by M. A. Istavan, Jr.
what is the true target of our rage
when we rage at the dog gnawing in bliss
on the dug-up bones of a loved one?
the slow formation of the belief that abuse
does not count as abuse when abusing
those without the backbone to stop it
an audible crack as the tailbone fractures in childbirth
cocks fighting for microwaved boneless chicken wings
let bones, ligaments, tendons
take the weight
of the shoulders
are those who value effort over outcome
prone to feel less alive if what they use—
shoes, drums, bones—never wears out?
that elephantine need to stroke the bones of your own kind
for having the right features:
bone structure, voice, facial hair
undernourished enough to feel your backbone through your stomach
I see my cousin only at rare family get-togethers.
He does that same breakdance move each time.
Arms out like Christ, he falls back, budgeless
in a back-flop. This last wedding I asked him
if he was still b-boying. He said he keeps it up
a bit, despite bone issues from so many years.
At the reception, he was popping and locking
by himself at first. But as his demand for space
increased with his flails, a cheer circle formed
around him. I had forgotten his black-flop move,
which he ends his show with and does only once
per get-together, until he pulled it out that night.
If I felt cringey seeing this, then I wonder how
his close family felt. How does he bring himself
to do it with them watching? They know right
when it will come. Am I just projecting? Might
they be eager for the cheers, eager to see others
see the talent of their son, grandson, nephew?
Man-Dog Double Becoming
Restricted from venting instinctual caprices
in his deprived state of caution and hesitation,
the dog nibbles bald patches into himself:
taming himself, beating back brute instincts
no longer adaptive, lacerating himself
to accept the strictures of his situation,
crafting a micro-soul that finds anesthesia
and even pleasure in such inward cruelty—
a soul that has him look down and whimper
(in perverse pleasure, it seems) if by chance
a growl still manages to escape his throat.
And man too self-ravages himself, not just
by crafting an even richer inner world—
a soul—of guilt, but also by nibbling himself:
flaying skin, wearing down bone, after years
to a state as awful as the bald spots in the fur.
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.