Eloise Klein Healy

from Women's Studies Chronicles

The Test

Firebrand Books, 1991

The Test


My students bend intently
over their desks, the test questions swirling
around their heads, the answers gathering
or slipping away.

I have taken them to the wall
in The Handmaid's Tale
where Margaret Atwood hung the bleeding bodies.
I have taken them there and forced them to touch
the red-brown O's of mouths now silenced.

I have held in front of them the photos
of the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory girls
flying through the air, unnecessary angels.
I have held the photos before them
like a Veronica holding the sweated and bloody
face of the Christ printed on her scarf.

Touch these wings, I demand.
Touch the concrete before these women
smash against it like bags of groceries
you'd spill going into your house--
they are full of life, not bread and wine.


My students bend over their tests
intent on making the right responses.
It is required to test them this way
but I would rather send them
in the patrol car to the frat house
with directions to write up the rape.
Touch the semen up a co-ed's ass.
How many kinds of semen are there?
And let us count the ways it gets around.

Here, I say, here is a wound
to compare and contrast to no other.
Here is a little piece of culture
on a swab. Look under the microscope
and see this culture growing
like a scream in this dish.

This red mouth, this is culture's test
of manhood, of womanhood,
and this outrage I force into essay form
so you can write out
what we really know.

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