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J.D. Isip
December 2022
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J.D. Isip is from Long Beach, California, but has lived the last decade or so in Plano, Texas. He received his MA from California State University, Fullerton, and his PhD from Texas A&M University-Commerce. He currently holds his dream job of being a Professor of English at Collin College in North Texas. His poetry, plays, short fiction, and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and magazines. His first full-length collection, Pocketing Feathers, was published by Sadie Girl Press (2015), and his next collection, Kissing the Wound, will be published next year from Moon Tide Press. J.D. serves as an editor for The Blue Mountain Review. Culturally, he is Filipino and Mexican and very gay. Socially, he’s a nerd with a love for Disney, Star Wars, comics, and Christmas. His biggest fans are his dogs Ivy and Bucky (though their poetry feedback is quite harsh).



Ghetto superstar, that is what you are

Every night, every time the bank account is empty,

it calls to me, its many voices who lived and died there

in the cold concrete tombs, lined with the finest

layaway treasures of Welfare Queens and Ghetto Kings

forever fanning themselves on the porch

calling innumerable children

back to the fold


Coming from afar, reaching for the stars

Can you believe anyone ever wanted to live in the projects?

It broke ground in 1939, fifty acres, 67 buildings

with thick cement walls in case Long Beach became

the next Pearl Harbor which never happened

but we sent our Japanese to the camps anyway.


Run away with me, to another place

Come home, little children! Come home! The chorus:

Mother May Bell Moses, selling Styrofoam cups of frozen

Kool-Aid, her twin girls glaring down at you if you ain’t

got a dime you ain’t gonna get what they have, a drink

in the SoCal sun, a line of barefoot hoodrats

bouncing from foot to foot, double-dutching 

in place, still there, Come home!


We can rely on each other

Carmelitos Housing Development—“they meant well”—

offered mostly black families, and us,

shelter with indoor toilets and bathtubs

hard-won luxuries lauded by the NAACP as a win

for poor souls looking for a better life


From one corner to another

I dream myself the first ghetto mutant, a telekinetic, able

to burn it all down, hands outstretched blasting those walls

lifting the May Twins into the stratosphere, creating a vortex

to swallow the hood up whole, every last dealer, boombox,

the bread man selling diabetes pies for twice their worth,

“This is not the promised land!” I say, every time I wake up

and find it part of me.



             I was in love with what I feared

             I was full of dangerous combinations

                                                                   Joshua Marie Wilkinson, “How the Past Cheats”


Who could not relate to Grover who told you as if to assure himself again and again

he is loveable and kind and brave though, of course, he is also a monster—who,

at the moment, is begging you, “Please don’t turn the page!”


“I am staying in the lines,” my niece would say to her four-year-old self, “I am staying

in the lines, Uncle,” as she colored in ponies and flowers, her little fingers gripping

each red, yellow, green—page after page, year after year, until


And you know it is coming, like it did with your little sisters, with her sister, who

looked so pained to say, “I don’t color anymore” which strikes you as a sad sort of 

declaration, as if to say something absurd like, “I don’t do ice cream… or happy”


When a puppy is imprinting, she will apply any future event to a past experience,

which is why Holly trusted me, even as the needle went in, the vet incensed I could not

pay (just) a couple thousand to keep her alive—


My brother said she was the most beautiful in the litter, and cost him a fortune, only

his ever-busy wife could not make the time, and Holly fell to me, a vacuum space

filled with dog-love for fifteen years, who sobbed harder for her than I did for mom. 


“Let me,” I had run a bath for him, tested the water, watched my lover sink in,

his skin getting brighter, his dark hair wet and flat, his smile as my hand and the soap

slid over his shoulders, around his neck, holding my hand, he said, “You really love me?”


We ended in Charles de Gaulle, racing to catch our flight, harried, two men too old—

back then!—to have been so wrong, to have misread our affections and ourselves, 

to scream so loud the French police had to pull us, pull me away from us, I really did.


I want water that doesn’t go cold, all of my little ones, my dogs, and lovers 

who let me love them, wash them, wrap them, warm them, hold and rock them

to know how much they take when they leave me, to pause


Skip past how I failed or disappointed or disappeared, recall my better self, who

was loveable and kind and brave, who really did love them, who, perhaps, could not 

show up, or pay the bill, or forgive—who, to be honest, was a monster in the end.

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