Two list poems // M. A. Istvan Jr.
That Amygdala Place
The one who loves the other more.
Those long nights of summer far north: blue sunglow on one horizon, space blackness on the opposite.
Living on the road
make you sneeze.
Nostalgia for free roaming Indians
now that their threat
has been wiped out.
When you give a bum a new suit.
churches and libraries—
with good conscience, tossing
seed to savage birds.
Gelding the horse without its consent to stop its use
for human sex, sex to which it supposedly fails to consent
despite erections unforced by any human hand.
Fingertips now split black olives.
That final jerk-kick of belt-hung man.
Sundried shrimp pestled into a powder.
The heroic warship tugged
to a shipyard up river
each time the fan
directs its wind away.
Close-range arrow shots of the man strung to a stake.
Relationships that fail to survive their reunions.
Low living but high thinking.
The tune in your mind
has the skip
in your record.
Rails of all-purpose flour
there on the dining table
to welcome him home from rehab.
Feeding psoriatic skin flakes to the pet fish.
A dark drizzle—
and it smells
like a fishing day.
Great spaces between the floor boards.
The unschooled art of those at the fringes.
The young flirt and, watching them, the old sigh.
Boys serious on a trestle
sidestepping with the cleavage
Pissing, the drunk regrets spitting in the toilet.
Haunted at home by dark truths confessed with such ease on stage, where appearing brave and wise matters most to you.
Midnight headlights through the window reveal bed partners with eyes tense on each other, but the car is quick enough for them to deny what was seen.
William Peter Blatty doing yoga.
Rereading in hopes to read something different.
The child not allowed to go to the burial.
Realizing that there are many levels beyond yours.
Ac-unit rears jut out
windows of each story—
A husband’s gambling debts.
Flowers good to eat.
Palms open, legs crossed—
silence, the spawn
of subtle noises.
Needle-nosed pliers to turn the channel.
The rock that makes one stream two.
Praying for health
white sea crests
up the small rise.
in the smell
of black magic marker.
A bent cigarette
in the stubbled mouth
of the careening wino at dawn.
Exhausted from having to appear out.
Confidence to quit only when high.
Flattered to be liked even by the repellent.
Flattery to kill another’s drive.
Shut down by blizzard snow,
it seems as if we are seeing
the city at a time long past.
for the injured soldiers
he would read to and kiss.
You should have been buried
with the TV, but many others
are hooked on the same one.
White creases of bloodlessness in the back of the red neck.
The daydreams of the prison guard: fishing, hunting.
Market sellers fake the accents matching their wares.
“Be sexually liberated, but still
be a good girl”: the schizoid bind
faced by contemporary women.
Convicts dreaming aloud.
A board between two step ladders.
inside the home.
Behind perpetual liveliness
and behind the inability
to stand being around it.
Barely enough to pay for groceries,
and we are hit with how we need to change
our mattress every eight years?
Deceiving with regard to his heredity.
That bothersome angle to exhibit genital penetration.
it is almost painful
just to walk on crank.
Devoted to—loving—a city
for its amenities—ones
that you cannot afford.
Jail drama—clicks, beefs—
mainly to break the monotony,
Nerves have us give tongue
to idioms—however out of character
for us, however crackpot.
Thirty-Three Angles on Birth
Born of the same stuff
as reality itself, even
a simulation is real.
Driving by the childhood home
to find one’s birth tree gone
can undermine the plan to ring the bell.
The dreams of those blind since birth.
As delicately as possible, trying
to remind the mother of the stillborn
that she did not even want the baby.
The faith into which you have been born and pressured
frames not only profound experiences in bed and forest
but also even your attempts to criticize it.
Even if you were born to be hanged, you could still be drowned—first.
Teens stroking often
to their birth films,
collapsing to the side in guilt.
An audible crack as the tailbone fractures in childbirth.
The rise of robots and our retirement from birth.
Is it bad, really, when sex becomes
just something to do, like sending
birthday cards to the grandkids?
If it is laughable to think that thinking often
on one’s last moments can make them bearable,
then the same goes for thinking often about birthing.
Words of sympathy used to cut:
“Such a shame your son
didn’t call on your birthday.”
A world of neighbors opened up by a birthday telescope.
Birth individuates, isolates (thus allowing
for togetherness), but death is but a shift
in individuation, a new isolation.
Smudging the mouth of the c-sectioned newborn
into the vagina would be best, but hangups
have us just dab it with a q-tip of maternal flora.
So grateful for the child that you wish was never born.
Your face buried in your hands
even in public—how did it look
before you were born?
Born with issues.
Those who think that repentance to the weak is a case of repentance not born from fear
of harm have forgotten about God or the Self.
Fossilizing the nail into the wood with fury born from it bending despite attempts to tap it in with soft control.
How much of our advances in knowledge
is born less from wonder than from a wickedness
in seeing people stripped of naïve beliefs?
Beetles born eating
their way out of mother—
The pliable cartilage of newborn ear.
Birth trees choked out by disease.
So that he might have something to hand the birthday boy, his wife slips a present to the father (home from work for a drink).
Artists mistaking being sick for giving birth.
Ensuring that your children will be born blind like you.
Courtships born from horror.
Love born from paucity is too needy and love born from plenitude is too— into, too in love with, itself.
Whether from denial, hope, a need
to birth—art production still runs
rampant in the face of collapse.
M. A. ISTVAN JR. is a zodiac surgeon and respected board member of the National Council for Geocosmic Research. Whereas most other zodiac surgeons are equipped to shift your sign only one position forward, Istvan can shift your sign either one position forward or—barring the unlikely circumstance that you are a menopausal Pisces with a quadruped gait—even one position back. Istvan hopes that increased awareness about zodiac surgery will help bring in the funding required for researching zodiac sign transplantation, which ideally will allow a shift to any of the twelve signs in a matter of hours (as opposed to the years it takes currently to shift just one spot). As Istvan recently revealed in an interview with Shadow Transits, he envisions a future where there will be a zodiac donor box on driver’s licenses.