The red canyons of Water Snake
teem with iron-laden sand and heat.
In the bone yard, the skulls yellowing,
and little by little, the jaws disgorging
their pestilence until the wind forces
the gaping mouths of skulls to take back
down what they have given up by waiting.
A crater lake once existed in that hollow
south of the canyons. Look closely and find
the bones of long-extinct catfish, the biggest
in the world. The fishermen of Water Snake
once hailed the floundering ways of their prey,
how the flailing catfish could sever a man in half
and how men could just as easily ensnare and gut
their catch, their wives cheering them by the lakeside.
Back then, the greediest of the bunch were revered.
Kristine Ong Muslim has authored several books, including We Bury the Landscape (Texas: Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012), as well as the forthcoming short story collection Age of Blight (Los Angeles: Unnamed Press, 2016) and three poetry collections. Her short stories and poems have been published in the likes of Boston Review, Confrontation Magazine, New Welsh Review, and Southword.