Kelle Groom

Mirror of the Invisible World
February 11, 2013 Groom Kelle

Mirror of the Invisible World

Poetry is the mirror of what is visible, and what is invisible…

                                                                                    — Nizami.


The crown of a milk tooth in a curve of jaw

looked like a ring held up on the pads

of three fingers. A dulled diamond. In the skull

from Peru, someone has written “PERU” on the yellow

bone –scoured in that little space near where the ear

would have been, lighter. Below the inked word is a tiny

circle with an arrow in it, pointing to PERU. Lower,

another circle with an arrow nearly erased,

as if what they’d been looking for had not been there.

His center top tooth is missing. Skulls often look

like they are gritting their teeth. I want to say, relax. It’s over.

The white butterflies keep showing up, fluttering their hellos.




When I was the man escaping, it was the worst. As in exile,

I had to live in a cave and could only come out into the world at night.

The second time I was a girl, I forgot the world was real,

and killed a man in white, already almost hung on a wall. I sunk

a knife through the middle of him. So then it was murder.

In my first exile as a girl, they’d sentenced me to thirty years,

what now, I thought. What now that I’ve murdered the man in white?




Others helped me escape – I stood with them in a ballroom,

undisguised – and I wondered if they had it right.

That by being visible I would be unseen.

Sometimes I choose a song with words and listen to it through

headphones, and the singing is almost like love, a phone call I don’t

have to answer. Sometimes I think if I sit here quietly in my green

chair in the sand, a body’s length from the water’s edge, if I stay

into the night the creatures of the sea

who swim in horizontal unison, squids and naked

see-through ones in shells will break the waves

like the shark this morning, swim toward me and come up the dark

sand with a message from the life below.

When I said song, I meant that little guitar

from the sixteenth century in an old room in Virginia,

I meant the ghosts in that room,

the way we encouraged them to stay.

Kelle Groom is the author of the memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster), a Barnes & Noble Discover selection, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and a Library Journal Best Memoir. An NEA Fellow and Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow, Groom’s work appears in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, New England Review, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, Plume, and Poetry, among others. Her four poetry collections include Underwater City (University Press of Florida), Luckily, Five Kingdoms, and Spill (Anhinga Press). Her forthcoming memoir-in-essays, How to Live will be published by Tupelo Press in October 2023. Groom is a nonfiction editor at AGNI Magazine and lives in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.