by Hayley Stone

You’re tired of plucking bloody girls
off bloody floors, your temples desecrated
by muffled


You weary of standing around, watching
others imprison themselves 
in wood, bursting 
into splinters
over a kiss
young women choosing
to avoid being plundered by fingers, tongues.
No one believes they said no.

She’s not the first.
(She’s not the second, either.)
But maybe, you think, helping her
into scales instead of clothes,
she will be the last.


You worry constantly
it’s not enough.
She still shudders when touched, prays
to be left alone.
Her stare is a tomb for herself.

Give her snakes. Yes.
Cold-blooded, slithering,
but gentle.
A dozen friends to keep her company
in the shadows.
Their venom is just a precaution.
Anyone who says otherwise
has never known the fear 
of being crushed
beneath a stranger.

What else can you do for her
but what you’ve already done?
When she begins responding
to the name MONSTER
with teeth instead of tears,
is that victory?

You tell her everything’s fine, but
deep down you know the truth.

A bronze shield attracts sunlight
just outside the entrance to her cave,
and another man calling himself hero
waits for her back
to turn.

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