TOP HATS AND PUPPETS by Anita Olivia Koester


by Anita Olivia Koester 

A lover explains the definition of kerning, I listen to how
the spaces between letters are adjusted for the viewer.

So you can see me, I adjust myself repeatedly in the bathroom mirror.
To sit Shiva one must cover all the mirrors in the house with black cloth.

What if you were to cover me with black cloth, redact me for the day,
would my image remain, giggling like a naughty schoolgirl in the mirror.

I’m not in on the joke, which book was it, Laughter and Forgetting, or
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, where the mistress walked across a mirror

in a top hat, oh, the acts we women put on inside of a man’s head,
as if we were shadow puppets, or rather the unbearable light inside a mirror.

The conductor of the circus wielding his baton, like this was a Fellini film,
like we were born for exhibition, to catch a top hat in our teeth and growl,

to catch a thief with our breasts, to spread the lls of our legs
and say nothing but purse our lips into a perfect O and sigh.

Still, people believe that the laws of love operate in the cosmos,
so what if I lug my mirror outside, insist it reflect the stars at night,

what if when I walk across it, it shatters and slices my feet, the virgin
and the lion, the bull and the crab, the man bearing the watering pot,

the swan born twins, and all those fishtails drowning in my blood, what if
between you and I is a space to marvel at, to spit at, to toss coins into.

Kern comes from the French- carne which came from the Latin- cardinis.
It meant hinge, in the thirteenth century hinge meant–the axis of the earth

as if the spaces between letters and words could make the world go round.

Anita-Olivia-KoesterAnita Olivia Koester is a Chicago poet. She is the author of the chapbooks Marco Polo (Hermeneutic Chaos Press) and Year of the Dogs (Back to Print). Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Vinyl, Tahoma Literary Review, CALYX Journal, Stirring, and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for Best New Poets and a Pushcart Prize and won the Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Award. She is also the recipient of the Bread Loaf Returning Contributor Award, and her writing has been supported by Vermont Studio Center, Art Farm, and SAFTA. Visit her online at

Image credit: Mr Cup / Fabien Barral on Unsplash


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