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J.D. Isip: To Break Or Lose

Image: Unsplash, downloaded ( 05.03.2023.

The Mechanical Camel

I think you think you are giving me

something precious

Adrienne Rich, “The Stelae”

The father of my father, I didn’t call grandfather,

died before I could think to love


He spoke a different language, not only

Tagalog of place, but Tagalog of age

that I did not hear or care to.

We forgive ourselves too easily

for the viciousness of youth.

He was one in a vast cast of family

I would beg to love me on weekends

that became every other month

or year.

Forgiving my father wasn’t as easy, if, indeed

I ever did.

Perhaps I called him Grandpa—I had to call

him something. Grandpa bought me one gift,

a mechanical camel

I broke

almost immediately.

A translucent, yellow camel, size of my finger,

tied to a string. At the end, a marble.

My brother mastered the movement first,

tapping the ball to pull the camel


Grandpa clapped for him, for the camel

rocking toward its end. When it was my turn

the camel stayed itself in protest.

Each push of the glass marble only

tugged the obstinate thing in fractions.

No applause.

Pissed, I gave the ball a hard flick,

index finger launched from thumb.

The mechanical camel shot across

the kitchen table, shattering

on the linoleum.

I don’t remember what happened next,

if he was mad, when I lost the moment,

when I lost the old man.

All I see is that damn camel holding

itself in place, as if it knew

the nature

of this younger generation

is to break things

or lose them

About the Author: J.D. Isip published his first collection of poetry, Pocketing Feathers, with Sadie Girl Press (2015). His second collection, Kissing the Wound, is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press (2023). The poems included here are part of a new project tentatively titled All Your Billows and Waves. J.D. writes reviews and interviews, and acts as the microfiction editor for The Blue Mountain Review. He is a full-time English professor in Plano, Texas.


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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