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A special deal if you buy The Incredible Sestina Anthology now!


You knew this post was coming, didn’t you? The holiday shopping season is ramping up, and I’ve got my final grades in, and there’s a book to pimp.

Well, guess what? Here it goes. Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy blog post.

This book, The Incredible Sestina Anthology? It’s beautiful. Over 300 pages. No one has named it yet, but it’s the best poetry anthology to come out in 2013. It has a good chunk of canonical sestinas from American poets, as well as some super-dynamite contemporary poets’ sestinas. It lists for $25 dollars.

For the poet-friend in your life, or the creative type who is looking for a new form for their work, or general inspiration, this is the book to get them this year. Buy it for your doorman or the precocious teenager. Wherever you buy it, be it Powell’s, Amazon, an indie store, or from the publisher, Write Bloody Publishing, the recipient will not be disappointed.

It slices. It dices. It juliennes. It spirals. It sestina-fies anything you put inside of it.

butwait2That’s right. There’s more. If you send me a photo of you with the book before you wrap it up for a present–or perhaps you’re buying it for yourself, some selfish retail therapy; either way, it’s good–and I’ll write you a poem. And not just any poem–I will write you a crappy sestina. That’s right–I will craft you a rushed, crappy sestina, inspired in part by the photo you send and whatever else is going on in my brain. The turnaround time will be 24 hours from the time you send me the photo to danielnester at gmail. I’ll mail you a hand-written sestina as well as a digital copy.

This offer expires on December 20, because by then I will be so overwhelmed writing crappy sestinas, I will need a break.

If you’ve read this far you must really want to get the book. So get it! Buy multiple fucking copies! And get your Incredible Sestina Anthology and crappy sestina today!

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Follow and help with my “Double Clap Single Clap” Spotify list.

I love songs that use the double-clap single-clap. You know, that thing? Sometimes it’s used in the whole song, other times it’s in the bridge or the intro or outro.

No matter where it is, I love it.

So I started making a Spotify list to help put them all in one spot. The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Hall and Oates’ “Private Eyes.” J. Geils’ “Centerfold.” The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie.” Sometimes it’s down in the mix, other times right in the hook.

There are limitations to Spotify, of course–no Beatles or Led Zeppelin–but what I have there, with the help of record nerds and Facebook friends is pretty good. Do you know others? Help a Double Clap Single Clap brother out. And follow along as we add songs.



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Notes on My Mom’s 1985-1986 Calendar


1. In  May 2010, my mother handed me a manila folder with a sticky note that said “For Danny,” written in her immaculate cursive.

1a. “Maybe these will help with, you know, your stories,” she says, and goes off to play with our girls. “Your memoir.”

1ab. She pronounces “memoir” like “mem-wah,” in exaggerated French, accompanied by a hand motion or her cigarette waved in the air, flapper girl-style. I must have jerkily corrected her at one point.

2. Old boxes of mine have lingered in her basements for years, and now that I live in a house, it’s been transferred one car load at a time. She’s retired and shares a smaller house with my stepfather Bill, so she needs to scale down.

2a. Gone are the four nativity scene sets, each of different scales and ethnicity, which she had arranged every December in a straight line, each figurine equidistant, as if four Josephs and four Marys and twelve wise men were taking a curtain bow at a Broadway show.

2b. Gone are the landscapes of seagulls, the “Footprints” and “Desiderata” plaques.

3. I opened the folder. I hadn’t seen this stuff in 20 years: Polaroids, report cards from Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Camden Catholic High School report cards on thin, crinkly paper.

3a. There’s a photo of me wearing an athletic headband: a lot of guys did that to look like Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears, who just won the Super Bowl.

3b. There is a follow-up letter from Burlington Country Juvenile Court after the golf ball arrest.

4. Rifling through all this, it occurs to me that she’s handing over the last relics from my childhood.

5. And then there’s a 1985-86 academic calendar. Flipping forward, August and September 1985 are empty. Then the entries begin.

5a. October 31, 1985: “Mike left us.”

5b. Blank for November and December 1985.

