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Alfonso Manalastas

Mother is an artist;

spits paint on canvas from her waxed lips

and mosaic heart,

builds entire rose gardens from scratch

by way of brushstrokes

—she knew how to grow a flower

long before she discovered soil.

Nurture is imagination plus a steady hand:

sprouts but never withers,

blossoms but never wilts.


she strokes my hair with the same hand,

the same earnestness; puts me to sleep

with a brand-new rose garden to dream of. 

A new dirt to nurse and embellish

and I am no work of art.

Father is an artist;

spills music across the living room floor

like welcome floodwater

—a tall glass of Motown and French Jazz.

Drop a needle to a spinning record

and the ghost of the late Sinatra

ruptures, ravages,

then softly trickles out.

There is humming and whistling

and a dead American wailing from a turntable tube

that must lead back to the ocean.


he baptizes me with the drowning

of an old song. Every melody,

a new religion, a rebirth,

and I am no work of art.

I call my two elder siblings the first and second drafts.

One was forged in a house fire

another in brimstone

and I am microwavable good,

which is to say,

I am muted and bleached

hands heavy with pristine precision.

I am still being rewritten as we speak

and what is to rewrite but to erase?

To remove components

until the rights ones stagger to their places.

Mortal as all things pulsating,

all things scientific,

I will sprout and I will wither,

I will blossom and I will wilt.

Music is liquid and lingual,

therefore the silence of a parched throat

means drought. Means thirsty.

Decades from now, when half the earth

has evaporated bone-dry

Mother’s gardens

will still sit in all the rooms of my suburban home.

Father’s music, damp and humid,

sill echoing from some ocean many miles away.

And in a corner of a room,

the ink drips steady, foaming

at the mouth of a boy learning how to speak.

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