Invisible Man (Two Views)


I am not a spook, nor ectoplasm.
I am flesh and bone. fiber and liquids.
a mind. I understand people see me
like bodiless heads in circus sideshows
surrounded by hard, distorting glass.
when they approach they see figments
of their imagination. my epidermis:
a peculiar disposition, a matter
of construction. a figure in a nightmare
the sleeper tries—with all his strength—
to destroy. let me confess, it's seldom


I am invisible. a spook who haunted
your Hollywood movie. invisible
because people refuse to see. they see
only my surroundings—everything,
anything except me. no invisibility
is an accident. invisibility occurs
because eyes look through. I am
not complaining, nor protesting.
it is advantageous to be unseen (though
it is wearing on the nerves to doubt
if you really exist, whether you are
a phantom). say—out of resentment—
you ache to convince yourself you do exist,
with fists make them recognize you. alas,
it's seldom successful.


An erasure poem from Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man by and Glenn Ligon’s painting Invisible Man (Two Views).


Matthew E. Henry (MEH) is the author of six poetry collections. He is editor-in-chief of The Weight Journal and an associate poetry editor at Pidgeonholes. MEH’s poetry appears or is forthcoming in Cola, The Florida Review, Massachusetts Review, Ninth Letter, Pangyrus, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, and The Worcester Review among others. MEH’s an educator who received his MFA yet continued to spend money he didn’t have completing an MA in theology and a PhD in education. You can find him at writing about education, race, religion, and burning oppressive systems to the ground.

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