5c. January 10, 1986: “Flu.”

5d. January 11, 1986: “Flu.”

5e. January 12, 1986: “Flu.”

5f. January 13, 1986: “Flu. Dad [my grandpop] bought us tires.”

5g. January 14, 1986: “Ck. for heat assistance.”

5h. January 15, 1986: “Chris pregnant!”

5i. January 16, 1986: “Look into getting own checking account.”

5j. January 17, 1986: “Job interview, Treitsman and Robin, 11:15am, Phila.”

5k. January 20, 1986: “Treitsman and Robin, 4pm 2nd interview.”

5l. January 21, 1986: “Got the job. Gave OLPH 2 wks notice.”

6. The calendar dates mom getting back on her feet, finding a better-paying job. I still wonder why she kept it.

6a. “I just don’t remember anything from that time, not at all,” she says now. “It was all such a blur. Maybe that’s why I kept it. I wanted to remember what was going on. I didn’t know one day to the next, one week to the next.”

6b. January 27, 1986: “Meri sick”

7. January 28, 1986 was my turn. I said I was sick, but really wasn’t. What did it matter? Nobody cared if I went to school or not. I hadn’t talked to dad since he moved out, mom was going crazy, starting a new job in Philly working for a guy who owned cheap suit factories. I just had to get finish high school, maybe go full time at the car wash or get another job. Nobody around to bother me, no homework to finish. If you remained in front of the TV until the “Let’s Make a Deal!” theme started, I figured you’ve written off the day.

7a, January 28, 1986, a Tuesday, was one of those days.

7b. This is one day I remember because I was watching TV and  I had one of those old school numeric remote controls from Maple Shade Cable Company, the kind with big numbers on them and nothing else, and it was connected by a long straight phone cable wire, and when we would fight over the clicker as we called it dad would unplug it when he got to what he wanted to watch and throw the remote across the couch as if to say game’s locked everybody; I win.

7c. That morning it was just me and the remote, and I sat in front of the couch on the rug, soaking up as much cable TV as I could before we got rid of it. The heat was turned down to 60 degrees. I sat there, confused and cold, eating crackers and peanut butter.

7d. I flicked over to CNN to watch the Space Shuttle countdown. I used to love this kind of shit—astronauts, space, rockets, looking at the stars. All that joy from castle-building in the sky, most of it gone. Who could I share it with? Reverie didn’t cut it anymore.

7e. White plumes of smoke from the launchpad, flame up in the sky. In an instant, a booster rocket fell off. The shuttle disappeared in a fire cloud.

7f. The phone rang. It’s Paul Stern, of all people, from school.  He wanted to know if I was OK, and then mentioned the shuttle.

7g. “Sucks so bad,” Paul said.

7h. “Yeah,” I said. “Bummer.”

7i. And I felt bad for the Challenger, the astronauts and the teacher who went up with them, but I knew I was also detached from that moment. Not aloof really, but for the first time I felt like it didn’t make a difference if I cared or not; it wouldn’t matter if I prayed for their souls or for their families. I didn’t pray for mine anymore, didn’t go to church. Whatever conscience or moral compass outside myself felt like it had evaporated. I felt like I was not in the main current of humanity, and Paul somehow was. He cared. He was going to college. He was part of the larger conversation while I was cooped up in mine.

8. It occurred to me then that it didn’t matter what I did with my life: not to others, not to my mom or my sister, and certainly not my dad. Four years before, I was writing in my journal about how I wanted to do great things or at least emulate people who did, and now I was watching people die on TV, people trying to do great things hundreds of miles away and blowing up in space, and it didn’t matter.

8a. Or I just didn’t give a shit.

8b. I was still in my pajamas and I would stay that way all day. Later I went down to the record store on Main Street, and talked with the owner about the Shuttle. Nobody knew anything about rocket science or the boosters and gases. We just said it was a shame and then talked about music and I bought a couple Kinks records. I was a clown, a troublemaker; I was born into this world a Shader and would enter adulthood as one.

