Robbi Nester is the author of a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012), a collection of poems, A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014), and a forthcoming collection of poems, Other-Wise (Tebot Bach).  She also edited an anthology of poems inspired by stories and shows on public media, The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! ( Nine Toes, 2014). Another book, a collaboration with contemporary visual artists, Together, is currently seeking a publisher. Robbi reviews books for The New York Journal of Books and is an Executive Editor on the journal Slippage. Her poems, reviews, articles, interviews, and essays have appeared in many anthologies, websites, and journals, including Broadsided,3Elements Review, Prompt and Circumstance, Cimarron Review, Poemeleon, Inlandia, Silver Birch Press, and others.Robbi studied poetry at Hollins College  with Richard Dillard and Dara Weir, where she received an MA in English/Writing and at U.C. Irvine, where she studied with Charles Wright, Jim McMichael, and Heather McHugh, receiving an M.F.A. in Writing. She stayed on at U.C.I. , where she completed a PhD in Comparative Literature.

 

After a Self-Portrait by Isaac Rosenberg, 1914

I want to say I know you,
your living mind, caught
by your dark gaze
in the nimble glass.
But I know for certain only
what you choose to show.
 
Short and earnest, ill-favored,
by all accounts a mumbler,
when you spoke at all.
Yet  in this portrait
one perceives no awkwardness,
only the evident
intelligence in the sidelong glance.
 
You craft yourself in oils
and verse, most comfortable
in these invented spaces,
perpetually between—stranger
in the England of your birth.
 
In the portrait you arrange
the family’s only suit
to seem your own,
become your own creation,
cobbled out of borrowings.
 
You had to fight for every scrap
of knowledge, recognition.
But I see confidence
in these closed lips,
calm and determined.
 
Unfit, sickly, you nonetheless
signed up for war, hoping,
as so many still do now,
to trade your life for pay.
But though you lost your life,
there was no pay
except the poems,
your legacy.
 
From the dubious shelter
of the trenches,  that gaze
reproaches us.
Nothing has changed:
Though one-hundred years
have  passed, it still
takes an outsider
to speak for the voiceless,
the alien and unwelcome.

published in Cimarron Review

 

The Wrong Job

It must have been
my doppelganger
they were thinking of,
when the school advised me
I ought to be a funeral director.
 
As I saw it, I didn’t
fit the profile:
grave downcast eyes,
voice  well-suited to a dirge,
all minor keys and monotone,
teeth set like headstones
in a florid face.
 
I couldn’t bludgeon
grieving daughters
nervous sons
with false good nature,
sympathy-for-profit,
leading them
up and down long rows
of coffins, tricked out
to look like satin-lined convertibles,
bargain urns, fashioned of
sturdy cardboard, yet capable
of sheltering those heavy
bits of gristle, bone, and ash
just long enough to bury
or scatter on the waves.
 
Now, although I’m glad
I didn’t go in this direction,
I know it’s certainly unfair
to judge a whole profession
by its worst.
Since death is part of life,
some people, like some animals,
must have a role
in cleaning up what’s left,
tending to ritual,
allowing the rest of us
to turn our faces
toward the light
and walk away.

published in 3Elements Review

 

Ebola

After a sun print by Ira Joel Haber

Even schoolchildren know
blood must stay inside,
in the veins’ narrow channels,
and not overflow its banks.
But this death unmakes every
body, turns it inside out,
a pocket emptied of change.
Already, they are only half there,
white outlines in the dust,
memories beginning to fade.
 
Once, we held the dying
in our strong arms,
throwing open the window
to welcome the last light,
the river, still singing its song.
Now they lie alone
in their white plastic cubicles
where no daylight can reach them.
How will they find the river?
The fire burns it all away.

published in Broadsided

 

Robbie Nester

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebola 1

Ebola 2

 

 

2015 Robbie Nester


 

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