? SLAB | Sound & Literary Art Book

Issue 6

Contest Winners

Laurel Bastian

We All Want Out of This Play



Brick, brick, brick:
I build
the slaughterhouse,
I braid the horses down,
I shoot the fleet
of crows—they drop
like punctuation on the razed land.
I teethe the sheen off mercury.
The virtuoso in the sky who fills
me with vinegar does not sleep.
He made me cat-o’-nine.
Made me hurricane,
made me cursory,
made me hound.
Me born with a spoon
of blood at the mouth.
My junk heart a dark stain
across clover.
Once the world’s script
is stripped of light
there’ll be nothing left
for the spade of me
to turn. My goal
is getting there


I’ve been doing cross-stitch at the hearth
day and night. I make a gulf of busy work.
I want neither walk nor lilac from him.
Gloss, be my name forever.
Wind, be my border.
Apples drop into my lap
from the gentle Lord in exchange
for I know not what. Untrue.
I know. I have asked him not to take it.

The Bellboy

Carry your own damn baggage.
Carry your own damn baggage.
No tip on the horizon.
Under this cap I never take off:
a hole where the rightful top
of a skull should be.
The rest of me calloused shut
from lugging.

The Boy King

I am a human museum.
The story at the beginning of the world
is a jade I’m charged with holding.
Wet-nurses tried their best
to recompense the task in cream.
I’ve moved on to cutlery.
I can’t play outdoors lest a lion come
and skin me. All kings are the same
when it comes to trophies.
One day I’ll have a leggy one
of my own, says my vizier,
her cheeks red as if flayed,
and with a womb
that will turn our history
out again, in the form
of another boy,
so I’ll never die.

The Very Old Mother

This shoe has smelled for centuries and I am tired of scraping meal out of the toe bed and I am tired of nursing till the blood comes and I am tired of the insufferable needs of all these pale and frightened creatures—I have gone through thousands of apron strings I have cooked everything that moves for miles that is not my child for each child and I never even had the pleasure of conception (no masculine furred chest to break the monotony for the proverbial two minutes even)—the pure infants push out of me in nine month waves, but no Mary/Jesus stories, no thanks, just me with a shoe to bear where a cross would have been, and no-one wearing one like a charm at their throat.

The Arsonist

You have no idea how it pains me, here in Rome.
I was a student of the man who invented flying
buttresses. It guts me to make filigreed
centuries homeless.

The Weeper

They’ve embedded jewels in my eyes.

Ophelia, the only named one

I fought like hell to swim. They try to make you think you prize yourself less than love and if that doesn’t work they sew lead to your hem.

The Fat Lady

The man I take for boss keeps telling me
patience, your turn will come—
if you try singing now
you’ll miss the role of a lifetime.
I could have been Evita already.
I could have been my own avian choir.
I could be filling up my lungs
as we speak I could be cresting.

The Director

You don’t mind if I smoke.
Time is irrelevant. I was a bastard
mutt my last life but this time
I name myself. I started this artistic
beret business. French, etcetera. I enjoy
neither the inattentive audiences nor
the energy it takes to torture
those hardworking shadows on the stage.
I cannot have the one woman I’ve ever loved
unless I keep her pinned to needlework
in scene three. The rest of the cast
was incidental. Don’t think ill of me.
When I die they’ll inherit
the whole world.