when a feeling hurts you have to listen

when a feeling hurts you have to listen
otherwise who knows
what pinpricks devour you like so many
locations on a map
saturated and bubbling up on each other 
when you feel slighted
u oughta take a slight pause 
so as to not react
reacted far too often
my body fatigued by watchfulness 
it’s better to pause
it’s better to wait and see 
but to wait and see is to waste 
what we call time
but what we call time 
isn’t really time 

it’s one time
a real weird time huh?
soft time mixed with hard time
our shoal time
our time at sea u could say
tho they are saying in sea these days
my       time is not
yr         time is not
her       time is not
         time is not
      time is not 
is             time is not 

Theory by Dionne Brand

“There are multiple reasons why I find myself in the situation of not having completed my dissertation; on the other hand, I believe one ought to take stock of one’s own bullshit.”

Theory, the latest novel by Dionne Brand, begins and ends with this footnote. The unnamed, ungendered narrator retells three romances over the course of writing their dissertation: Selah, embodiment of beauty; Yara, the altruistic playwright; and Odalys, the faith-healer. Through these relationships we learn more about the narrators ambition and their struggle to complete their dissertation.

This is a funny book. Often you are laughing at the narrator for their folly, their lack of intuition and self-honesty in relationships, be they collegial or personal.

But in some ways you are laughing at yourself. I think one of the major themes in this book is how expectations in the family and the university shape our love lives in turn. When one is negotiating with professionalizing ambitions at home and at work and, yes, in “love,” where do you turn? The narrator is constantly qualifying their opinions, revising their statements, taking back judgments of character. So in one light, it’s no wonder they never finished the diss. But they make a good case for themselves:

“At the root of the problem are the quotations and references. One is not allowed an original thought. I asked the committee: Does Derrida keep quoting everyone before him to make sure he is right? Does Spivak have to array around her all the dead philosophers and theorists to prove her credentials for speaking? And finally, there’s no reference for what I want to do. Why can’t I simply speak without having to have that speech legitimated by god knows who?”

won’t you put on your gambler jeans

won’t you put on your gambler jeans
tease me a little bit
you sit in the dirt and spit
intuit the portal that is my waist
for a minute

they met in the aquarium
where fluid is sexuality
they met in the park.
one had on that beautiful half-smile
who brought paint and painted each other.
one couldn’t draw
she couldn’t picture herself

if abu-bakr ii made it over here
is really a matter of opinion
but it still says a lot
about yr imagination