Towards Clara Barton Elementary School
Each September the dry, brown pods littered the path
From the Projects to my school.
And the eucalyptus smelled like mint, cool
When I crushed the leaves in my hands.
The journey was just a block or two
Past the old Korean liquor store.
It’s not there anymore –
In fact, every house on the block is new.
But even taller than before,
The trees that watched me in those days
Lead me down a path that strays
With leaves and pods upon the floor.
I have put aside my childish ways
Along with my childhood home –
But sometimes the trees along
New roads carry me away.
How unsatisfying it is now to watch fireworks
And know something about gun powder
Or to work my tongue into another mouth
And know that no amount of rubbing
Will start a flame.
How empty it feels now to see the sun
And know something about astronomy
Or clasp onto smooth, taught thighs
And know that no amount of pulling
Will bring down the stars.
Yet, for ever wonder that I smother
With a study or a chart
And every lover that I murder
I only know that no amount of failure
Will stop a scientist.
Example sapphic stanzas by J.D. Isip
Late in our life, we wonder why the lovely
days fall like dying summer fruit or changing
leaves from our memory, and only become
nourishing in death.
I get overly timid. You can see how
once the light goes out there is only our breath,
only our indecent language of silence
making us lonely.
Over video static comes the report
from the streets of Iran - the women crying,
some random fire cracking against the masses
(dying for rebirth).
In Line at LAX
All around – the music, the sound, the living
beat of minds, the hammering brains convulsing –
all around me – people in medias res
longing to move on.
Better, by far, holding in those last few potent
words in moments when, perhaps, our judgment is
off – in times that seemingly mean less than we
Example ode by J.D. Isip
Ode Upon the Sign to a Wicked Generation
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
“Go to the shore of Nineveh and say
‘Because you are wicked and hard of heart
the Lord your God, who is just, will depart
from you and you will die this very day.’”
But Jonah was afraid and ran instead
to the town of Joppa to find a ship,
hoping to escape from God in Tarshish.
All in vain, no matter how far he fled –
For who can outrun God or change His will?
So a mighty storm broke upon the sea
“What have we done to make God so angry?”
the sailors panicked, but Jonah was still…
“How can you sleep, Jonah? Call on your Lord!”
cried the captain, “He must be merciful!”
Jonah, thinking of Nineveh’s people,
said, “This is my sin. Throw me overboard.”
The men lifted him, begging for mercy,
“Let us not perish for this man’s sin!”
The immediate silence amazed them
as the prophet sank down into the deep.
Yet, even in the depths of the Sheol
The wretched man could not hide from God’s eyes
and God sent a great fish so Jonah might,
after three days and nights, be brought ashore.
“Now, go to Nineveh and tell their king
‘In forty days, you will know the Lord’s wrath,
but if your relent, if you change your path,
the Lord your God may yet be forgiving.’”
The prophet did all that the Lord had asked
and the king and the people repented –
God showed mercy, but Jonah resented
what seemed like a meaningless task.
“Do you have good reason to be angry?”
the Lord asked Jonah in a distant place.
There, He made a tree to give the man shade.
Under the tree, the prophet fell asleep.
In the morning, the tree was dead and gone
and the blistering heat made Jonah scream,
“Oh my God, why have you forsaken me
by taking the tree that blocked the hot sun?”
“How can you mourn the life you did not grow,
yet, for Nineveh, show no compassion?
For a small tree, you show such passion –
for a great city, how much shall I show?”
Example villanelles by J.D. Isip
Loving and Killing
It’s not that we meant to hurt the other –
Pushing ever forward towards destruction –
A nation, a soldier (once a lover)…
But, am I the keeper of my brother?
The revelry sets this course in motion!
It’s not that we meant to hurt the other.
Nights we’d reach out to touch one another
(a momentary peace from our function):
A nation, a soldier, once – a lover –
Once again, the war path towards each other
Burns through the land, the sky, the ocean –
It’s not that we meant to hurt the other!
But I sent you to a weeping mother;
Used broken-you to warn and caution
Your nation, the soldiers (other lovers?)
Still, I choke but find the will to utter,
“Loving and killing are war in action –
It’s not that I meant to hurt the other:
That nation… this soldier, once my lover.”
Another Break-Up Poem
Forgiving you this once should set me free,
grant ethereal peace within my soul…
time to adopt a new philosophy.
Your indifference, my indignity –
Evidences I will my will cajole
forgiving you this once should set me free.
Will alone cannot convince me to be
the one to hug and hold the prodigal –
Time to adopt a new philosophy.
Because I am prisoner of cruelty,
and the victim of scenes from long ago,
forgiving you this once should set me free.
But having you so close awakes in me
the memory – and change is not my goal –
“Time to adopt a new philosophy,”
You told me, and willingly I believed.
But that is in the past and you should know
Forgetting you just once has set me free –
Time you adopt a new philosophy.