Poems by Kristine Ong Muslim.
Kristine Ong Muslim has published in Bellevue Literary Review, Chronogram, Grasslimb, Pearl, The Pedestal Magazine, Porcupine and Turnrow. She lives in the Philippines.
Hoarding litanies of smitten saints,
you wring a snatch of air in your hands—
a gesture of repentance, defeat.
The flaps of the love-box thrash, droop,
make no sound, and remain sympathetic
towards gravity and its occasional misgivings:
that sweet spot, that stolen moment.
As a child, he talked about
bleaching the blackbirds
in the king's pie.
Mom nodded, Dad grunted,
and I gave my little brother
the car keys.
Thirty minutes later, a policeman
came to our door, did not look us
straight in the eyes.
"An accident," he said, faltered one wisp
at a time. My mother screamed
and crumpled on the couch.
She sulks like leftover static from last decade's
favorite radio station. The marble shavings from
the construction site scrunch under her sneakers.
There is no harm in trampling them; they have
long outlived their usefulness. A restaurant glass
window separates her from my side of the world.
I wave. I wait to see her smile. In an hour, she leaves.
Another girl who looks like her takes her place.
The cut crystal bowl guards the
perishables. With a deliberate swing,
you alone can break it from here,
take a swig of darkness with every laugh.
You unfold a letter addressed to no one,
sent to no one. It must then speak of
what is imaginary,
what is yours.
Still Life with a Burglar on the Fire-escape Ladder
At seven, during his birthday party,
his father disarmed the yellow
and red balloons, called off the clowns.
He played guns with the other neighborhood boys
by the pond fashioned out of hollow blocks
and filled with door hinges and rusted cans.
He could never forget
how crowded the bone garden should be;
how he poked the rodent's eyes shut,
how black the backyard leaves had become.
He went home at the end of the day,
found his apartment burglarized.
The kitchen tiles were speckled
with their own set of darkness.
The sky is a bed nailed to the ceiling; it turns
when I sleep. I do not think about it that much
these days. It may show up in my psychological
tests, the ones I have to take every six months.
Most of the time I imagine the plane growing
outward, throttling the last breath of a giant tin can,
thickening the fog as it arches from takeoff;
the path of air lengthening in its wake.
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