Robbi Nester

Robbi at Cadence May 2015-2


Robbi Nester is the author of a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012) and a collection of poems, A LIkely Story (Moon Tide, 2014). She also edited an anthology of poems inspired by public media, The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014).
She has published poetry, book reviews, and articles in many journals and anthologies.


Because our human ears are not made
for hearing underwater, we once believed
that whales and other creatures of the sea
must occupy a still and solemn world
like some perfect scene beneath a crystal globe.
Somehow, we overlooked the borborygmic
belch of sea floor tremors, cracking sea ice,
the songs of whales. Now
we realize the hush of rain
might lull the dozing dolphins.
We‘ve heard the calls of creatures
once thought dumb, and know
it isn’t only cows and sheep that low or bleat,
but toadfish, seals, and urchins.
Even the seahorse makes a sound
like knocking on a hollow wooden door.

The ocean’s loud as a metropolis.
Yet once we add our sonar
to the mix– technology we borrowed
from bats and whales–
can render some cetaceans deaf,
shut down their inner GPS, and leave them
beached in hundreds on the shore.
Proliferating cargo ships,
their groaning engines droning ever louder,
often mute the bellows of a sperm whale,
keeping these calls from finding mates.

The ocean is itself, not a place
that we imagine. No silent sunlit dome,
where creatures sway to music just beyond the ear,
but a home, and part of our own world,
prey to all its problems, all its cruelty, color, awe.
Same sky, same stars, yet singing its own song.


Creatures of adversity,
though born of want,
arise in many
shapes and colors–
bulbous barrel cactus,
barbed with golden thorns,
dark green Eurphorbia ,
white-seamed along
the tall, thornless stalks,
Echeveria, swirling
like galaxies,
waxy purple-gray
and green corsages
spreading out
across the ground–
bred in the desert’s
brief season.

No gardener, I learned
their names and how
to recognize the cause
of root rot, when to repot,
how to propagate
new plants—tiny leaflets
rising from cut leaves,
relics of distant deserts
in my living room,
on my lawn.

I studied how to thrive
out of my proper place,
rising in weak sunlight,
chalky soil,
how to take
the little that I had,
making it more than suffice,
learning from living rocks,
translucent windows