by Michael A. Reyes

               after Little Red Riding Hood
               for Abuelita E., Mami C.

There will be nothing but miles
and miles of sand seething

in your shoes—my shoes,
sizzled, gum soles

chewed down to a whisper.
My white blouse instead bandaged

my feet on the second day.
On the third, the slow bloom of roses.

My legs were led.
The sand swallowing my ankles.

Here. This crimson string.
Here, on your wrist to ward off

the hunger of the land—
the wolves, its accomplice.

Don’t be fooled.
The land is not a woman.

The sand’s slow burning:—
The minutemen’s howl:—

Don’t stray for the lizards and beetles and reach
for the extended arms of the saguaros.

Beware the water jugs
without the etchings of good wishes.

Stay on the path and keep
your hermanito close.

Tell him to brandish his blonde hair.
and green eyes. Make sure he eats.

Here. Tortillas. In your sack.
Cut them in triangles for him.

Comportate, hija.
Be immaculate

as church tiles.
Don’t arrive a pitted peach—

nor noxious weeds in spring
after rain.

Be spring air
passing through white curtains—

be the young rose’s fist
firm in protest.

O the miles and miles of sand
and then the open mouth of wolves:—

Entry isn’t cushioned
in cotton.

If our world grates theirs
we bleed first.

Don’t be the stain on an arrow
pulled from a dove

for the promise of the silver moon
for the untangling of the stars in your palm

for water
for food.

The worst injury is believing
you don’t belong so much

to you. The sand becomes the wolves
becomes the sand.

The shrubs, the boulders—
the wolves in desperation.

Your grandmother will be waiting
on the other side:—

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