A Fragment from Nomenclature for the Time Being

• February 2022

Preface

This fragment taken from the new long poem Nomenclature for the Time Being speaks to what it means to write in this moment. Perhaps, like all my work, it speaks into its moment and to what is required of language. To write more precisely—plainer and plainer with each work over the years, I’ve used whatever methods and shapes make that more possible. And perhaps, also here too, the idea of something for the time being has animated my writing—as if to say, this is what I can gather for now; this is the process of thinking through the life we live; this is the language I insist might illuminate that life; at the same time, this is always an inadequate response to the catastrophe of the Middle Passage and the disaster that followed; this is always an inadequate response to the thing that weighs on me. But this is what I can offer now; or this is the word that approaches; or this is the feeling it produces; or this is the description of the world, and against that world.

This fragment taken from Nomenclature for the Time Being speaks to what it means to be in this moment. Perhaps, like all being, to live into its moment and what is required, then, of language. To be more precisely—plainer and plainer, using whatever methods and shapes make that more possible. And perhaps, also here too, some being, for the time being, is animated—as if to say, this is what being gathers for now; this is the process of thinking through the being we live; this is the language being insists might illuminate that life; at the same time, this is always an inadequate response to being in the ongoing catastrophe of the middle passage; this is always an inadequate response to the thing that weighs on being. But this is what being offers now, or what being approaches; or this is the feeling it produces; or this is the description of the world, and being against that world.1

 

 

 

 

From Nomenclature for the Time Being

 

 

 

 

The racial intrigues, spinning off local narrations

of stasis, the layers of inconceivability, intractable narrations
unforgiveable narrations, that

may cause, at any moment, explosions that I suppress, but they detonate
nevertheless in me
in me the duration of stones

I owe my beating heart a debt for its endurance, its persistence, its

profound knowledge that is beyond any capacity to know its amplitude for taking these
detonations and insisting on living, on

beating . . . beating, jumping to the roof of the ribs. I cannot know this
latitude. I cannot know. I do not know its duration
I am destroying it, I am sure. I cannot conclude. This is in the region

 

 

 

 

Outside the geometry of other considerations. I do not know its

distractions, the scabs of its work. I interpret small signs of its
breathless career and I know its weight

I try another language, I invent rhetoric, I think perhaps this will be
intimate of the rate of killing, this will sustain, will wait out; but I know
better. The simple volume of my breathing. The encroachments melt

Vein tissue. I know the rages I suppress. Close regenerative neurons

I am wearing away the inside of my mouth with acid saliva. All this my
heart must contend with, must ignore, the absences, in these

hemispheres of lewd elevations; and how many dreams I have with the
same obligations as the waking life; how these obligations have the
same duty, the same amount of

 

 

 

 

Weight

as the ones admitted to reality; therefore, they cause the
same worries, they register in the same jurisdictions, they

are recorded in the documents of the veins, the durability of the
knees; they employ time, they account and they appear on the schedule
of minutes, they take their quota of days and appointments

This is the region called surmounting

this is the volcano called evidence
why do I keep anything, sitting near a Tenochtitlan pyramid, forgetting

one language after another; some last evening after another; this
evening the crate of worries and intensions has a sonous echo of
musicians and sweet ice vendors

 

 

 

 

Dionne Brand is a renowned poet, novelist, and essayist. Her writing is notable for the beauty of its language and its intense political engagements. Her eleven volumes of poetry include Inventory (McClelland & Stewart, 2006), Ossuaries (McClelland & Stewart, 2010), and The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos (McClelland & Stewart, 2018); her six books of fiction include What We All Long For (Knopf Canada, 2005) and Theory (Knopf Canada, 2018); and her nonfiction works include A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (Random House Canada, 2002) and An Autobiography of the Autobiography of Reading (University of Alberta Press, 2020).

 


[1] The long poem Nomenclature for the Time Being is forthcoming in Nomenclature: New and Collected Poems by Dionne Brand (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart; Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022); see https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/672369/nomenclature-new-and-collected-poems-by-dionne-brand/9780771098468.

 

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