By Michael Anthony Istvan Jr.

Reeducation Camp

a necktie around your neck brace

becoming the object of a dare

the executioner’s daily practice
of axe swings, aware that he can be
called upon anytime

the executioner’s daily practice with the axe
of axe swings, aware that he can be
called upon anytime

the headsman’s daily practice with the axe,
aware that he can be called upon anytime
to deliver a humane blow saving him from shame

the artist never knows when he is not creating

rummaging the trash for a used fentanyl patch

repeated checking for symptoms
itself taken as a sign 
that you have the disease

once great cities vulgarized by tourist amenities

making him do the crime and then catching him for it

indifferent to one another, less
as if we were never children
than as if angry for failing to be

as if shouting will make up for the difference in tongue

the breeze, although it carries 
particles of burned persons,
sweeps back the beloved’s hair

the stallion unloads his cream
generative in the man who will die 
from the depth of the final thrust

pain drugs deemed too habit-forming to give to the dying man

flannelled men coughing 
at dirty jokes on the dock
sipping Styrofoam coffee

a dog waiting outside a corner store

warped ridges of dissolving scum left on the beach with each wave

families harmonizing in song

first smoky breath of the season

Refugee Droppings

masturbating to historical figures

would you feel accomplishment if one of your lines became a cliché?

the bright side—
word jumble disorder
a gift for poetry

Rocky Mountain big horn sheep
seek out lichen rocks

taking up the painted gesture (hand
over face, say) to sort out
what attitude, what inner life, it betrays

arranging the dead one’s journal entries by the locations of writing

hair-mussing from grandpa, and sometimes more

fashionably emaciated

the urge to pinch cow lips, dog lips

living well as indicated by the practice
of closing and opening refrigerators, drawers,
with the feet while the hands are at work

all day cartoon marathon
filled with commercials
“go outside today”

defense attorneys
put glasses on their clients—
nerds are safe, honest

yellow strips slashing by as you drive yourself to jail

conditions where phlegm
is intentionally swallowed
for its nutrient value

that admonitory gesture
of a silent shh—forefinger to lips—
implicates its target in the eavesdropping

fixing the drowned victim’s face
for the casket, mouth still locked
in a final panicked pull for air 

jailed men start to make love

ant mounds mow-riled, dragonflies hover the lawn

the accidental electrocution of the electro-fisherman

spreading her ass to a brown butterfly inkblot

blind but resolute
removal of any shafts
just before she squirts

fiends in dawn beds
armed with toys—parents
guarding vitals: eyes, privates

when lowering your face
from the gaze of the maniac
sets him off all the more

fingers crossed for an accident
serious enough to yield
the needed organ

living in a place reputed
to be paradise, the pressure
is to preserve that reputation

geniuses of path-blazing, much more
than those of analysis, leave silly mistakes
for scholars to build careers disclosing

trees give us warmth in their burning

curling iron—cheap weave—fire detector

already one suicide attempt behind her

eating hardboiled eggs
over the sink, salt
straight from Morton

mycelia in this mulch
fruit with rain—
argent withering by noon

silver coins in water
boiling the mushrooms
black coin: poisonous

condemned as nothing but a sketch: strokes
too hurried, too choppy, too enamored
of what is fleeting for micro precisions

opening to the subtleties of drudgeries

freedom to be bored

beetles born eating
their way out of mother—
quick nutrition

those across species
chewing food for their young,
stealing a bit as they do

their caring for baby dolls
an unconscious request
for cock

parental concern about too much
reading became about too much
TV, and now there is the internet

reclined in the grass of a clearing
in the woods, reaching up alone there
to tempt the butterfly to perch

we would be alone were we not separate

the bond formed through talking in whisper


the death of those who remembered you

the hot potato of ancestral pain

should we care whether it is cheating to use numbing spray for deep throating?

leisure construed as but a chance to restore workweek energy

sandboxes of weeds

if the joy of giving dies
in the giving, then perhaps just plan
on giving—keep planning.

the power that your spouse
has over you when she wants
less sex than you

an affair is often the end of a marriage
that everyone knew, but a new marriage
can be formed with the same person

even if life is one season among many,
you are not going to fair better in another season,
because fairing requires living

Jesus not only saves, he sure does pay!

citing that has the same shoes 
as the man as evidence 
that he is the man’s son

attributing feeling better from your chronic illness
to your invented and promoted protocol
instead of to that you invented and promote it

a father, red-blooded when he looks
at his daughter’s filled-out friends, looks
“weird” to them because he never looks

jealous over someone who pains and loves and struggles too

lifelong servicemen learning to receive help from others

forging an inner equilibrium
as opposed to sensitizing walls
to weather sonic invasions

in such an age of technology when we all should not be
slaving away under an employer, we mock tribespeople
for being too lazy to slave away under an employer

noting how easy it is to waste our time
is no waste of time, for it keeps buried
the thought that everything is a waste of time

feeling death in the room before even checking the body
is your sensing the absence of the usual breaths and motions—
and that, despite complaints by the superstitious, is magic enough

the loathing that festers 
for your twin, dragged along dead 
but still attached at the spine

so often when contaminated
with some contagion
we contract contagiousness itself

fireworks riling up veteran ptsd

however empty the HIV-AIDS distinction
has become, technically you did not lie
in assuring her that you do not have AIDS

letting the city racket below
portal you not into rage 
but into reveries of other worlds

prisoners confused, violent almost, 
by news that you used your free time 
not to do what you so enjoy doing 

parents fight at the table each night
over the identity (sexual, racial, cultural)
of the child sitting before them

nurse glares after seeing
bruises on the infant
yet to be diagnosed with hemophilia

About the Author:

M. A. Istvan Jr., PhD, proud member of the Oregon Trail Generation and long sufferer of sarchosis, engages in deep play even in baseline reality where everyone expects truth and seriousness. He wants to please everyone even though he is rebellious to the core. Istvan has butterflied into a philosopher who no longer attempts to anticipate and respond to all objections that may arise, even those that may arise from the most uncharitable readings.