Mudlark Flash No. 55 (2010)
          On Linda Ann Trenton
Her waist had always been a dainty thing,
a little bell that rang out as she swayed
over her children’s cribs with slumber songs.
But after they were grown she wanted lace
and silk and bone all bound with French stitching
into a corset so that she could train
herself to shrink, becomingly. And with
such practice as the years and straps allowed
she whittled herself to an hourglass
and farther still, so that her husband’s hands
could meet around her waist. It made him swoon.
When she became well-known, they posed like this
for magazines that touted elegance
of bygone years. Now she is sixty-eight,
still cinched into a twelve-inch black corset,
adored by men and girls alike who pine
for stalwart femininity. Oh bowels
and lungs, oh liver, stomach, pancreas.
Oh soft muscles, pushed in some other cage,
and breath that can’t support a solid voice.
Linda Ann, I want to hold your body.

          At the International Dairy Championships

I’m most proud of the six pounds of parmesan
cheese I ate in four minutes, in Nice. I’m not
cocky, though. Sitting next to me is Manny, hot
dog King, who stares me down, then turns to the flan
piled to our foreheads, flanked by extras in their tin pans.
When the whistle blows, I go nose-first, each clot
of custard sucked down mightily. Manny swats
up the next pan. My potential rule, next to this khan,
is failing. I’m not a quitter, though.  Self-control
is my best feature. With prayer, I double efforts,
inhale platefuls like mountain air, until I hear
the crowd screaming my name, tongues unrolled
and maybe jealous.  Victory is mine.  The pert
whistle docks back in.  My fists shoot up, cavalier.

          From the Casebooks of Dr. Gerardo Lozada

It is true, she was only five
the first time she gave birth.
Her spindle body’s curious girth
scared her mother enough to drive
a neighbor’s car to the bright hive
of Lima. Tight hospital berths.
It is true she was only five
the first time she gave birth.
A six pound boy was thriving,
getting ready to unearth
himself. Together, they were worth
the knife. They both survived.
It is true, she was only five.

          On Completing the Smallest Painting in the Western Hemisphere
My hand
is a giant
next to the fine brush tip, the thumb-
nail-sized canvas
on which
a girl
opens a door
in the middle of the sky, looks
down on a field:
You can
only see her
with a magnifying glass and
strong light, her world
away, blooming
inside itself, the common eye
passing over,

          In Response to His Feat of Pulling a 2-Ton Car for 10 Meters
                   by Ropes Attached to His Lower Eyelids

Because they would not buy me a drum set
Because even sailors need entertainers
Because they would not hand over the keys
Because (no pun intended)
          I am facing my fear of being torn open
Because my field of vision has grown considerably
Because you don’t want to know what’s done to me in my dreams
Because pushing known limits is what we were born for
Because it makes my mother proud
          and terrified

          Most Vows

The first time we met, my hair was bobbed
and banged, it was below zero, I was leaving
the grocery, hatless, swearing holy Mary
into the knife-air. Blue
was the color of the stranger’s Toyota, expired state
tags, just closing his truck full of groceries. Yes
is what I said when he offered a lift. Saying yes
always puts you right where you are. The engine bobbed
to life. State
your name, I nudged myself, and leaving
the lot together I scanned him, found him beautiful:  blue-
black hair like the movies and a twisted nose. Mary,
he said, is the best of names. If I were a Mary
Alice I’d monogram things. And yes
is what he said when I asked him in for a piece of blue-
berry pie and a bob
of whiskey. When I sat on his lap, he didn’t leave,
as a frightened man would, but spoke of his stint in the state
penitentiary, and I told him about my mother’s state
at 16, how she ran away with a carnival that came to town, gave birth to me on a merry-
go-round and cracked a gold pole. I told him two free birds like us should travel, leave  
the U.S. for some Yes
country like Spain, with its bobbing
toreadors, or the quince trees of Portugal, or India’s Blue
City. Then I undid my blue-
stitched heart and guided his fine, stately
hand in. When I bobbed
my face down to his, we soldered, made merry
under the kitchen table. We sang yes
as if it was the only word. That night, instead of leaving
he brought his groceries in. The next time we ventured out, leaves
still under snow, was to the courthouse. We wed again in Jersey for my blue
mother. Then bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok and said yes
again in each country we wound through. What state
could help but recognize our twin flames? We’ve married
sixty-two times now. If you hadn’t had that bob,
he says, if I’d left five minutes early. His favorite statements
are questions. One forelock of blue-black dips as we dock at Corfu. We marry
and marry. We yes and yes. Our linked hunger bobs.
          Harry Varnekee, 84, Grows the World’s Widest Apple

I am always loving my wife.
That year, especially, we would go
out to the fruit trees, like some afterlife,
but with blossoms. In that pink snow
we were passionate. Later, we would walk
in grass-sweet silence until the air got low
with rain. I would recite poetry to her: Unlock
your heart, yellow bird and We are filled with dance
even after our children have left us and our clocks
wind down. Some nights we drank tea with anise
and mint in the orchard when the moon was high
and summer too hot to sleep. We must have glanced
at every bough and upturned root by July.
It was our attention that made them swell.
After the experts of produce visited, verified 
that the largest was big as a hen and smelled
like roses, after the photos, we cut into its blue-
veined whiteness. What we ate tasted like bells.

Laurel Bastian has work in or forthcoming from Margie, Puerto del Sol, Tar River Poetry, Cream City Review, and Nimrod among others. She was a finalist for the Ruth Lilly Fellowship, sponsored by the Poetry Foundation, is on the faculty at Madison College, and runs a creative writing program in a men’s correctional facility near Madison, Wisconsin.

Acknowledgment: “On Completing the Smallest Painting in the Western Hemisphere,” which appears here as one of Laurel Bastian’s Broken Records, originally appeared in Anderbo.

Copyright © Mudlark 2010
Mudlark Flashes | Home Page