“Modern Sunsets” by M. A. Istvan Jr.

daytime gutter vomit

scared to change your way from one that has been making you money

color-segregated schools for the blind

the increasing pressure to pass—
indeed, identify—as one of the popular
disadvantaged races, genders, and so on

to paint time even through a posed human
results in a figure more or less blurred
depending on how spastic, how nervous

when the horror one feels in life is one’s very comfort in life

the guilty look of one working a job
not right for him around the people
who know that it is not right for him

cliché memories “unearthed” during hypnosis

although constants pick out variations,
the (impossible) world without constants
would still have variations

those still ones easily confused
for monks of peace, but are really
more like typhoon eyes

out on the porch wafting up
your frying garlic
to your neighbor’s heart

however cliché, sometimes it is okay
to enjoy the respite of giving into
the photo booth with a friend

rendering judgment
on a hooker with whom
you refuse visual contact

taking notes on your panic—
your bad trip, or whatever—
to get distance from it

frontline deserters of war,
broken down not by battle
but by native women  

read from some other discipline
than the one in which he is found
unclear, his words are clear

mastery with moving razorblades around the mouth

the ease with which strangers say,
“Listen to your heart,”
is one reason to leave your hole

seeing in light of what we know,
or think that we know, knowledge
blocks us from and opens us to reality

even soldiers have faces that their mothers remember

confessing to the priest
that your son is gay
at every confession

to get out of war
shooting yourself in the foot
is not shooting yourself in the foot  

moonrise drags notes from the mockingbird’s throat

is love at risk when little by our efforts is left to be achieved?

if sincerely open to change, how bad
is it to tell her that you do not believe,
do not do, things that you really do?

talking out loud with your hallucinations

telling her that you do not
believe things or do things
that you really do—is that so bad?

wondering whether the family priest
was contributing to your son’s confusion
as he tried to ease yours: “He’ll grow out of it”

words of sympathy used to cut:
“Such a shame your son
didn’t call on your birthday”

works that refuse cursory attention deemed obscurantist

should you take comfort
in that this cringe-worthy moment
will be replaced by another?

although frames pick out bodies,
the (impossible) world without frames
would still be no homogenous plenum

no matter how dark it is, the art
would not be were it not for a bout
of life-joy—an exigency—in the artist

wanting escape from being feeds
rage against cliché: the ground of creation,
what everything is or threatens to become

correcting your son’s talk
of partner: “You mean,
‘friend’—your roommate”

doing what you are told,
thinking not that it is right
but that it all works out in the end

running into your rapist each day in the hallways of your dorm

letting grime build for the pleasure of removal

despite the pain of loved ones,
you congratulate yourself
on predictions come true

embracing a lesser enemy because
it is the enemy of a greater enemy, one
set up for that end by the lesser enemy


the hilarity of silverbacks
and other beasts bred to pose
bellicose even at uncalled-for turns

shamed by generosity

needs too limited to our powers to increase our powers

fear of spaces both open and closed
triggered in the diver’s plummet
into the abyss beyond his exosuit  

shot down in war, for years family
spoke—children knowing no better—
as if he were still fighting overseas

a good way to sift through
who to read is to find the best
q-and-a remarks in colloquia

you saw it with black belts attained
with ease lest clients leave, and yet
you thought it would different with the PhD?

on your resume, that you refused the accolade

dad locked up for life,
your mother’s murder
freed you from his torture

lifelong refusal to open the letter
handed at the doorstep
by soldiers in full regalia

intrigued by her
only when someone else
finds her beautiful

how hard it is still to face that your mom has a name


M. A. Istvan Jr., PhD is known to warp the subjective tapestries of those in his vicinity. Almost everyone who comes into his ever-emanating distortion field will inadvertently take on his reality (his values and goals), finding within themselves a heightened sense of potential where old excuses for not going for the brass ring slip away. Not wanting to feel the spur to evolve, most avoid him out of the same gut instinct that has them avoid meditating yogis and sustained eye contact even with family. Those who do enter his field run the risk of becoming addicted to being at his side. Istvan’s personal challenge has always been to push them from the den, not only so that they may grow on their own, but also so that he may avoid the temptation to make slaves of them in some fashion (having them get his dry cleaning, support him, provide sexual favors, and so on).