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About this Poem 

"The 'Mu' series of which this poem is a part rings changes on its title's various meanings and associations:  muthos (mouth, myth), music, muse, the emotional interjection mu, the lost continent of Mu said to have existed in the Pacific, etc.  Lately, as in this poem, a strong accent falls on its Japanese meanings, 'not,' 'non-,' 'nothing,' 'no,' and its place in the Zen tradition." —Nathaniel Mackey

Said to Have Been Heard to Say Hush

Nathaniel Mackey

—“mu” ninety-eighth part—

Remembered moment lamenting
  its exit, the anaphylactic aria
fell away. What beauty promised or
  we projected faded, we moved
  not’s province the place we
now camped in… The abandoned
  ones we averred we’d someday
fell away as well. The abandoned
  girl and boy blended in… Thought’s
province it was we pitched our tents
Wind wrinkled our foreheads, thought
  not’s not someday… Not made every
eye water. In our heads more than ever,
  labic beads we thumbed, not’s dread
have-without-hold we bowed down to,
  cried Cry blood, fell back… There
was a box inside my head, something
  acing shook it, Joe Henderson’s tenor.
Not’s woken-up-to now we backed away
  from, Little Johnnie C, “Hobo Joe”…
sistent, imposed itself, beside the point.
  All of it was orphan song we chimed in
on, chided by it, charmed even so. I saw
light but said otherwise, lit by the thought
  of it, not-light lytic, tear between said
and saw… Light stole away, some kind
  spell I was under. At more removes
than there was ground for, I stole away
  as well, said to have been heard to
say hush. A tiptoe ghost octet fidgeted
  hind us. Not was another name for
   death I was afraid and afraid my feet
  would fail, Idiot Footless, feet I did
deed speak with, did indeed say hush…
  A little bit of nothing, anaphylactic
rush, seen-say gone so soon we were
  understudies. Whatever it was we did,
no matter what we did, whatever we did we
  did away… No one heard footsteps, no
  struck the dirt. Earth beset by see-thru
sleep, transparent footprint, sleepwalk’s
  his and hers an it club of late, the aban-
doned his and hers run come… In back
  us the ghost octet kept at it, thread on
the box and on the backs of our necks,
  hair stood on the backs of our necks.
letic, they traipsed on tiptoe, shushed all
  who stood and looked on. The sense we
were being shadowed had hold of us, the
  of being had we had… They were plotting
what it was to be footless, points on a graph
  the ground had become. What it meant to
a tiptoe ghost we could see now, shushed
  as we were, shadowed as we were, warned
we were better off away, beside the point,
  not’s null insistence, moot… All the same,
   doused us all in fish powder, a rite we were
  the wiser



  I saw no way to be wise enough. Tonal
motion made me weep. I saw no way to
  stay where I was, be where I was, what-
ever it was I was moved on, moved over,
   ever it was worried what I was… So it
    was green loomed outside my window,
 drawn light in Low Forest I was wise to,
  saw thru, aroused by light’s reluctance
  not to be caught out, no way could I be
   enough I

Copyright © 2013 by Nathaniel Mackey. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on October 2, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Nathaniel Mackey. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on October 2, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey

Born in 1947 in Miami, Florida, poet and novelist Nathaniel Mackey was a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007.

by this poet


Decapitism stuck to the end of my
    tongue. What to do but call it names
I thought. It wasn’t thought I was
    ing I’d have answered had I been
asked, not even thinking I thought…
  I sat brooding,


-ring of the well-                        

Fray was the name where we came
to next. Might've been a place,
might not've been a place but
we were there, came to it
than we could se... Come to

"mu" fifth part —

  His they their
we, their he
 his was but if
need be one,
I, neither sham nor
 excuse yet an
alibi, exited, 
the only where
 he'd be. 

the long since