. We were post-
  post-something it said, it wasn’t clear what the
                                                                                                some-
    thing was… Comb-over was all scrape, scratch,
claw, post-face itself, pure post-. Bits of straw stuck
  to our hair were bits of sound. We leaned on this
                                                                                                      or
      that eked-out sonance, the surge of one or an-
  other more than we could hope for, mercy’s wards 
    again, mendicants again. Camarón’s voice was
all strafe, a stray corona, sunspots pocking the air it
                                                                                                         car-
  ried, came 
thru

     ____________________

 

How could it have happened we milled around
gasping. How could hair look so much like hay
  we were asking, how could white be such a bright
                                                                                                        or-
      ange… We trudged up a foothill, workers leav-
  ing work, voices caught in the ground audible
    again, attenuated wide-mouth sound roofed in
                                                                                                    stat-
      ic, sonority domed in static, hollow inside. How
        could the options they were calling history be so
    dread we were asking, the it of it against its ythm
                                                                                                        no
        contest, the myth of it the real of choice… We
    trudged up a field of dry brush, our stomachs taken
                                                                                                             out
      it felt . 
  like


 

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.