Poetry Month 2012. 2: Little Red-Cap

I like fairytale poems. Do you know of any? Let me know, I’d love to look them up.

I’ve shared two before, conveniently in the same post as they are both by Moniza Alvi. One refers to Little Red Riding Hood, and the other to The Little Mermaid. There’s also Bluebeard of course. Is Bluebeard a fairytale? I shared a poem on the theme just a couple of days ago.

This one is by Carol Ann Duffy, from her The World’s Wife collection, which I love with all my heart.

     Little Red-Cap

     At childhood’s end, the houses petered out
     into playing fields, the factory, allotments
     kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men,
     the silent railway line, the hermit’s caravan,
     till you came at last to the edge of the woods.
     It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf.

     He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud
     in his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw,
     red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big ears
     he had! What big eyes he had! What teeth!
     In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me,
     sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink,

     my first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.
     The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods,
     away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place
     lit by the eyes of owls. I crawled in his wake,
     my stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer
     snagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoes

     but got there, wolf’s lair, better beware. Lesson one that night,
     breath of the wolf in my ear, was the love poem.
     I clung till dawn to his thrashing fur, for
     what little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf?
     Then I slid from between his heavy matted paws
     and went in search of a living bird – white dove –

     which flew, straight, from my hands to his hope mouth.
     One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said,
     licking his chops. As soon as he slept, I crept to the back
     of the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books.
     Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head,
     warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood.

     But then I was young – and it took ten years
     in the woods to tell that a mushroom
     stoppers the mouth of a buried corpse, that birds
     are the uttered thought of trees, that a greying wolf
     howls the same old song at the moon, year in, year out,
     season after season, same rhyme, same reason. I took an axe

     to a willow to see how it wept. I took an axe to a salmon
     to see how it leapt. I took an axe to the wolf
     as he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw
     the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones.
     I filled his old belly with stones. I stitched him up.
     Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone.

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One Response to Poetry Month 2012. 2: Little Red-Cap

  1. Pingback: Poetry Month 2012. 3: The Disputed History of Hansel and Gretel | impeus.com

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