Born in rural southwestern Virginia, Richard Nester has lived and worked on both coasts. Numerous journals, including Ploughshares, Callaloo, Tikkun, Seneca Review, Sycamore Review, and Floyd County Moonshine have published his poems, and his work has been anthologized in Cape Discovery, a publication of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where he has twice been a fellow. His first collection of poetry, Buffalo Laughter, was published in 2014 by Alabaster Leaves Press of Riverside, CA, in 2014. His second collection, Gunpowder Summers, to be published by Tebot Bach is due out later this year. Nester taught at University of California, Irvine, for 32 years, working extensively with students from Humanities Core Course. He is married to the poet, Robbi Nester. They have a treasured son, Jeremy.

Among his other accomplishments are that he has crossed the American continent seven times (planes don’t count), thrice by car, thrice by train, and once by bus—no covered wagon.



The line for the lotto runs around the block but is jolly,
voluble, generous. Each time it moves a quiver
of charity runs its length, disbursing presents,
prodigal as pollen. Before long,

we’ve each given everyone else a Rolls,
Harvard, the islands, an easeful age,
two congressmen. You’re never truly rich
until you can buy elections
or at least make money while asleep.

So many plans, blonde as new lumber,
such millennial laughter, its seed pods bursting
above the burned town, so much lost
family all in one spot.
Is this some kind diamond-lane at Lourdes
our hopes go hobbling up, about to dance,
like the shadows of small leaves on asphalt—
here in confirmation, there in cure—
the tree itself unseen, frail, resilient?

A chatty woman back of me recalls
Queen for a Day. “Before my time,” I jest.
What’s this? She’s talking up the rapture too.
Without a future why’s she here?
Hedging her bets, perhaps?

We come from a line of believers, she and I,
who know that life can rearrange at any time
its traveling mercies, that the true
prayers of the heart are always answered,
though not—as the preacher tells us—so we know.

Remember John Bearsfoot Tipton in The Millionaire,
the way his fortunates all cracked up,
the burden of his manna too much to bear?

What should I wish for then? Odysseus restored,
undisguised to improbable Ithaca, by the dumpster,
back of the beautiful Seven-Eleven,
its very name a talisman—
home without riot or murder
this time, so that Athena need not intervene—
our grace homemade?

We are the ones for whom we wait.
Swineherds all, we know each other by our wounds.

Published in Floyd County Moon Shine



The routes of faith are traceable 
from shrine to shrine to shrine
like pathways in a brain.

They can be walked, these routes
from node to node. Maps
can be made.

Traffic observed—
the sheen of surfaces traced,
a bit of paper in a wall,
a bench where someone sat in thought,
so much human grease, the plain
electricity of grace.

Kilroy was here and here and here,
and all his silent minions, furrowing
the schoolhouse stairs

A jiffy is the time it takes
for light to cross a hydrogen atom.
Official measure—
like the ledgers of doves
on a still morning in San Jose,
the age of the universe
written in jiffies,
as powers of ten,
seems almost palpable.

My father-in-law’s
last Sunday was his best.
You should have seen him eat,
dividing portion from portion
on his plate. I’m like that
too, a way of eating
that is uniquely me.

Some gypsy might
read it for a fortune—
palm print, footprint,
radiance of the real.
And yet he never made
another weekend. My wife
says he wanted more,
that you could tell it
in his death gargle.

No easy swap, I guess,
one light for another.
The things we shed
still follow us, and we
can’t baptize ourselves,
it seems, others have to.

The book of reflex is both big
and small. Joints morph
like bonsai or the hands
of pianists. Life signs
its name to every
bottom line.

All real things shine.

Published in Floyd County Moon Shine

Gunpowder Summers

We took the steps in bunches,
yellow smoke directly on our heels.
I just remember two of them
in forty feet straight down—
boom and boom—
and then cool grass at the collection
point, yards away. Lot’s wife
might have gotten out
had she worked there, gunpowder
summers at the plant in Radford,
even seen the sport in it, perhaps,
something to cut swing-shift fatigue
that clung like dirt. One good lungful
and you’re done is all the counsel
I needed to get down those stairs.
I look back now because I can.

Published on-line in Danse Macabre and included in Gunpowder Summers 


Richard Nester



2015 Richard Nester


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