Kristine Ong Muslim

Kristine Ong Muslim lives in The Phillipines. More than six hundred poems and stories by  her have been published or are forthcoming in over two hundred journals and magazines worldwide. Her work has appeared in Dog Versus Sandwich, Foliate Oak, GlassFire Magazine, GUD Magazine, Iota, Noneuclidean Café, and Slow Trains, Cordite, Boxcar Poetry Review, Nth Position.



City People

This is how we bloom: a dance of petals–
each one whiter than the other, each one
glances at another’s husband, another’s wife.

We follow the white line on the road. We let
the turning wheels desecrate the graves
of forgotten roadkill. The black dust-wind

hurtles beside us, a windshield’s width away.
There are urban cathedrals, sixty-four floors
of stacked cubes made from glass, marble,

reinforced concrete. We spend two strokes
of summers assembling corners out of round
objects until there is nothing left to stretch,

nothing left to pave. Drawn to the colors
of the maps, we mark the wrong turns
of the city streets before they disappear.


Small Town Rain

The elders insisted that our small town was built
by their hands alone and that the rain always came
on time for the planting season.
We were seven then, and we believed them.

Ten years ago, frogs rained down from the skies as well.
They were still alive when they hit the ground. Their eyes
had a quiet dignity in them; they were the eyes of creatures
who had seen too much. Their limbs cushioned their fall
from the sky. Not heavy enough, the frogs took gravity
for granted.  

But the town folks stomped on them,
declared that they were the enemies.
We were seven then, and we believed them.
So we joined in the rampage.

Ten years later, we drove towards the city,
and lost our names, faces, memories.
Perhaps, there were times when we dreamed
about the frogs and what they represented.
Some of us ended up living with the homeless.
Some of us wore suits and traded stocks for a living.
Some of us learned the language, gnawed at the edges
as the city swallowed in satiation day after day.
Some of us gave up and went home,
told lies about being bored with city life.
The town elders always believed our contrived success tales.

Every morning, all of us saw our eyes in the mirrors.
We did not know what they had become and what they had seen,
but the look was familiar. We did not want to recognize it.


The Shack

When my little brother found the shack last summer,
it was already decaying so it had to be alive once.

He savored that moment until there was no need
to ever look back. It was, would always be, his shack.

The field of wild grass supported the abandoned
hut’s impending collapse. Behind it was a cypress,

where owls spent two winters sharing their kill.
Rodents foraged from mound to mound, still looking

for the right place to die. Wind rattled the wooden
boards, and my little brother gasped–half in fear,

half in anger–knowing that the shack would not
last. That day, he went home with the clump of moss

he had scraped from the side of the shack. His shack.
He reveled on the moss’s instinct for regeneration.