Daniel Nester is the author of God Save My Queen (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and God Save My Queen II (2004), both collections on his obsession with the rock band Queen, as well as a book of poems, The History of My World Tonight (BlazeVox, 2006). His work has been anthologized in such places as The Best Creative Nonfiction, Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll, The Best American Poetry 2003, among other places. He also writes for Poets & Writers, Time Out New York, and Time Out New York. He edits the online journal Unpleasant Event Schedule and is the former sestinas editor for McSweeney’s. He is an Assistant Professor of English at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.
Four Poems by Daniel Nester
Desire is the Gasoline of Life
after the Great Farini
In this shifty little world,
where hands with stigmata
turn up like suitors
in bodice-ripping love stories,
and clean-cut magicians
videotape their tricks,
and priests sacrifice
deformed children in basements,
and all things truly mysterious
have shorter star turns than they used to,
shackled in favor of less humble fame,
I keep an out-of-state empathy
for people like Farini, the Canadian magician,
"Canadas Houdini," whose illusions
had to be moral, Victorian, occidental,
never scary or disheveled.
A tiny blip jumped over Niagara
ten times a dayhungry, silent,
garrisoned in the barrel,
shinnied up the crane in flames.
God demands a broken
and contrite spirit. You got one with me.
I give you this plump, ragged animal
hoping for another weeks run,
another chance to make history
from raw tempers.
The Last Spanking
I had spilled soda on the bookshelf
or something, lied about it,
then confessed to my father,
as if sleepwalking, for the moment
honest. Courageous in the rec room,
I bent over on his lap,
ready for the penalty,
and dropped to my knees
on the deep shag rug.
Cold air and sunset peeked
in from the screen door.
After three swacks, it didnt hurt.
My legs were higher
over his knees, or
my newly grown hair
warmed me. I felt
the way a billy goat must feel
climbing on top of the mother
to play, too big
to be accommodated with milk
or for teeth to bite fur
off of wide-flanked sides.
I was that big now.
The tops of my legs
were longer than the sides of his.
We had gone too long with this.
I laughed out loud
on the fourth downswing
of his hairy hand
and he laughed, too, pushed me
away and onto the rug, pinned me
down, pulling up my pants.
Always sky, always the ground filled with trees.
Always grazing on plains that amplify (no,
scratch that, project) back to the big bad
laureates, who echo, echo back, so
they can duly describe to their own.
How dare they separate the sky and ground?
And so exact, down to the last lemon tree,
an ornate romantic thing. Like animals,
they are. My mission, it seems, is that vatic
saving music from mathematics,
saving taverns from diarists,
street scenes from the pedigreed.
And putting the trees back in the ground,
away from the skysplitters, the suckers,
my anthropomorphic neighbors.
Listening to Trucker Songs and Re-Reading Baraka
It might be my twang
the literalness of both,
and it boils down to this:
a prayer, a big rig
William James prayer,
pragmatic, of course
god above, you must
make a decision,
the right to believe,
the right to go fast,
the heroes all gone
now, and all those hot
little cuties in tight-
And now Don Cherry
plays in the dining room,
and now back to self-wrought