Poetry by | August 27, 2017


I stand above the grave
of my heart’s affections
for you.
Here lie
of promises
both broken and unbroken;
     at the height of orgasm,
     unspoken as I stared
     at the back of your head.
You will never lay
another finger on me.


I watched
as you stabbed
your suitcase
with unfolded garments.
then your faded denim pants,
old pairs
of your father’s socks,
a tie.

In the mirror
of our shared bathroom,
I saw myself transform
into a stone angel;
silent grief trapped
within this moment.
     God, I hated you.
     God, I loved you.


My mother always told me
Don’t become someone else’s fool.

I was her reflection
her mortality
with her husband’s last name.
Don’t be a fool.
Her long fingers
like the hands
of an old clock, braiding
my hair,
sections married
in thirds.

There were only supposed to be three of us, she said.
Your brother and sister
were happy accidents.

I remembered you
and how you loved tempting fate:
     a hand
     at the small of my back in a library,
     cigarette after cigarette,
     the absence of a rubber.
You always called them


The eulogy for us
came in the form
of a love letter.
     There are times
     I want to live inside of you.
     My favorite moments
     are when you and I
     are “we;”
     snakes in heat.
     You pull me in endlessly.

It started the cancer
that crept
and sunk
into the bones of what we had.
You loved me most
when I was
     the easiest to cut into.


It’s been months
since I turned you
into one of my ghosts.

You haunt me,
          as incessant calls
          and messages.

Rest in pieces, my love.

Nina Matalam Alvarez is a writer and illustrator. A graduate of the Creative Writing program of the University of the Philippines in Mindanao, she currently lives in Dumaguete with her family and her cat, Basil, and is a proud millennial.

Dear Love (or Ten Letters from a Girl You Fucked Up)

Poetry by | February 21, 2015

Dear Love: fuck you. I used to think you
would mean the world to me. At nine years old, I believed
you were something dreams were made of. I dotted my i’s
with little red hearts, and gently I pressed
little-girl kisses on Sticky Notes I left on my crush’s desk.
And even though I watched him peel each note off of wood
and three-point-shoot them into a bin, I stayed in love with the idea of you.
Early on, I knew you were going to hurt me.
Dear Love: where were you? Puberty was not so kind to me.
At thirteen, I jealously watched you flit
from couple to couple on February the 14th, smelling
of market-bought flowers and candy hearts. I saw you in the knowing smiles
of boys and girls who held hands in jacket pockets, because public displays of affection
meant a one-way ticket to the Principal’s Office.
Love, you sure took your time, I got used to never receiving anything on Valentines.
Dear Love: why couldn’t you stay? At fifteen, you meant the smile thrown over the shoulder
of the girl who sat in the front row in English class. You
were in every “Good Morning” and “Sweet Dreams” she texted me, you
sat in the creases that formed around her eyes whenever she laughed, I felt you
in the way her gentle hands trembled when she touched me. The first time she and I kissed,
she held my face with her fingertips as if I was made of spun glass.
Love, I know I never gave you enough reason to stay, right when I was warming up to you,
but it would have been great if you did, anyway.
Dear Love: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m sorry. At seventeen,
you came back again on a summer night, sailing on notes played
on an out-of-tune guitar. I did not fall into you this time, I’ll have to admit
the guy you introduced me to wasn’t really my type, but dear God
when he told me he liked me, the butterflies I thought were dead inside me
multiplied and flew around in my stomach. My ribcage
transformed into an aviary for beautiful, hopeful little things. I felt you
in every letter he wrote to me, you were underneath the pillow that he and I shared
in that creaky bunk bed that wasn’t even ours—never mind the fact that he had to leave
at 3 am to go back to his own room. Love, I will never
stop apologizing for pushing you away. When he and I ended up liking
the same books, the same songs, the same shows,
same actors, writers, pictures, the same damnedest little things,
I got scared. What I did still haunts me to this day. It hovers over my head like a ghost
I feel nauseous when I remember how I made him cry.
He and you deserved better.
Dear Love: you started leaving a bitter taste in my mouth,
because at eighteen, I began wearing my heart upon my sleeve,
sewing and un-sewing it again and again on whatever I wore just to see
if anyone would hold it, even just for a couple of months. And somebody did.
I knew it was you coming back for revenge, because you
came with someone you knew my unhappy self could never resist: a pretty girl
who told me I was pretty too. I fell hard—I laughed at all of her jokes,
I walked with her, talked to her, held her in my arms and told her,
“you’ll finish this year!”, I kept all of her gifts
and the promises I made, even when she didn’t,
I was fucking good to her. This time, you left me. She left with you.
Dear Love: how dare you do this to me. If you sprinkled crushed lead
all over my heart, you would see how the dust sticks to the fingerprints
that all of them have left, I am still writing about them, even though by this time
I should have run out of words to explain how you
still really hurt. At nineteen, I know that I do not have all the years I should have
to really complain, but dear Love:
if you had a neck, I would wring it. Dear Love: my heart
is not a test tube, you do not put fragments of people and stories and promises in it
just to see what happens next. This is my final letter.
Dear Love: I know
you are meant to be an open-ended story,
an ellipsis, a dot-dot-dot to be continued, a question
to be met with infinite answers. And I know that I hate you for fucking me over.
But dear Love:
for the love of all things good,
keep coming around.

Nina, one of LitOrgy’s most anticipated readers, performed this piece at last week’s LitOrgy 6, at Cork and Barrel, Obrero.

My Vagina is Magical

Poetry by | September 14, 2014

My vagina is magical, but not in the way
drugs, or weight loss programs, or hair removal products swear they are, no—
my vagina is magical in a macabre and ancient way. It stretches
back to the time of Eve in the Holy Garden, who
after taking a bite out of the Forbidden Fruit,
discovered her own holy garden; it stretches
back to the priestesses who read prophecies
in stars and bones and shells. Pleasure
is not just her purpose, it is one of her powers, please do not
get that twisted. My vagina
is magical, and every month I pay for that magic
with the currency of pain and anxiety, but I do not care
if I have to endure again and again, I would gladly trade
white pants for unspeakable power, because these lips
between my legs, they can speak in cycles
of blood that wanes and waxes like the moon, the same moon
that wild wolves howl to. My vagina is the cup
that can hold the miracle of Life, a song
written in cells and tissues and nine months. We are
unstoppable, my vagina and I, because we have proven
that bleeding for days and nights does not kill a woman. We have proven
that we can endure razors and hot wax against our trembling flesh, just so
we can be acknowledged by a judging public as
“clean” and “feminine”. We have braved ridicule
and shame after we so sincerely admitted
that we would rather feel the pressing of soft
downstairs lips to the pounding and prodding of a male shaft.
My vagina is a titan enclosed
in warm, velveteen layers of flesh. My vagina
is a portal made of love and strength
to welcome new chapters of life into this world. My vagina
is a masterpiece that nobody will ever have the power nor privilege
to taint, or mock, or hurt, or ridicule, because my vagina
is magical. She is made of the most beautiful witchcraft
and she is not anyone’s to take.

Nina Maria Matalam-Alvarez is a Creative Writing student at UP Mindanao. She loves reading stories as much as she loves writing them. Good poems make her cry. Good music makes her cry. Her dog makes her cry. This piece was performed at litVrgy, the fifth installment of the LitOrgy series, at Saless Bar Tekanplor last August 30.