When Little Red Riding Hood Writes Back


i. how old were you/ maybe three or two/the colour of childhood/ stumbling upon stairs or roots/ bitten by a werewolf/ smiling his ivory teeth/ and hair black as piano keys

ii. the new moon is a woman/ whimsical and full of careless lies/ she does not know /what it is to love the stars/ the old moon knew/ that’s why her sun burnt her face into darkness/ some say she is still there/ black as shadow/ still looking for herself/ did she find her face, mum/ will the wolf get me in the darkness, mum/ sing me to sleep, mum

iii. the forest is full of ancient magic/ ask the skeletal trees and you’ll know/ ask the lumberjack you spy on everyday/ but no one notices/ notice his tight jeans/ a fading blue, stained with mud and blood/ notice his face/ young but lined/ as though the wolves have sunk their teeth/ and carved their promise on his white flesh

iv. you are wearing grandma’s red dress/ the basket is in your hands/ the forest is dark and you don’t want to go/ listen/ you can hear the wolves/ singing to the old moon

v. you’ve read that story before/ perhaps the first girl told it when she became the second grandma/ perhaps she confessed it to the fireplace/ and the smoke whispered it to the trees/ and the trees told the birds in their dreams

vi. the lumberjack’s smile/ reminds you of a mutilated puppet/ trapped in the attic/ his fingers are rough but warm against your skin/ his tales are different

vii. sometimes the wolf strips her naked/ burns her red dress/ and eats her/ even as the moon watches without heartbreak

viii. you’re older now and you know that’s why the old moon lost her face/ but you let him lift your red dress all the same/ in your dreams the dress is white and the blood came tumbling afterwards

ix. in the moonlight he is glinting silver/ like a polished knife/ in that moment on the cold forest floor with his teeth sinking into your skin/ ivory against ivory/ you know the stories were all wrong/ red riding hood never lost her way

x. you can go to grandma’s house tomorrow/ the secrets in the baskets can wait

xi. grandma doesn’t notice because there’s nothing wrong with your face/ sometimes you think grandma isn’t there at all/ only a barren warehouse for the ghosts of your sins/ to hide in shame

xii. the lumberjack is knocking on the wooden door/ the stories shall say he’s coming to save you/ he leaves a trail of wolf prints for the new moon to trace

xiii. your red dress burns in the fireplace/ for a moment you hesitate/ the mirror catches your wolfish grin/ just before you let him in