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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 5: October 2020
Poem: 215 words
By Robbi Nester

Summer, Sheltering in Place


Quarantine: From the Garden Window: painting by Robert Rhodes

Quarantine: From the Garden Window

Copyrighted © by Robert Rhodes. All rights reserved.
Painting reproduced here with artist’s permission.


When I was small, I used to wake before the sun 
to sit in the still-dark living room, turn on the TV, 
and bathe in the test pattern’s bright glow. Now 
that I so seldom leave the house, I lift the shade 
at 5 AM, watch the colors rising one by one 
outside the window, like an orchestra 
in which one player at a time joins in 
until a loud brightness stings my eyes, light 
sifting through the leaves. Gradually, 
that slash of green becomes the hedge, 
the red smudge a neighbor’s truck, backed 
by a splash of blue, the pool across the street 
the color of a cloudless sky. There’s still an umber 
patch of shadow underneath the trees. 
In the branches of the sycamore, the woodpecker 
listens hard, then mines the bark to find his breakfast. 
Like me, grubs hidden there can’t escape 
his hammering. If I return this afternoon, the colors 
will have dimmed or mellowed, the shadow disappeared. 
What if the window’s frame could suddenly 
contain another scene, the veldt’s burnt brown, 
acacia like a stationary cloud, grazing zebras, 
lions eying me through high grass? Remembering Monet, 
I look and look again at the same view, find it changed 
only by light, which after all, is everything.

Robbi Nester
Issue 5, October 2020

shelters in place in Southern California, where she’s been putting the finishing touches on four new manuscripts, which are currently looking for a home. She is the author of four books of poems, including an ekphrastic chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012) and three collections: Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019), Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017), and A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014). Her poetry, reviews, articles, and essays have been published widely.

She has also edited a print anthology, The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! Poetic Responses to NPR & PBS Stories (Nine Toes Press, 2014); an e-anthology of ekphrastic poetry, Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees (Celebrating the Photographs of Beth Moon), which was published online in 2016 as a special edition of Poemeleon Journal; and a new ekphrastic anthology which has yet to be published.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

After Blossom, ekphrastic poem after an etching by Phil Greenwood in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 3, May 2020)

Three Poems by Robbi Nester in Verse Virtual (January 2020)

Law of Attraction, ekphrastic poem after Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone, in Verse Virtual (May 2019)

The Locusts, ekphrastic poem after a collage of the same name by Mary Boxley Bullington, in The Ekphrastic Review (13 October 2015)

Robert Rhodes
Issue 5, October 2020

grew up in the Mississippi River delta region of eastern Arkansas, near Memphis, Tennessee, and now lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He has painted since he was 12, and for nearly 20 years was a newspaper journalist. He is the author of a memoir, Nightwatch: An Inquiry into Solitude: Alone on the Prairie with the Hutterites (Good Books, 2009).

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Night Tunnel, ekphrastic poem by Robbi Nester after a painting by Robert Rhodes, Philadelphia Night Train, in The Ekphrastic Review (21 April 2016)

For additional paintings, see the following posts in “Art I Like” at the blog Don Yorty Explorations:

Robert Rhodes: Night Diary: Nocturnal Paintings (29 September 2017)

Rain Pastels With Charcoal by Robert Rhodes (25 September 2018)

Robert Rhodes, Late November (27 November 2018)

Robert Rhodes: Night Rain (21 June 2019)

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