The Fitzpatrick Scale

Reached into a paper bag full of concepts.

Pulled out a handful of calories,
a small clump of degrees Celsius,
one or two 
ohms, a sole ampere; was

disappointed that I had not come up
with the light-year 
I had imagined
might be lurking somewhere within;

was glad I hadn’t
freezer-burned my palm upon 
a Kelvin
or seared it with roentgens. 

Nonsense, you say. That makes no sense.
Those things do not exist

without application to existence — 

we simply measure
what is real with them; 
we measure what is real
with what is unreal.

For instance, depending on the circumstances
there are several measures one can use
for the differences
between colors, to distinguish between
one shade and another
of what we are viewing.

Those differences are defined numerically
after viewing selected images or samples
with sophisticated instruments;
for easier visualization
the results are plotted
onto one of a number of different charts
called “color spaces.”

There are different color spaces
for different applications — scientific
or graphic design — no one standard
works in all cases —

we measure what is real with
the unit we create for our purposes;
we measure what is real
with what is unreal.

The Fitzpatrick Scale
is a color space
for human skin tones,
developed to help understand
concepts related to the rate
of absorption of ultraviolet light
by various shades
of human skin.

The Unicode Standard,
a computer industry agreement 
defining how characters
should be represented
in computer text across languages, 

uses the Fitzpatrick Scale
to ensure uniform representation
of various human skin tones
when creating the symbols
known as “emojis.”

Sixty-four Unicode Standard emojis use
the Fitzpatrick Scale
to represent men,
boys, women,
girls, fists, thumbs
up and down…

We use an unreal
to measure a real,
then use it to create
an unreal used to represent
another unreal;

Unicode Standard says, hey,
we’re just trying to keep it real.

It is currently
both real and unreal that

some carry a Fitzpatrick Scale
in hand or head 
to measure the darkness of heart
of any given individual;
evil rises, it seems to them,
by the same increase in degree 
of ultraviolet absorption
their skin can tolerate — if 
the skin matches this sample,
they seem to say, 
fire
when ready.

The Hatcher Factor is
an old and contested formula
for determining the stopping power
of a bullet of specific caliber.

Most experts agree that it is based
on outdated information,

but all also agree
that any bullet well placed
will break any skin
regardless of its place
on the Fitzpatrick Scale.

Reach into the paper bag of concepts again;
come up empty handed.
In spite of all our work
to measure what is real

we apparently have no way
to calibrate fear and mockery,
the banality of reduction, 
the weight of dispassionate killing:

there’s apparently
no color space large enough
for all the shades of tears.

 

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About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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