Coke Lessons, M.A. Istvan, Jr.

Coke Lessons

For Albert

Endless philosophizing to your friend,
even pushing a sudden cross-country trip—
that first-time rush of coke brought you
to a new dilation of ecstasy untainted
by thoughts that it would ever go away.

Years later you feel what your friend felt,
so reserved despite dilated lines, that night:
cravings for more coke mixed with foretaste
of grinding-bitter comedown. The low ahead—
only a raw cut could block that from mind.

And even then the blocking would not be full.
The taint of downs to come at best would fall
just below a threshold of awareness quite high.
And that dip below would itself be short lived.—
Now you feel sick snorting with a newbie.

His talk dilated between lines, his confessions
of incest thoughts, gay thoughts, his giving
of gifts to you—bongos, books, records—
even though you forgot his name, has you
want to run from his house, down into a ball.

Pupils dilated, his hurried hand flips records
mid-song. You feel sick knowing that soon,
in sun hours, he will regret the giveaways.
You pretend to forget the offered items
only to be met with luggage to carry them.

You feel sick knowing that goodbye is not
the end. Backdoor, Newports lit—he goes on
and on until the dawn that more is needed.
He phones people—inappropriate for both
request and hour—not spoken to in years.

It comes down to his volunteer big brother
from nearly ten years back. You feel sick being
caught up in hope that he might come through.—
You are sick with the thought that this ecstasy
of coke, this coke dilation, is fake, unnatural.

But then you wonder, the newbie aside
on that call, why it should be considered fake.
What behind it is there but neurochemicals?
Why is this euphoria any more fake than that
which comes with the birth of your child?

M.A. Istvan, Jr.

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