9. I couldn’t help but notice that mom didn’t put down that I was sick that day in the calendar.

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Notes on the Ceramic Apple

1. The Ceramic Apple, as we called it, was a junk drawer-type vessel on top of the refrigerator when I was a kid. It’s where we kept coupons and baubles and paper clips.

1a. I couldn’t reach up and bring it down for years. It was a hobby of mine to stand on a stool, take the lid off, and and dig around inside, to put my hand in and feel tacks prick my finger or get stuck with Super Glue.

2. Then one day, I guess I was 16, I took the Ceramic Apple down and found a photo, stuck against the bottom, face-down.

2a. I was surprised to find this photo, given my past relationship with the Ceramic Apples, years after the fact.

2b. I knew immediately what it was from: the Fourth of July parade, 1982, in Maryville, Tennessee, a small town located on the eastern tip of the state.

3. Our family was visiting distant relatives, on my father’s side of the family.

4. In the photo, I am 14.

4a. I sit on the curb watching the parade go by.

5. The first thing I noticed were my skinny legs, how they were so wide-flung in red shorts with white piping.

5a. They looked like women’s legs.

6. My mom took the photo. She told me later that she wished to chronicle her son on vacation from across the street.

7. That’s not the only thing she chronicled.

7a. The second thing I noticed was that both of the my hairless testicles were hanging out of my shorts.

7b. You didn’t have to squint. They were plainly visible from across the street.

7. My gonads, in fact, appeared as the locus point of this patriotic tableau.

8. Why, oh why, did my mother hold onto this photo of my giggleberries?

8a. What compels a parent to keep a photo like this, tucked under tacks, spare batteries, orphaned birthday candles?

9. And how could I have not have noticed, or at least my dangling man sac, the gentle breezes as whole Volunteer State color guards passed, the flag-bearers distracted by his sagging family jewels?

10. It was the time of the World’s Fair, held in nearby Knoxville.

10a. Its theme: “Energy Turns the World.”

10b. The first sentence of the fair’s programme: “Human Energy has sparked a metamorphosis here.”

11. This was the day I met my distant cousins.

12. One, a dashing young man named “Dicky Bird” Nester, owned a speedboat and was my new hero.

13. I discussed with Dicky Bird my experiences in junior high band, and how I played trombone.

13a. We never went on his speedboat. We ate chicken-fried steak and collared greens. Everyone’s name was David or Bobby. Even the women. We visited my great-grandmother. She dipped snuff and gave my sister and I little Milky Ways.

13b. Another relative led my mother on a tour of his backyard garden.

13c. “This here’s okry,” he said. My mom didn’t understand. It was okra.

14. I wrote a poem about this experience of finding the photo. It made Sharon Olds snort and laugh and that made me proud. I would like to find this poem again someday but fear it’s not as good as I remember.

14a. I submitted it to literary journals. Lots of them. I stuffed it into envelopes with other poems to faraway places.

14b. One editor offered to publish on the condition I sign up for one of her private workshops.

15. I do know my poem ends with mentioning I was still able to play one song on the trombone, the bass part to the famous Coke commercial.

16. “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” is part of Coke’s “The Real Thing” campaign.

17. In one clip, you see children from different parts of the globe hold up their soda bottles and candles and sing for the camera.

17a. Not one pair of testicles is visible.


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Notes on Grief II

1. I’m watching the tail end of Conspiracy Theory right now before one of our favorite shows comes on. I forget the movie for the most part, but in the last scene, Julia Roberts kneels at a freshly filled-in grave the dirt fluffy and brown. She takes off her sunglasses, revealing tears. The grave is for Mel Gibson’s character, the “obsessive New York cabbie” who falls in love with Roberts, a government worker.

1a. The camera pulls back and I think it’s Arlington Cemetery, rows and rows of military headstones. I was just about to cry for the first time about my father dying when that shot was followed by a scene with Julia Roberts riding a horse in full equestrian gear.

1b. An SUV drives up and it’s Mel Fucking Gibson. He’s still alive.

