“[white paper #6]” by Martha Collins

They lived in the colored
section of town
, as if the White
Pages map had been crayoned,
little squares, inside the lines,

as if they too had been covered
with color, something added to what
was given, i.e. ourselves who did
not know, not even our teachers,

that they were the given, that we
were the altered, that we (who still
were they, there was no difference
yet) lost our color, slowly erased

it as we moved north where a distant
sun could not get through, and on
we went, making roads and maps
of rivers and roads, assuming

we owned it if we could draw
it and color it in and give it
a name, and still we are drawing
lines and calling them borders

and coloring in and naming
people who shall not must
not cross, who live in the colored
sections of our white minds.

Martha Collins is the author of White Papers (Pittsburgh, 2012), as well as the book-length poem Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006), which won an Anisfield-Wolf Award and was chosen as one of “25 Books to Remember from 2006” by the New York Public Library. Collins has also published four earlier collections of poems and two collections of co-translated Vietnamese poetry. Her other awards include fellowships from the NEA, the Bunting Institute, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, as well as three Pushcart Prizes and a Lannan Foundation residency fellowship. Founder of the Creative Writing Program at UMass-Boston, she served as Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College until 2007, and is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press.