Sunday, April 17, 2005

the book of red (draft)

In purely oral fairytales, the initial victim is rarely, if ever, killed permanently.--
Alan Dunes Little Red Riding Hood: A Casebook.

And so easy for a girl to be lost.

In a village, at the edge of a forest.

It happens everyday.

On television. Or in dark hallways.

Yes mother, she says, doe-eyed and dolled.

Yes, mother.

Before it begins,

there are teas and a crock of custard.

There is wine and a basket of cheese.

One day in the beginning, there is the white

heat sliding into everything, and all the dishes

washed and placed politely in the cupboard.

Before there is a kiss and a red wool cape.

A warning.


What we know of wolves,

we also know of hunger.

One day she could be walking

to school, or reading a novel

and it just happens.

Even jumping rope.

It gets dark so early now. In the woods,

with their heavy thatch. In the kitchen,

with it’s single match. With everything

turning in: columbines, mushrooms,

the tiniest snail tonguing the branch.

And her so tired, the distance counted

by tree stumps and broken sticks.

So hungry, surely up to her knuckles

in the apricot jam when he found her

and loved the way she startled,

that jump in her pulse that set him to wanting.

That tiny breathless oh.


And so easy to be distracted,

the peculiar glow

of lavender, grass stains,

and his fingers already into her.

It happens everyday.

On buses. In bathrooms.

Before there was a

path and a task, something

forgotten that spoke

of open dresses and fever.

Before it begins,

the yes mother and the pencil case.

The rollerskates and the tidy frown.


even the bones of her ears thrumming.

Some nights even the dolls had teeth.


What we know of wolves,

we know of danger.

Nothing to do but follow now, the trail

gone mossy and inhospitable.

Lewd and overgrown.

Him doing wolfish things at her back,

and how the sun caught the cage

of trees through her fingers.

Always another further on,

daffodils and strawberries the size

of her fist. Here, where

the past splits infinitive,

and the path divides:

The road of brambles and petticoats.

The road of nettles and over coats.

She could be writing a letter,

or making the bed, and it happens.


Before we could remember, it goes like this,

the grandmother devoured and lost.

The grandmother devoured and saved.

The strip-tease and the bawdy farce.

There was a wound, and the girl

gone down to the bottom of it.

There was a bed, and all

the blankets had knives.

One day in the beginning

there was this terrible thing

with wolves. All the stories

had blood in them.

What big eyes you have, she’ll say, what big teeth.

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