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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 6: January 2021
Poem: 155 words
By Robbi Nester

On Chaos

—After a line by Stanley Moss

He says “The devil generalizes; 
angels are specific.” And I’m sure 
it’s true. Lies, like pearls, like poems, 
grow around a single speck of almost-
truth, build up opalescent layers 
of suggestion, shifting with the light. 
But here’s where cons part ways 
with poetry, which embraces 
the most particular, the tulip’s 
streaks, as another poet had it. 
A poem might sprout grey-green 
rosettes of echeveria, like spiral 
galaxies. The poet pencils in a Bactrian 
camel, plodding the Negev on its 
snowshoe hooves, spreading on 
the surface of the dunes, 
though she sees, in fact, only 
the shimmer of heat in the far 
distance, a mirage. Art makes 
much of nothing, turns its water 
into wine, a trick it freely advertises, 
even teaches. It cannot let apparent 
chaos be, but must make of it an 
ornament, like the bowerbird, its treasures 
arranged just so, to attract the eye. 



Publisher’s Note:

The devil generalises, angels are specific” is from the poem “Chaos” by Stanley Moss, in Poetry (October 2017).

Robbi Nester
Issue 6, January 2021

is the author of four books of poetry, 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). She has edited three anthologies; the latest is The Plague Papers, available online at Poemeleon Journal. Her poems, reviews, essays, and articles have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, including, most recently, Verdad, Muddy River Review, Live Encounters, and Verse Virtual, with work forthcoming in Gargoyle, Cultural Weekly, and Aeolian Harp VI.

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)

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

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

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