Visible Woman–Ellen Austin-Li

-after Seated Dress with Impression of Drapery, by Karen LaMonte

Cast, sandblasted, and acid-etched.
Sculpture made from translucent glass, empty
of body beneath its folds. Full-length

fabric drapes beyond bended knees
to cover the suggestion of feet, ghost
outlines planted flat on a raised platform.

Twin mounds rise on the crystal chest,
the feminine in absentia. Soft,
the woman’s hands must have been

filled with fabric until the fabric ran
over, falling to the ground. I am lost
inside the fragile shell. Last night’s dream

shifts hues with the ambient light—
a kaleidoscope of blues and grays reflect
shades of the six songbirds I saw

strangled in fine netting. I try to shake
this image. Fragile. I am trapped inside
the woman in glass. Yet my presence casts

solidity to this form, a definite shape,
unmistakable. Seated in a dress, the pleats stir
as late afternoon light shifts and animates

me in amber—my lifeblood made visible,
every woman pulsing in my imprint.
The birds come alive again, and sing.

Ellen Austin-Li’s work has appeared in Artemis, Thimble Literary Magazine, Green Briar Review, The Maine Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Rust + Moth, Panoply, the Riparian anthology (Dos Madres Press), and other places. Her first chapbook, Firefly, was published by Finishing Line Press (2019), and her second chapbook, Lockdown: Scenes From Early in the Pandemic, in 2021 (FLP). A recipient of the Martin B. Bernstein Fellowship in Poetry, she is an MFA candidate at the Solstice Low-Residency Program. Ellen lives with her husband in a newly empty nest in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find her work at or follow her on Twitter @EllenAustinLi.