Wanted that red, wanted everything tucked inside that red, that body, it seemed, turned inside out, that walking flower, petals furled, leaved by the trees by the forest path, the yellow basket marking the center-- wanted to raise that rose petal skin to my gray face, barely to brush that warmth with my cold nose, but I knew she'd cry for mercy, help, the mother who'd filled the basket that morning, Wolf, she'd cry, Wolf, and she'd be right, why should she try to see beyond the fur, the teeth, the cartoon tongue wet with anticipation? And so I hid behind a tree as she passed on the path, then ran, as you know, to her grandmother's house, but not as they say, I knocked and when she answered I asked politely for her advice. And then, I swear, she offered me tea, her bonnet, an extra gown, she gave me more than advice, she tucked me into a readied bed, she smoothed my rough fur, I felt light as a flower, myself, stamened and stemmed in her sweet sheets. Not ate her, you see, but rather became her, flannel chest for the red head, hood that hid the pearl that when I touched it flushed and shone. What big eyes! and she opened the cape, tongue, mouth to her mouth, and opened everything, I crooned, crawling inside, wolf to flower, gray to rose, grandmother into child again, howl to whisper, dagger to cloak, my mother father animal arms, disarmed by love, were all she ever dreamed of.
The Wolf Reader
for Marilyn Hacker
There were the books, and wolves were in the books.
They roamed between words. They snarled and loped
through stories with bedraggled wolfish looks
at which the hackles rose and the world stopped
in horror, and she read them because she knew
the pleasures of reading, the page being rapt
with the magic of the fierce, and she could do
the talk of such creatures. So one day
when teacher asked if there were any who
could read, she rose as if the task were play,
to claim the story where she felt at home.
The tale was Riding Hood, the wolf was grey.
The fierceness was the wood where grey wolves roam.
She read it round, she read it through and through
It was as if the wolf were hers to comb,
like those bedraggled creatures in the zoo
that, trapped behind the bars, would snarl and stride
as you'd expect a page or wolf to do.
|About this poem:|
"'The Wolf Reader' came out of a formal exercise in which people told each other a dream and this dream set me off. I do write a good deal in formal patterns and the poem was written fast as my poems often are—I need momentum—then I fiddled with it for a while without changing anything much except punctuation and an odd word. The outside world, the inner world, and other people's inner worlds constitute a continuum like a river in which any imagination may fish. Rivers are not to be owned. This river brought up a wolf and a book."