by anita olivia koester
cartography of a missing body
In some cultures mourning must end after forty days or the stomach will fill with wet earth and the
liver with dirt and no fires will ever burn again around the heart. If there had been a body, if I could
have confirmed my father’s death, walked up to the wrecked car… cut the soles of my feet on the
glass. Bled there on the road he bled on. If I had known the town and called its sheriff, if there had
been more than that cardboard box. If I hadn’t imagined it was sent by a friend, some random
cadaver burnt, a handsome cop paid off to fake the death of a felon. A new picture glued to a dead
man’s passport. You see what I mean about the body. This was my thirteen year old fantasy: my
father sits in a new car on my street, stops me, tells me not to tell anyone he is alive. When this
didn’t happen, I wrote a fake suicide note so I could start a new life somewhere else with a new
name. Just like my father must have done.
Cartography of a keyhole
My mother’s drawers are full of keys:
keys clinking against other keys
with their brass heads, their cyclops heads.
I ask my mother, what my father did for work
before he went to prison for bank-robbery,
she says he was a locksmith.
(It should have been a joke.)
I think of all the things he stole from me—
little things at first: his warmth, his scent,
the songs he would have sung to me;
and then larger: the vacations we never took,
the houses we never lived in,
a younger sibling never born. The facts
he would have taught me: the length
of the longest whale, the weight
of the largest glacier—how to pick a lock.
Some fathers own guns and think they’re gods.
Some fathers teach the wrong kind of lessons—
the ability to break into a home with complete silence,
take the belongings of others and become absence.
Lately, I’ve been considering that absence
doesn’t make the heart grow—it shrinks it down,
compresses it until it is a small mass
that I fear will become malignant.
Anita Olivia Koester
is a Chicago poet and author of four chapbooks including Apples or Pomegranates(Porkbelly Press), Marco Polo (Hermeneutic Chaos Press), and Arrow Songs which won Paper Nautilus’ Vella Contest. Her poems have won the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award and So to Speak’s Annual Poetry Contest, amongst others. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Pleiades, CALYX Journal, Tahoma Literary Review, Vinyl, Muzzle Magazine and elsewhere. She is currently an associate poetry editor at Green Mountains Review, and founder of Fork & Page. Her website is-www.anitaoliviakoester.com and she tweets @anitaokoester