from “Red, Requiem”

The White Girl (floating poem)

Your undaughter is born during a thunderstorm
a hurricane a nor’easter at the ocean a pop-up
blizzard in late March & April is the cruelest
month & she is born during a full moon a blue
moon a hunter’s moon a harvest
moon & you name her something
mythological or  archetypal or Gaelic or after
your  favorite doll & she is called Ariadne or
Jane or Fionnoula or Blythe & you take her to
the museum the library the playground Paris
Coney Island the Four Seasons in maryjanes
starched eyelet for high tea & she wears pigtails
wears bangs wears striped tights wears knit
cardigans & she knits or paints or writes plays
or playacts & plays the cello the piano sings
in a choirloft sings around campfires at girl
scout camp sings at bonfires on the beach
at night under fireworks & she loves peanutbutter
pickles olives softshell crabs coffee icecream ice-
skating body-surfing Shakespeare & you sing to her
hush little all the pretty little horse & cart turn over
the ocean beyond the sea & read to her Little Red

Riding Hood Little Women Little House on the

Prairie Bridge to Terabithia Narnia & when you
send her into the deep dark woods you arm her you
armor her she has a knife in her basket a needle in her
basket a bottle of wine a loaf of bread a spool of thread
a silver bullet & still & yet & everafter.

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from “Red, Requiem”

Ruby

One leg laced & one
leg braced & seethingly
fragile, I’ll take the path
of needles
any day.

Stupid children take toys
to the woods, get lost
there all the time, like this
needle, this needle sings, this
needle would send any poor devil
to his fate.

Needles & feathers from
certain unnamed
flightless birds. There are
peacocks on the walls &
all we need
is some thunder
& lightning.

Boom. (Flash),
boom.

from “Red, Requiem”

Rose

To be in the mist, to
be mist or missed, I
am a cautionary
miss, cautionary tale, red
ribbon in my hair, I feed
on mist as light as air.

Hazy & no-color, as if
only half-there— as if still
in the process of becoming
— abandoned
playground in the heart
of the forest, broken &
lost, like most things
in our forest, like most
things are, mostly broken
toys, & rusty, but some still
work a bit & a bit
of fun to sit on a squeaky
swing in the middle of a silent
forest. Strangely soothing
the squeak singing through
the mist & dark, soft scream
sung squeak escaping
a balloon.

If this balloon
didn’t have a string it would
simply float away, I’ve got no
strings
on me.

Whenever I get to her
house, it’s dark, no matter what
the season or how early I leave
home or how long
it takes me, it’s night
when I arrive & all
mist & strange. Shiver
in my bones.

from “Red, Requiem”

Ginger

There is always
a door. & a door can
either be open
or shut.

Feathers, flowers,
sticks &
stones. You can
grab my skin but
you’ll never get
my bones.

Small things move
fast. I’m faster
than the fastest
fly & quicker
than a bug. Now
you see me, now
you don’t.

Tree on hill? Check! &
so many ravens— a
conspiracy, a constable,
an unkindness of.

A feather
for my collection. Bare
tree, bare-
foot. Feathers &
flowers & telephone lines
line the forest, cut through
the trees for the forest.

In the forest the wolves
were small & there was
small music & I danced
with the girl
in the forest & I wore
red & she wore white
or black & the shape
her mouth made when
she said mouth made me
want to kiss her, her
mouth, & we lied we lie
down, down, lie still.

& still
not, my sister, skin
& bones, shut
the door, hang
up the phone.

from “Red, Requiem”

Robin

I’m a kid, I’m a
kid, I’m a little
kid.  & I play & I
play in my little
way.  Pat-a-cake, pat-a-
cake.  I see a saw.  Slide
the hide.  Go round
the merry.  Yum,
candy! The balloon
I lost on my birthday— is this
it?  I want to play
with a big
& cuddly thing.

Path of needles, or path
of pins?  I’d have to be very
careful with this needle & not
run anymore.  I could run
really fast with a boot like
that.  Or at least
pretend to.  Wild games
are best, running &
jumping & riding
riding, riding.

I ride the shopping
cart through the woods or
down the wooden
stairs or rocks, I rock
the cart & sing.  Buy me now
at discount prices! Topple
in dust & dirty
dirty dirt.

If wolves are like
dogs, then.  A cloud howling
to the moon, a wolf
singing, a singing
wolf.  A young dead
bird.  Not me.  Not
me.

Dig in the dirt in the deep
dark woods.  Dirty nails, grave-
scratching headstones & headless
angel, hands out, hello.  We put
people in the ground &
flowers.  Dear
Lord, make heaven be
a fun place.  Amen.

Play surprise, the best wild
game:  ride.  Run & jump
on back & ride, how
soft his ears, what high
swing & belly
tickle.  Fists full
of fur & we all fall.

Fall.  Footing, slipped
slipped my hood right
off, right off my
head.  My head slipped
right off.  Room full of birthday
cake & balloons, window full
of moon.  A baby’s bed, a bloody
bed, an empty
grave, open.

The Path & Reds, Riding

After I read some of my fairy tale series in progress at Chapter & Verse recently, Greg Bem was telling me about a computer video game called The Path, which is based somewhat on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.

Red Sisters

In the game, you choose to control one of six sisters, each a sort of incarnation of Red Riding Hood, & are then sent to visit her ubiquitous sick grandmother.  You can choose whether to stay on the path (which leads straight to grandmother’s house, ending the game rather quickly), or to wander into the surrounding woods, where there are strange & spooky & beautiful things to see, & wolves lying in wait.

It’s the going off the path where the good stuff happens in the game.  Although this isn’t really a game– if anything, it’s an un-game.  You do not shoot things or defeat monsters or solve puzzles.  You wander about in a lovely, painterly setting & it’s all very dreamy.  But you can read about that here or here.  

The point is, after losing several nights to poking around the forest as different Reds & seeking out each Red’s wolf (for each, manifested differently, & only for one as a literal wolf), I started poking around my fairy tale anthologies, & began sketching out a new poem series: one after each of the Red sisters, but also informed by fairy tales & folklore tropes & convention, as is the rest of my larger manuscript in progress.  I’ll post as they take shape, starting today.