Nomenclature for the Time Being, by Dionne Brand

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March 2022 Issue [Poetry]

Nomenclature for the Time Being

Adjust

The apocalyptic reports have come

true, dilute in our arterial solvent
the atrocities saturate our latent notebooks

we stay awake lambent
there are iridium rectangles under our tables
we meet languid, nauseous

Transfused presently

for a few decades, chronic, venous, insufficient
the intervals of talk speed to nothing

and we’ve become scientists of without
under force, out of water, across loading
with bearings, of us

 

 

Nothing will come from our innocence

you know that, after all, no
discoveries in old texts, no modern symmetries

no revelations, no wisdoms to be admired
messages to be deciphered, smuggled to each generation
or so prescient they require philosophers

These were not clandestine works

there are no secret hallways waiting for
the transcriber of great portents; it’s simple

the wars they recorded were the wars they won
let me be plain with you
these portraitures are portraitures

 

 

Of what we suspect

the insoluble facts are these then
no one carried their writings across a river

in a ringed cloth on the head
or sewn into the precious fold of a hem, no one buried
them in a desert to wait for a coruscating time

The illuminated manuscripts are just the gaudy

sacredness of violence
the electronic leeches downloaded their data bulk

I, for one, understood this, eventually, my
tendons were xenolith by then of course
the tectonic plates zigzagging, shivering against us

 

 

There was that time in a room on Calle Nueva

when the world crushed my chest
like the world, like a boulder

as if the world were a boulder, as if gravity knitted sternum to finger, to hill
to lip, to thread, to floor, to chair, to boat, to gull, to Calle Nueva Alta
to thought, to hem, to a bus, to three note pencils, to umbrella, to foot, to insect

To jaw, to stem, to M8 Lagoon Nebula, to Deneb, to fish

to velocity, to sheet, to wing, to light socket, to
metal rail, to postage, as if gravity melted oxygen tank, to grief, to hip

to shoreline, to chair, to drinking glass, to green light
to xiphoid, to November
to tailpipe, to insect, to transcriptome, I know everything, I’m not innocent

 

 

It was 5pm all day that day, the sky

if I say the sky’s small arithmetic
its inscription, its echo

through one undone instance and the other
we discovered new diseases
traveling the floor of our tissue

We leathered these in catalogues

of our antigens
what with one thing and another, I

am only ever uttering every other word, skirting
all articulations shaped by ideology, wary of this
understand, it has been several winters to the next

 

 

The beautiful innocence of those

who live at the center of empire, their
wonderful smiles, their sweet delight and

and their singular creation of the
word, hope, when I am actually dying, but now
we enjoy them, their sweetness, their love of us

We envy their cuisine, their insouciance

no truly, I am not being facetious
I am honest in my lovely amazement

it is like candy marbling in the mouth
it is an overview of the temporal lobe, misfiring
unrecognizably

 is a poet, novelist, and essayist. A volume of her new and collected poems,
 Nomenclature, is forthcoming from McClelland & Stewart and Duke University Press.



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