after Max Ernst's "Aquis submersus"
What is a moon but a clockface
illuminating not every corner
of cubist apartment blocks
and a common swimming pool.
All strangers whose backs are
turned away from the light become
gingerbread men--ones whose eyes
will not close, ones whose limbs are
severed so they cannot swim anymore.
Sometimes, one plunge is enough
to cut the water clean, the splash
merely an afterthought.
Evil is built out of scratch, and my little one
is a testament to that. Mud is never a lever
underneath my feet, but I have used it to get
to the bottom of the abyss where I have found
its hands, still no bigger than the Hyperspace.
Its lips are torn from my unfortunate summer
repast, its voice, from the confession of last breath.
What must bleed will soon be shriveled, so I
have drawn its name from a list of the gifted,
a stolen souvenir of scrawls on puckered skin.
For my safety, I have made its world limited
to its line of sight interspersed with its peripheral
vision. Its sleeplessness I unzip by whispering
secrets to a flock of jumping sheep; images
of carnage are redundant. It only submits
to patterns in a series of numbers:
zeroes castigate it, and the thirteen stations
of the dead amuse it. It knows infinity,
the finite number that quantifies its lifetime.
Soon, it will rise out of the manger. Kings will
follow the North Star to offer at its mangled feet
a tuft of grass, a decapitated head, and fast-acting
hallucinogens. It will perform miracles and sleight-
of-hand tricks for the MTV generation. And my
little one will measure redemption in terms of numbers.
Kristine Ong Muslim’s work has been published in more than three hundred publications worldwide, such as Bellevue Literary Review, Narrative Magazine, Southword, The Pedestal Magazine, Turnrow, and Weber Journal. She has been nominated five times for the Pushcart Prize.