EVERYONE IS DOING THEIR BEST AND THEY CAN ALSO DO BETTER
A woman set the world on fire today.
Maybe that was the best she could do
in the strain of the moment.
I mean, it’s not like she set the moon on fire, too,
and Mars isn’t looking any worse for wear.
In fact, every place but earth is very much
not on fire, though she could have done it,
though she almost did. But she controlled herself.
She made do with just the world, and it’s not as if the fire
won’t go out. Look, it’s already dying down,
the flames shrinking from waving flags
to wiggling tongues. She could have done something
more final: smothered the breath out of the world
with the heft of a pillow or shot the world
point blank in its slow-spinning head.
But she didn’t. She set the world on fire
and only the green things died.
Of course, it would have been better if she hadn’t set the fire
in the first place. I’m not saying
what she did was right. But give her time
to sit, time to heal. She’ll learn to manage
on a smaller scale: just a continent, just a big, empty barn. Just the candle’s small
and willing wick.
HYBRISTOPHILIA IN THE TEENAGE GIRL
We tell you to watch out. We say, avoid men who look a certain way, who smile a certain way, who walk in any direction except away from you. When you ask us why, we say that men do ghastly things. They pretend to be vulnerable, asking for help with feeble voice before knocking you out with a strike of their crutch. Or else they sweet talk, convincing you you’re prettier than you are, telling you how the blue of your sweater brings out the blue of your eyes. Then, next thing you know you’re floating in the river, your eyes rolled white. This is our stern job, to provide you with stories
of men who want you dead. You begin to imagine hands exploring the shape of your throat, your body being traced by some sharp, teasing object-- a needle, perhaps, or a shard of glass. It’s dreams like this that take your breath away, that arch your spine in torturous desire. You ask us
what’s the difference between pain and pleasure? We answer by warning of stairwells and drunk coeds, dark alleys and Black Dahlias, dumpsters, decaying debutants, and strangers donning ski masks. We give you pepper spray in a pink can, a key to slide between your knuckles. We teach you to scream like you mean it. We offer two options: be a victim in the making, or study these flashcards we made, each showing a different piece of a woman’s hacksawed body. Once you’ve memorized the crime, decide if you want that to be you.
-- Annie Przypyszny is a poet from Washington, DC. She is an Assistant Editor for Grace and Gravity and has poems published or forthcoming in The Northern Virginia Review, Pacifica Literary Review, The Healing Muse, North Dakota Quarterly, Tupelo Quarterly, Ponder Review, SWWIM, and others.