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EN271 – Introduction to Critical Theory and the Unthinkable

Intense sensations of being wronged burn with the confusion of the inexplicable—the explanation unattainable / the only certainty is that something is certainly amiss / no matter that I / cannot quite pinpoint it / as if deep in the trenches, I experience an assault on the senses, save except for mud and soot I am uprooted instead by the unwanted attention and unprompted aggression / of men who could not comprehend a rejected invitation. / Like a sponge I soaked in every unpleasant experience / until I wrung myself out and outgrew the quietude of their convenience. / I grew into a killjoy, out for something I couldn’t explicitly name / I grew into a killjoy to spew all my feminist rage. / I wanted something else, something I couldn’t know / how to verbalize, so long I’d been sequestered / in the spaces between: not woman enough, not Black enough, too full of / nonnormativity. / Intersectional feminism seems to intersect around me / these streets and traffic lights surround me, yet I have not even a crosswalk to step on — no matter the metaphor, I seem to be left unaccounted for / my unreasonable anger is a torch made of matches – every insult interwoven into a fireball of woes – to the white woman it’s distantly uncomfortable, to the black woman it’s viscerally, physically unbearable / for the torch is our bodies / and our bodies are flesh / flesh fungible and flexible / beneath the white man’s grip / flesh prodded and unmade and assembled and remade / flesh striped with dehumanization and stamped with enslavement / the black body alchemized into an object void of agency / agency / agency / for there can be no agency for the inhuman / nor can there be power, nor can there be intellect / and don’t even think / about abolition or revolution because the enslaved simply lack that backbone within them. / Nothing is as unthinkable as Black autonomy. / Nothing is as unfathomable as the unsettling of the settlers, even as the Haitian revolts outshined the Enlightenment’s flickering candle – what is Man? More melanin than the white man could handle. / More fight, bite, and fervor than scientific racism could leash. / More reason and thought than perceived unthinkability–the degrees of humanity upheld by blood splatter and scarred welts were challenged into consciousness / to confront this cognitive dissonance: how can one be thoughtfully both humanized and colonized? / How can enslavement then / be justified? / The morality of that paradigm found itself buried in a mass grave, expunged from any archive that could’ve allocated it space–what even are the archives / and histories / of racial capitalism? / Or rather / where are they? / Where are the records of the ravaged and enslaved? / Where are the narratives that interrogate the derogation, decimation, desensitization, destruction, and death? / Where is the epilogue that equalizes the power disparities? Where is the true story of Venus? / She was more than the white man’s sprightly maiden / Where is the hoarse battle-battered text chronicling the Haitian Revolution? / Where is the Spanish, where is the French? Where are the Kreyol, Swahili, and Yoruba – too much is left muddled in only English / Where are the tales left unsaid? The tales of the forcibly forgotten, the tales of the dead? / The tales of the marginalized, the tales of the oppressed? / This erasure reaches fever pitch within its contemporary prevalence. / What demands archival attention is seldom what enters it. / What demands archival chronicling is seldom what the text is. / Intellectually dead from scanning pages built to erase their very faces – this is the story of every disparate diaspora / clawing for coverage whilst pressed against a monolith / of white power / white politics / life and death controlled by the state – identities fractured and falsely plastered in place – barely alive, yet not allowed to die. / I know something is very wrong here, yet my throat declines to spew its slew of litanies and refuses to analogize its symphonies of suffering into this broken record of an archive. / This archive, incapable of comprehension. / Perhaps in time, these ideas will become digestible. / But for now, at least they are no longer unthinkable

This piece was carefully crafted to reflect a conversation between critical theorists Ahmed, Bey, Snorton, Trouillot, Mmebe, Weheliye, and Morgan. I wrote my “megapoem,” as I like to call it, to reflect the syllabus of course EN271 taught by Professor Plasencia here at Colby College. If any piece of my poem snagged your interest or attention, I highly recommend taking this course with Professor Plasencia, or reaching out to me if you have additional questions. 


~ Maaheen Shaikh `25

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