“The Fugitive” – Poetry by Kristine Ong Muslim

Robot - Nam June Paik, 1993
Robot – Nam June Paik, 1993

A robotic refugee seeks freedom in “The Fugitive,” one of two unforgettable poems by Kristine Ong Muslim featured in our Summer 2015 issue (which you can order online via Amazon and Createspace, or at fine independent brick-and-mortar stores like Bluestockings and St. Mark’s Bookshop).

{ X }

THE ALARM SOUNDED when you wrenched your unfinished
form free of the straps, when you bolted for the door.
The gatekeeper, who forgot to close it, has been fired.

He has been delivered to the recycling complex
through the old conveyor belt near the service dock.
That door—your door—has now been sealed,

welded shut, the white edge of its black hole still
recoiling when touched. Your strings leave a trail
of oil and petroleum-based panacea for metal joints.

The factory workers imagine you in the wastelands
outside the factory, imagine you taking in the heat
rising from the red canyons of Water Snake, imagine

you before an oasis, an oasis they believe you deserve.
Soon, you will be rendered inert by static electricity.
But for now, run. Run as far as your rubber appendage

can carry you. Run until your obsolete engine coughs up
its last. Just don’t look down. Don’t look down to see
what you have become. Your eviscerated abdomen—

its walls slick, glistening clean of what used to coil inside,
what used to pulse with life. The factory workers inspect
the parts of your body that fell out during your escape.

They scavenge what can still be used in the assembly line,
what can be repackaged to match the plastic mold of legs,
the scented sconces of noses, the waterlogged tongues.

Some of them expose your discarded wires to the world—
the blue loosely clinging around the yellow, the red wires
peeking out of the bloodless foam that insulates everything.

{ X }

KristineOngMuslimKRISTINE ONG MUSLIM is the author of several books, the most recent being We Bury the Landscape (Texas: Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012) and Grim Series (Wisconsin: Popcorn Press, 2012). “Scarecrow” and “The Fugitive” will be collected in her forthcoming book Black Arcadia from the University of the Philippines Press. http://kristinemuslim.weebly.com/

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