Author’s Note: “When I saw an old ‘Visible Woman’ in a battered box at a yard sale, vivid memories of the one I received for Christmas arose and prompted this poem. Having access to the nude anatomy of a grown-up woman felt thrillingly transgressive back then, though I had parental approval. The transparent plastic model was a sort of key to unlock the mystery of my own changing body, even as the prevailing model of womanhood was being questioned and disassembled.”
Girls and Dolls
The anatomical model of the female body
Santa left when I was ten was no Barbie doll.
The plastic lady came boxed with a skeleton,
vital organs, and the (optional) “miracle of creation”
transparent uterus complete with baby
that I could click in and take out,
although I didn’t know how a real baby
got in and out, or what to call a vagina and vulva,
parts I vaguely had but she didn’t:
she was plastica intacta down there.
The see-through Visible Woman
wasn’t visible at all except for her insides.
She (totally) could have opened the door
wearing Saran Wrap and a glassy look
of biological destiny on her non-face,
but like Barbie with those working girl outfits
the VW wasn’t intended to show me
a person to be reckoned with,
or to model the actual real
doing disagreeing choosing
the-hell-you-say visible woman
her bold title prophesied
and who was coming into view
the year I was ten.
Nevertheless she showed me
the sturdy bones of my durable body;
she showed me breasts and ovaries
and female embodiment;
from then on, from ten on
I was learning that it is vital
—listen, Invisible Girl—
to put in and take out,
to investigate and create,
to stand and show up in
my own visible, my own
Marda Messick is a poet and theologian living in Tallahassee, Florida on land that is the traditional territory of the Apalachee Nation and other indigenous peoples. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Christian Century and Literary Mama.
“Girls and Dolls” was published in the Delmarva Review Volume 15, a nonprofit literary journal that selects the most compelling new poetry, nonfiction, and short fiction from thousands of submissions during the year. It is available from Amazon.com and other bookstores. The review is designed to encourage outstanding new writing from authors everywhere. Support comes from tax-deductible contributions and a grant from Talbot Arts with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: www.DelmarvaReview.org.