Alexandra Teague

Baba Yaga Appears in Intro to Feminist Theory and Gives an Impromptu Lecture

“And has Baba Yaga really got iron teeth?” asked Vanya.
“Iron, like the poker and tongs,” said old Peter.
“What for?” said Maroosia.

Dear class:  dear guy who just raised his hand again
to say the patriarchs were right
to be worried:  women today are getting divorced-pregnant-
teenage-independent—just look at this country. Women are rising up
like winter under asphalt, crumbling this nation’s highways
til the rumble strips make the sound of fraying nerves;
until the baby teeth inside the mouths of families jostle loose
and spit out bullets. (Yes, I know bullets aren’t iron.)
Yes, I have seen the blood. It’s like the Bible—
that part where God says drive only in your lane or else the pig gets slaughtered
(and also your daughter). That myth
where the woman is a cave:
a river no one can locate inside her. She moves room to room
to room:  in each that noise like bristles of a giant broom
sweeping each trace of her passing.
Let’s call the broom
patriarchy. Let’s call the girl Zelda. Let’s say she holds
her father’s hand like a lion tamer holds the hoop:  hoping
danger sees its shiny ring and plunges through it.
Let’s say she has no father. Her father beats her.
The cave of her body is overflowing with blind,
electric fish. She has surgery to remove the river, but
when the surgeon looks inside, he finds a pair of
ancient silver scissors. They’ve already cut
through her. Remember how a woman
is always divided? Who left those scissors inside her?
Once upon a time, last year, a woman
was hog-tied in a neighborhood park, stabbed until she died
a mile from here. Once upon a. . . A boy raised
his hand to say You’re confusing the system
designed to protect you with anomalous violence. Dear boy:
you are making my teeth ache
like metal filings stuck in those patterns
on a guidance counselor’s desk. Once upon: a girl
cried rape; cried beating; incest; silence; cried bullet; cried baby;
cried. You get the picture (or don’t you?)
Do you know the difference between a woman wrapped in plastic
and a Christmas tree? A hula hoop and a hierarchy
built like a ladder with rungs down to a mother
digging bomb rubble for the arm of her child?
Yes, hand-broom? How ironic: we both agree women
have natural maternal urges. Yes, I call myself
a witch. (See witch as anomaly.) (See anomaly:  from deviation
from the common rule. From inequality.) Once upon a time,
we told a story so many times it ceased to be anomalous;
it remained anomalous. A girl drowned in the world’s
river. A witch tried to point out the water. A hand-broom cried—
(see cry:  from squeal like a pig.) (See witch. See Circe.)—
But you also eat children! (See Leviticus and Jeremiah.)
See the way my mouth moves. That terrible clacking.
That’s statistics. 0% of the people in this room were not born
from a woman. 0% of your fairytales were written by fairies.
Yes, I agree we can learn valuable lessons. If you put your fingers inside
the rings on the handle and point the sharp tip up,
you can blind yourself with scissors.

Ode to Theda

               America was on the cusp of something resembling sexual change,
               but it wasn’t quite there. It needed a half-naked vampire
               with kohl-caked eyes to push [it] towards desire.
               “Scandals of Classic Hollywood:  The Most Wicked Face of Theda Bara”

Because who doesn’t sometimes eat bones
in a dollhouse:  pink rose of Sharon on the wallpaper;

tea kettle shrieking like a cozy bat. Your bite:
what every man wanted as the hidden reason

for his collar: pressed and upright. A sexy sweep-
across-the-drum-skin brush with death. Your name

stretching mirror-writing shadows of pyramids
through Cincinnati’s suburb streets. Terrorism,

even television, not quite there yet. Just the ordinary
terror of opposable thumbs. So much animal

beyond them. Why not zoo it up for the cameras?
Remind this country that domestication and satiation

just share a suffix:  no nearer than china plates
and South China tigers. Lick the blood up

like the ketchup it is. They’re wild about the wild
you. Who doesn’t wish sometimes the stiff beautician

were the Sphinx come back with riddles of rollers
and small talk? What’s half sweet-bred girl and all

vampire? Why did George Martinez push his wife
out the window? Testify for us (says the California court):

can’t a vamp not be satisfied? Won’t she spit men out
like teeth from a prizefight? What choice does a tired

husband have but self-preservation? Lie to us.
Say somewhere there’s an apartment so full of sex sex

sex the windows shatter of their own accord. The vases
are desperate for water. Your eyes like black-out curtains

for air raids that aren’t quite here yet. Like telescopes
scanning darkness for desire. Promise us nothing but this.

Alexandra Teague is the author of two books of poetry— Mortal Geography (Persea 2010) and The Wise and Foolish Builders (Persea 2015)—and the new novel The Principles Behind Flotation (Skyhorse 2017). Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Southern Humanities Review, Blackbird, Barrow Street, and other journals. She is a professor in the MFA program at University of Idaho. You can find out more, here: