Throb and The Second Stranger

Kristine Ong Muslim

 

 

Throb

 

Only because the thin men,

the ones who pounded

the bone rhythm on the wall,

could not sing, they became

content of defacing our sanity.

 

They tapped their

phantom knuckles on walls,

doors, and wooden floors.

At first, they picked on the

paranoid ones, the aged,

 

the dreamers, the ones easily

driven to kill themselves.

No one would believe these people.

The strange noises that they heard

would follow them to their deathbeds

 

where the silence of death was absolute,

But then the unseen thin men learned

how to slowly torment the stronger ones,

the people who would fight

to keep their sanities intact.

 

At night, the thin men rapped

and scratched the ancient bone

rhythm against the unyielding

ones’ car doors and bookcases.

They glided underneath their beds

 

to wake them up. Always, the

pulsing sound would begin after

the people had reassured themselves

that the mysterious beating sound

was only in their imagination.  

 

 

The Second Stranger

 

In street corners, he brandishes

his Almanac for us to see.

Out of the pages, pictures

of our lives—the past and the future—

scar us forever. Unwanted memory

holds us back, and the second stranger

knows this. Tailored to assail,

the photographs appear

differently to each person.

 

He even hints

at the secret last pages,

the ones which depict our deaths.

 

Every day, the crowd around him grows.

Nothing much has happened afterwards.

 

We continue to gather around him;

the rest of the world follow—

the airports, the terminals, the roads

are filled by men, women, children,

their family pets pawing at closed car doors.

 

And looking closely at the second stranger

while he shows us another page,

I notice the beginnings of a smile

curling from his lips.

 

Kristine Ong Muslim's stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many places. These include fine genre publications like Black Petals, Dark Recesses Press, Down in the Cellar, The Fifth Di..., From the Asylum, Horror Carousel, Illumen, Jupiter, Kaleidotrope, Lighthouse, OG's Speculative Fiction, The Shantytown Anomaly, Spinning Whorl, Tales of the Talisman, and Trail of Indiscretion, and literary journals like Adbusters, Chronogram, Cordite, The Pedestal Magazine, and turnrow.  Her poem, "The Thin Men," which first appeared in Not One of Us, received an honorable mention in Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 2005. "A Spacewalker Dreams" from The Martian Wave was nominated for the James Award in genre poetry. She also co-wrote (with Aurelio Rico Lopez III) Oddities (Sam's Dot Publishing, 2006), an illustrated chapbook collection of genre poems for children.  Kristine Ong Muslim, 26, lives in the Philippines. Her publication history: http://www.freewebs.com/blackroom8.

 

Photo "Old Man Storm" by Bella Dante.

 

 

 

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Poems Copyright © 2007 Kristine Ong Muslim. All rights reserved.
Photo Copyright © 2007 Bella Dante. All rights reserved.