Song of the Andoumboulou: 133

by Nathaniel Mackey

  Brother B took off the Itamar mask

as we crossed over, epic duress lately

contracted let go, small mercy, less than


we’d been led to expect we now

clamored for, noise, no not knowing

what sound was… Noise no doubt, it


  relieved us of doubt, sound again

the balm it was. “Cold Sweat” was

on the box as we came to the bridge,

  epic anointment taken in stride as we


trudged on, brows wet, Jah, the

  song said, would be there, not yet

where there was, Third World car-

oling light… As we’d have wanted, a


  stepped emollient, upful, Netsanet’s

buxom strut what lead we needed, Bro-

ther B’s roust and arrival, Itamar’s rue,


regret… Netsanet’s Insofarian con-

sort, his and his hand hers and hers.

  Fingertips dipped in ice a soothing re-


coil, each the Insofar-I he or she other-

wise was… Brother B looked back at the


  bridge, Netsanet


To get back to some time there

once was, a might’ve-been there

  would someday be, old but new feel-


ing, steel planks fell away as they

pressed on… Lit city glistening

  with rain, epic allure’s apocryphal kiss.


They were on their way there and

we as well, we rode beside them,

  them beside themselves though not


  the we they would’ve been, an-

  other them they were, thought’s

we… Some synoptic when, syn-

optic somewhere. Brother B said, “Come


  what may,” what might come came.

Upstart sense of an ending. What-

said life’s unlay… Netsanet City was


just a memory, Brother B’s blue

  heaven. Netsanet’s long back a-

gleam with mist and streetlights,

  long back and bum he stoked his hopes


  on, odalisquelike the way it would

  be were it all his… Trying to make

place that promise. Long-limbed in-

taglio, place dilated his nostrils, the press


of it incessant, shrug notwithstand-

ing, Netsanet’s empathic perfume…

  Notes toward an eventual design was all


the book was, book they were already

in. An aroused hope made it so, soon-

  come récit, said to have been said to have


been said to have been said, more than they


  could see but



  Place dilated their nostrils, rain’s

aftersmell a cleansing it seemed,

aura the aroma could they name it,


Netsanecity the name they tried.

Netsanecity the meeting of look

  and locale, sound was something they


  saw, we saw, synaesthetes of late

but not liking it, place be itself

  we begged. Earth and air each be

no other we begged, Netsanet and Bro-


  ther B’s cohort, be-


  Netsanet’s Insofarian Itamar came

up next, black hold held in abeyance

brought up, bad aftertaste crossed wa-


ter left us with, pirates’ heels the

roof we lay under. “All that was

  only out west,” Netsanet chided, sweet


Abyssinian rebuff… Soul music

  made us forget, salt so insistent,

though, we heard its rake, its rub,

  horns whose burn spread, ooze it


welled up in, Slave Coast the only

coast it seemed… We needed not

  to feel that was all there was, black hold


had us. Wondrously renewed Ethio-

pians we’d be, brethren and sistren

  so honey-lipped we’d sing, sing not even


  meaning to, simply be, sweet, soul

  music made us forget… Rapturous

rebuff we bathed in. Lovers dub rub-

a-dub, Netsanetian sweet, “All that was


  only out west…” Said it again. Said

it again and again, “All that was

only out west.” Itamar, caught in the hold,


came up. Black hold heavy with salt, with




Itamar cut away so as to come

out and say it. He took heed of

  the call quivering leaflike, a tree’s


  way with reach no one’s if not

  his… Thus he thought and set

out to see it come true. Name nam-


  ing itself, tautologic Netsanet,

net no more caught up in, could

only catch itself, Brother B he’d be,


  move on