Thursday, 4 August 2016

A poem by Anita Olivia Koester

Heartworms and Handguns

What should one put on a mantle– horses with their legs
artfully broken off, oversized pawns, snapshots

that feel faked– while the flames lick upwards,
I look at the lines on my palms, consider burning them.

When we saw this house/mansion/monstrosity
I said– if we can’t be happy here, we’ll never be happy.

Yet here– I feel stuffed as a prized parakeet,
my body behind so many panes of glass.

In the background on the T.V– Grey’s Anatomy,
self-medication they call entertainment, I watch

the dewy-skinned doctors and their how could you
eyebrows, that not again in their knotted lips,

though all day in the ER, bodies stumble in,
all those organs crawling with heartworms,

distemper, mouths drooling with rabies,
so many hearts burst open today, so many

attempts to sew her legs back on to her body.

These are the years my body fills with sand,
my hair thins, nerves twitch, ears ring,

it’s almost comforting when the spiders come,
massive, long-legged Louise-Bourgeois style

laying their eggs in my uterus, my aortas,
any place swept clean of love.

Without love marriage is like a disease,
it eats away at your sanity till your standing

stark naked in the closet tasting his handgun
wondering if it’s loaded, if the safety is on,

if this is what it is like to sleep in a war zone,
grow so comfortable with the sound of gunfire

that your ashamed at how much you crave it,
how much easier it would be if the gas leaked

and the house caught on fire, collapsed dramatically
like in a soap opera, and when you woke up

all you could hear was your heart beating.

"Heartworms and Handguns" was first published in Marco Polo, a chapbook published by Hermeneutic Chaos Press.

Anita Olivia Koester is a poet and photographer. Her chapbook, Marco Polo, is published by Hermeneutic Chaos Press. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Vinyl, Tahoma Literary Review, Clarion, Unsplendid, HEArt, and elsewhere. In 2015, Shot Glass Journal nominated her for a Pushcart Prize and she won the First Night Evanston Poetry Contest. Her writing has been supported by Vermont Studio Center, Art Farm, and Sundress Academy for the Arts. When not traveling, she lives in Chicago with her books and her Australian Shepherd. Visit her at

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