2. My father, you see, was a bit of a conspiracy theory guy. And he loved the military and was in the navy. Growing up, we had our Shit List for people who we’d get “for when the revolution comes.” We cheered on G. Gordon Liddy as he sparred with Dick Cavett. UFOs were real. The Boys from Brazil was more documentary than alternative history.

3. My aunt writes on her Facebook page, “How do you mourn someone who was a part of our lives, part of some of best laughs, part of the best people I love, and who has not been a part of our lives for so long?”

3a. I don’t know how to answer that question, but I almost cried, again, watching Julia Roberts reading the temporary grave marker from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

4. When my dad left our house I was 17 years old, my sister was 16. He just left.

4a. It’s a long story, but the key part is he left. You know Frank Zappa’s song “Truck Driver Divorce”? I do. I hate that song because it’s satire, because it’s true.

4b. He flew off to Tucson, where he grew up, where he started a whole other family. He had a single suitcase.

4c. It didn’t sink, not until 10 years after he left, that he’d never come back. Not even for visits. After the weddings. After the births. After the fucking chemotherapy, the deaths, graduations, phone calls, Christmas cards.

4d. There’s a difference, I believe, between leaving and desertion, between separation and abandonment.

5. When I missed my father, I missed him terribly. It was a bodily ache. I imagined hugging him, his torso and mine meeting, the squeeze that took air out of my lungs, his rough skin. My attempts, once I got tall and strong, to dead lift him, to trade punches and not flinch.

5a. We read the same books, learned the same words. Music was the place where our paths first diverged. Music and religion. And politics. But those matters are small between a father and son.

6. I promised my sister, on the first phone call at least, to go out to Arizona with her. Then it became impractical, or not necessary. He’ll be cremated, ashes scattered out at sea. Part of the Neptune Plan he had purchased.

6a. When I first heard the name, I thought it was one of the crazy fucking schemes he’d bought into when I was growing up—soy bean stock, Herbalife, Amway, concrete fucking pool tables. But Neptune is legit, apparently. He’ll be cremated, buried at sea.

6b. Something about a name on a bench somewhere in an Arizona grave yard I’ll never see.

7. I don’t mind being unsympathetic anymore. I don’t fucking care, actually. I don’t know why I’m blurting it out right now but it’s important for me to say it, to write it, to click publish. Maybe because I’ve decided not to go out with my sister to Arizona. Or some other reason I can’t put into words.

8. He’s gone. It was going to happen, but in most ways he’d gone years before. He was a ghost before he became a real one, which is what he is now. He seems, in many ways, more real to me now than before.

9. I had accepted as my lot that I would obsess over this until I arrive at what I call The Unified Theory of Everything. 

10. I went to a talk once by a professor on The Great Paradoxes. She started with “impossible objects,” illusions like the 3D cubes I’d doodle in notebooks, then moved onto mind-dependent versus naive realism, or whether we should trust what we perceive as objects in front of us.

11. Grass is green, we might say, but maybe not. All you need is to give a graduate philosophy student thirty minutes and you’ll be talked out of it. I love telling my freshmen that, that language is nothing more and nothing less than a social contract, that the desks we’re all sitting in are called “desks” because we all agree on that word and idea coinciding.

11a. It feels very much like the kinds of conversations my father had growing up, wrestling, debating, doubting, jousting, wondering.

12. The Grelling–Nelson paradox differentiates words that fit their own description or not. The word “short” is itself short; “long” is not long. This is a paradox.

12a. To describe something as “fucked-up” is kinda fucked.

12b. Then there’s the Naive Set Theory (e.g., if x (i.e., me) is a member of A (i.e., the Nester male line), then it is also said that x belongs to A, or that x is in A, or x ∈ A).

13. I know I have this wrong, but after dad left, I think I had the desire to place my father into an equation, to say he was what he was and I am what I am.

14. The moment that happened, I would crack the code of the Unified Theory of Everything, and I’d move on.

15. I know now my desire for a Unified Theory of Everything is just another conspiracy theory dolled up as logic.

16. He was what he was.

17. I’ve never moved on. And he has.


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