M.A. Istvan Jr.
On the Forest Trail
Even by our high school years her life's purpose
was to gather up sweets and glom them down
in those places hidden from the fat chance of a parental eye:
under the piss-ringed and forever sheet-less mattress
from which the bull-neck would bounce so high
that the fan blade would catch her great round face;
in the closet ripping out cat shit crusted in the shag,
gobbling it up while eyeing me with those cross-eyes—
far-set, up-slanted—beneath self-scissored bangs;
in the drainage pipe that passed under our street
through which would course the winter-melt stream
that she would dunk her big head in for my reaction;
under the sleeping-bum overpass among the discarded 40s
that we would smash and stomp once she downed their slosh,
her tongue protruding more than usual as she gimped about
neck-less in drooling concentration.—All these times,
images, savored but for a moment, superimposed
as they so quickly were by more, and more.
How good it was not having to think or speak,
hiking the forest trail with her at my side;
her sour musk of mouse droppings warm on my side;
she in her element among the ahistorical,
appearing each moment exactly how she is, honest
as the mouth-breathing goldfish, tied as she was
so close, angel-close, to the peg of the moment—
no expectation of Christmas ever showing itself
in those deep inset eyes below a Frida Kahlo stripe.
Who has never envied such a short leash—
that of the low and receding browed,
clouded in larval imbecility?
How good it was not having to coax her,
coax her into enjoying, into seeing
the innocence of, me pistoning out—
head to hilt, head to hilt, beyond head to hilt—
that rotten gourd's every horse-foam hole:
that shitty asshole and pissy pussy; that mouth
replete with rows of rotten teeth, its cracked lips
chocolate-crusted at the corners from pudding.
No sound but that of one shaving-cream hand
clapping itself—that, intermingled with giggles
and boar-grunts, the crinkling of the leaves,
the ruffling of her uncanny windbreaker.
Pink, faded, too large, secondhand—to this day
it haunts me, that windbreaker. Once a year I search
"80s vintage neon windbreakers." I picture her still
wearing it, there in that facility where she is still
likely to spaz out when it is removed for washing,
for heat waves—where by now she might have died.
It—the vivacious image of it—is what has
my wife and children, my co-workers, wondering
where I am, where I have suddenly gone.
It is what tells me how gutless and sick I was,
how gutless and sick I still am, letting concern
with how others perceive me come before love.
M.A. ISTVAN JR., an animal dealer based out of Austin TX, has spearheaded a campaign to display zoo creatures in "unnatural" settings. According to Istvan, displaying animals in unnatural settings brings the animal itself into stark relief. "We go to zoos to see animals," Istvan says. "The problem is that, when placed in replicas of their natural habitat, animals have a tendency to fade into the background—sometimes in the most literal sense. But the days of kids wondering where the lion is are numbered." Istvan thinks that his new approach will help stimulate a zoo industry whose dwindling over the last decade has meant dwindling resources for animal conservation. "I do not call for a return of the bear back to the cramped cage of the Victorian menagerie," Istvan insists against detractors. "I envision walruses, for example, in replicas of office mailrooms. Minimal adornment on the animal itself. Perhaps only a bowtie in the case of the walrus."
Istvan's creative writing is currently forthcoming at the following magazines: Flapperhouse; Triggerfish Critical Review; Mobius: The Journal of Social Change; All Roads Will Lead You Home; Quail Bell Magazine; Bitterzoet Magazine; The Gambler; Horror, Sleaze, Trash; Futures Trading; Right Hand Pointing; One Sentence Poems. Visit his page at https://txstate.academia.edu/MichaelIstvanJr.