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Invisible Woman

The air opened and she was gone

Poetry | Nurse, invisible, labor
June 2, 2021

Editor’s Note: The following poem by Romalyn Ante is part of a notebook of writing on the theme Nurse. The poem is taken from the collection Antiemetic for Homesickness. Read other pieces in the collection gathered here.

Listen to Romalyn Ante read “Invisible Women,” from her collection Antiemetic for Homesickness.


You see them everywhere, these invisible women –
     one navigates the ache of a corridor and the hour glints
     with a salvo of needles.  A steel intubating stylet
     enters a mouth like a forced prayer.

On the news, an invisible woman fell asleep
     on the steering wheel and somersaulted into daybreak –
     debris glittering across the motorway.

A splinter buries deeper – she speaks to her patient
     about his petunias but doesn’t mention the blooms
     of tumors on his endoscopy scan.

They are everywhere, though some hazier than others.
     Flick through their passports to find only a page –
     their names and countries erased by sun rays.

These invisible women, goddesses of caring and tending,
     but no one hears when their skulls pound
     like coconut shells about to crack.

My mother walks to work when the sky is black
     and comes out from work when the sky is black,
    her footsteps leave a snowdrop-studded path.

In the middle of a plaza, she pauses –
     the downpour tricking her eyes to believe
     the statue in the square is a fellow invisible woman.

Once, my mother cut through the blurred backs of men
     towards a gasping child, and found
     a blade of grass fluttering in his throat.
     The air opened and she was gone.