Girl, Wolf, Woods

Girl, Wolf, Woods
by Theodora Goss

There are days on which I am the girl in the woods
in my red cap, jaunty, with my basket, plentiful,
wearing my innocence like a placard.

There are days on which I am the wolf, slavering
for either seedcake or a grandmother,
on which I am a hunger waiting
to be fed, a need, a desire.

There are days on which I am the woods,
silent, impenetrable.

Let me wander from the path, gathering flowers,
for night comes all too soon.

Feed me, for I am starved.
I want wine and cakes and meat. I want
the girl in the red cap and neat
apron. I want to crunch her bones.
I want to lope through darkness.

Let me be still, let me grow and feel
sunlight on my arms, which are also branches.
Let me hear birdsong.

There was a girl with a red cap,
a chaperon as they called it in that region,
which was famed for lace-making.
She ventured into the woods. The sun
was shining, but it was cool under the trees.

There, she met a wolf who was hungry
not for herself, but for her pups,
born late in the season, whom she was nursing.
Give me wine, she said, so I may be strong,
give me seedcake, or I will gobble up
your grandmother, and then you.

The girl knelt and said, here is wine,
here is cake, here is meat, a cold chicken leg
wrapped in a napkin, packed in the basket
by my mother, who embroidered this apron
with a row of red hearts.
I was taking it to my grandmother,
who has rheumatism and cannot run far,
but would be tough anyway.
Come, eat. I will share it with you.

The branches above sighed
as the wind passed through them,
and farther down the path, in a cottage
surrounded by lavender and sage,
among which bees were gathering
nectar from the flowers,
her grandmother was snoring.

That is not how the story goes, you insist.
But that is how I prefer to tell it.

(The image is an illustration for “Little Red Riding Hood” by Honor Charlotte Appleton.)

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