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About this poet

Karen Skolfield is the author of Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press, 2013). She teaches at the University of Massachusetts and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

At the Mall, There’s a Machine That Tells You If You Are Racist

It's right next to a Polariod booth.
The instructions say the needles are small
and barely felt. The pictures, it explains,
have nudity, but no gratuitous nudity.
Special imaging equipment considers
the color value of your own skin
and calibrates your reactions
to words shouted in your headphones.   
You know what words. Reading the instructions
brings some of these words to mind. You wonder
if this is part of the evaluation, if people
who are not racist think only of beautiful flowers,
or are beautiful flowers the very basis of racism?
Does everyone love the violet equally?
Does everyone think the tulip's been overdone?
You try to think of a brown flower.
There are some. You've seen them in catalogs.
They're called "chocolate." Black flowers, too,
with varieties named Nightwatch,
Black Pearl, a lily named Naomi Campbell.
Thinking of this makes you hopeful
the machine will know you're not a racist.
Or does remembering a black flower was named
Naomi Campbell mean you're a racist?
The inside of the booth is dimly lit with walls
that look as if they could swiftly close together.
Like a grape, you'd pop right out of your skin.

Copyright © 2015 by Karen Skolfield. Originally published in Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2015 by Karen Skolfield. Originally published in Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Karen Skolfield

Karen Skolfield is the author of Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press, 2013). She teaches at the University of Massachusetts and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

by this poet

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I spend a long time considering pillowcases.
Which pillowcase does my head want for rest? 
A lace edge so that the cheek does not grow bored? 
 
All
poem

Balloon, then papier mâché.
Gray paint, blue and turquoise, green,
a clouded world with fishing line attached
to an old light, original to the house, faux brass
chipping, discolored, an ugly thing. What must
the people of this planet think, the ground
knobby and dry, the oceans blue