• Marías at Sampaguitas

Poetry by Jo Alvarado

unanswered prayers


my grandmother tells me to pray

so i send a greeting to a false god,

i ask him if i’m too sinful to be loved

he does not answer


my grandmother gifts me a golden rosary

she tells me that i glow the same color as her absent son

she does not hold me

the distance between us is the same length as a prayer


my grandmother sings about faith

the glorious gospel stronger than love

fragile as i am

the register of her holy voice is enough to break me


my grandmother says hello in english

a signal that i must mutate back to my former self

instead, i press her sorrowful hand to my forehead

and i wonder how much forgiveness burns


my grandmother does not know how to forget

she has taught my mother the same

reminiscence has learned to worship grief

on my knees, i remember how to weep


my grandmother traces her memory into my palms

she asks about my love line

how it is split in half

i confess a tale of brokenness in her native tongue

staccatoed syllables that taste like forgetting

decipher morse code

to reveal my everlasting question:

am i too sinful to be loved?




Jo (she/her) is a queer, Filipinx poet from Modesto, California. She studies English and Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, where she is the Editor-in-Chief of {m}aganda magazine and a contributing writer of GIA Magazine. She writes from a place of healing and reclamation, and she hopes to provide a space for others to do the same. You can find her on Instagram at @johanlorraine and @maganda.magazine.

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