​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

Anita Olivia Koester is a Chicago poet. Her chapbook, Marco Polo, is forthcoming with Hermeneutic Chaos Press. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Vinyl, Tahoma Literary Review, CALYX Journal, Unsplendid and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and won the Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Award as well as the First Night Evanston Poetry Contest. Her writing has been supported by Vermont Studio Center, Art Farm, and SAFTA. Visit her at-www.anitaoliviakoester.com

 A N I T A   O L I V I A   K O E S T E R

A S H E S  ,  G O D  ,  A N D   H O U R   G L A S S E S 



The hour glasses were filled, or so I thought 
at age five, on beaches in heaven, filled by women 

wrapped in togas, women without moles, birthmarks, 
or any distinguishing features, but women nevertheless.
    
Mom, sis, and I walk the beach with our moles,
our wrinkles, our birthmarks, our feet worm into the sand, 

our calves lizard with goosebumps, as we enter the lake
where before I was born, you honeymooned with mom,

who holds what is left of you now. 

It’s like a tumor being operated on, when she cuts open the box,
the heavy plastic, pain adulterated with relief, memories

exposed as masses, never benign. Like an hourglass
constructed out of one material in two states of being,

one burnt, one unaltered, you were both– man and monster.

But I stopped believing in heaven long ago, 
stopped believing that a single man could build anything

a woman could call heaven, I was only three weeks old
when the door caved in and the ants assigned to cleaning

out the ant colony invaded the house in quick dark lines,
kidnapped you my whole childhood long, besides,

what is this word: God. Once it meant– ‘to invoke’ 
or ‘to pour’– and today this is what the three of us do–

we invoke you, we pour you, we drown you–
we’re like the witches of Macbeth but in truth 

we loved you, even though you looked more like a photograph 
than any man I remembered attempting to call father. 

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P O R K   B U T T   A N D   H A M   H O C K



She was dead for decade when I heard my grandfather battered her, 
that he burned with rage, and she with courage or spite
 
taunting him with burnt pork butt and ham hock,
too often you have to wait till all the bodies

are buried to hear how charred the meat really was,
and by then it’s just a story, a rumor, a fiction.

He was a product of his times perhaps, taught to hold 
his woman underwater, to keep her in place, dress her in aprons

and parade her around the bedroom, even our fantasies 
our not our own, our minds ape one another,

and in that if nothing else, Adam Smith was right,
our bodies are mannequins dressed in the eyes of others,

but sometimes there comes a flood, and what was held down
roars out of the womb of the earth, and everything that was

once fact must be burned away before it molds.

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