Issue > Poetry
Richard Nester

Richard Nester

Richard Nester has twice been a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He has published poetry in numerous journals, including Ploughshares, Callaloo and Seneca Review and essays in the Catholic Agitator. His work has appeared most recently in Floyd County Moonshine.

The Problem Of Evil

There are people you can't embarrass—serial killers,
for example, the flat iteration of their deeds
spilling onto steno pads like motor oil.

Then there's the man upstairs with his loud parties.
Every night, a rumble. Every morning, a litter
of cigarette butts and burned matches

all over my patio, my steps, my newspaper.
Finally, I complain. So he beats his idiot son,
whose job it is to sweep their porch.

Pretty badly, too, from the sound.
There are things even walls won't stop. No yelling.
Just a slow rain of blows like the rings

of a giant tree—here an inquisition, there a crusade,
constant pogroms at the bark like worms. I give
the kid credit, though. He keeps it pretty clean up there,

a little heaven—the white, plastic ashtray
beside the yellow chair. I called the cops, of course,
about the beating. But they just washed their hands.

Don't judge, they said, and besides reporting crime
only raises the statistics. I haven't complained again.
Now, I just sweep up my end and get on with life.

It doesn't seem so hard once you know the whole story.
I've come to understand some people can't be shamed,
nor some gods either. So when I pray, I always give thanks.


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