Maud Lavin πŸ”ˆ Β­

Topology

Imagine a world where the surfaces are constantly rolling and turning,
on one surface an abstracted figure twists and pulses with the movement.
Apply a function to that figure, a function that stretches it and moves it to moan,
well, in your mind it moans, here on paper there’s no sound but there are steps,
steps you make up. You apply another function, a different one.

You can do this on a Sunday afternoon early in your college years,
lying on your bed, eating M&Ms, using mathematical symbols,
when it’s Summer and the windows are open.
You love every minute of it. It feels like flying.

Only much later do you realize the safety inherent in this feral game –
the figure holds, even while it transforms, it still exists.
Everything changes it, but still it lasts.
The functions you invent are under your control
even as they cause the figure to writhe and toss
with the moving surfaces. And somehow, in ways you still don’t understand,
you embrace this in your mind, like swimming, like the water
embraces you when you swim.

By you, as you know, I mean me, but I use second person because you
could imagine it, too, if you were so inclined. The movement is made up
but describable to a T, and so it can be shared, even transformed further,
like a story. I did share such things, either in the theoretical math class
I was taking or the one I was TAing.

Really, I was teaching that one because when the instructor figured out
I, the TA, liked not just to grade papers but to teach,
and, well, it was Summer, and he wanted to be outside –
he often turned the class over to me. The students were pre-med,
and generally a year or two older than I was. I must’ve been about 18 then.
They didn’t want to play as much as get a good grade and get
into med school. I understood, but I taught them a bit about play,
or about imagining, anyway. For me,

it was so beautiful, that play, like birds winging it in a gusty sky.
Like lying on my back in a creek’s current and being pulled along,
watching the clouds, then closing my eyes
and still knowing where I was going.

Author’s Note

In mathematics, topology is concerned with the properties of a geometric object that are preserved under continuous deformations, such as stretching, twisting, crumpling, and bending: that is, without closing holes, opening holes, tearing, gluing, or passing through itself.

Topology @ Wikipedia

Author Reading

About the Author

A professor emerita at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Maud Lavin has published work in The Nation, Artforum, the New York Times Book Review, Portable Gray, Chicago Artist Writers, and other venues. Her most recent book, Boys' Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols, co-edited with Ling Yang and Jing Jamie Zhao, was nominated for a Lambda, and an earlier book, Cut with the Kitchen Knife, on the Berlin Dada artist Hannah HΓΆch, was named a New York Times Notable Book. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and a person with disabilities.