Constellation for Ophelia by Anita Olivia Koester


She should in ground unsanctified have lodged / Till the last trumpet. For charitable prayer / Shards, flints and pebbles should be thrown on her. – from Hamlet


Men always want to throw something at your body:
words, pebbles, their own naked bodies.
Sometimes I throw shards back—bits of mirror,
of glass, pictures of their mothers.
I teach them the word guilt, they gulp it down but
it lodges there in their throats, a gurgle when they speak.
Ophelia, Hamlet’s mother says you were like a creature
incapable of comprehending your own distress,
because it was native to you. Is this why
when you felt the wet weight of the silk pulling you
under, you did nothing but sing? And now,
they claim your image––the beautiful dead woman.
You’ve become a common pornography,
a typical fantasy––a motionless woman’s body.
Yes, perhaps Hamlet’s mother watched you die
and did nothing; this drama was written by a man.
Not Woolf’s imagined sister of Shakespeare,
she would have written you differently,
perhaps her Gertrude would have soiled
her robes to pull you out of the brook.
Would have risked her life to revive yours.
Would have given you a knife, led you
into her husband’s bedroom, and together
like Judith and her handmaiden—
you would have taken his head.
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 been nominated for Best New Poets and Pushcart Prizes, and won the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, So to Speak’s Annual Poetry Contest, Midwestern Gothic’s Lake Prize in Poetry, amongst others. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in CALYX Journal, Tahoma Literary Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Muzzle Magazine, Vinyl, Phoebe Journal and elsewhere. She is currently an associate poetry editor at Green Mountains Review, and founder of Fork & Page. Her work has been supported by the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center, and PLAYA. Her website is- and she tweets @anitaokoester