Tunes for a Monday Morning
Autumn Poetry Challenge: Day 2

Autumn Poetry Challenge: Day 1

Little Red Riding Hood by Jillian Tamaki

Little Red Cap by Walter Crane

Inspired by your response to the Ondine post, it's Poetry Challenge week here on Myth & Moor, running from now through Saturday.

I am challenging all you poets out there to share a poem (or poems) on the theme of the day. There are no rules beyond adhering to the theme: brand new poems are encouraged, but your older poems are welcome too. You don't have to be a published poet to contribute; you don't have to be a regular reader of this blog; and you don't even have to be an adult (but if you're a child, please let us know your age). To participate, just post your poem(s) in the comments thread.

Regular comments are welcome too, of course.

I'll start the ball rolling each morning by posting a poem from the Journal of Mythic Arts archives, along with related imagery.

Today, I'm looking for poems inspired by the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Here's an excellent one by my friend and publishing colleague Lawrence Schimel, who lives in Madrid, Spain:

Little Red Riding Hood by Margaret Ely WebbJourneybread Recipe

"Even in the kitchen there was
the smell of journey"
          - Anne Sexton, "Little Red Riding Hood"

1. In a tupperware wood, mix child and hood. Stir slowly. Add wolf.

2. Turn out onto a lightly floured path, and begin the walk home from school.

3. Sweeten the journey with candied petals: velvet tongues of violet, a posy of roses. Soon you will crave more.

4. Knead the flowers through the dough as wolf and child converse, tasting of each others flesh, a mingling of scents.

5. Now crack the wolf and separate the  Little Red Riding Hood by Ana Juanwhites—the large eyes, the long teeth—from the yolks.

6. Fold in the yeasty souls, fermented while none were watching. You are too young to hang out in bars.

7. Cover, and, warm and moist, let the bloated belly rise nine months.

8. Shape into a pudgy child, a dough boy, lumpy but sweet. Bake half an hour.

9. Just before the time is up—the end in sight, the water broken–split the top with a hunting knife, bone-handled and sharp.

10. Serve swaddled in a wolfskin throw, cradled in a basket and left on a grandmother's doorstep.

11. Go to your room. You have homework to be done. You are too young to be in the kitchen, cooking.

- Lawrence Schimel

Little Red-cap by Lisbeth Zwerger

If you'd like to know more about the history of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, go here.

Little Red Riding Hood illustration by Lisbeth Zwerger

The Little Red Riding Hood art above is by Jillian Tamaki, Walter Crane (1845-1915), Margaret Ely Webb (1877-1965), Ana Juan, and (the last two paintings) Lisbeth Zwerger. "Journeybread Recipe" by Lawrence Schimel appeared in Black Thorn, White Rose (Avon Books) and The Journal of Mythic Arts. It is copyright c 1994 by Lawrence Schimel; all rights reserved by the author.

PLEASE NOTE: There are so many responses to this post that Typepad has broken them into two pages. Be sure to click on the "Show More Comments" link at the end of the first page (which is easy to miss) in order to see the lastest poetry additions.


What a lovely idea! Since I'm not a poet myself, I'll contribute a link to one of my favourite Red Riding Hood poems, The Waiting Wolf by Gwen Strauss, which I've found online here:

Thank you, Cynthia. I love Strauss' fairy tale poems. Here are a two more from the JoMA archives:

"Silver and Gold" by Ellen Steiber

"Will" by Jane Yolen

She invades my space,
Caped in bright blood,
hooded in death.

Now she skips
With her basket
Frothing with food:
Fruit neatly washed,
Meats trimmed and cleaned
And laundered of life,
Grain, crushed and ground
And burnt into bread.

She brings a New Order
Into my wild,
And I must resist it,
Knowing the woodsman
Waits with his axe.

Terri--thanks for posting "Will".

Stuart: Whoosh! That one cuts to the bone.

And here are two other published Red Riding Hood poems I have done:

Grandma Wolf

Was I fooled?
Not a bit.
Grandma’s nightgown
didn’t fit.

©2012 Jane Yolen from GRUMBLES FROM THE FOREST

Red At Seventy-Four

So you thought to fool me again,
you old bastard, with your sweet growls,
your shoulders broad enough
to carry in the wood without sweat,
your big eyes blinking out lies,
your promises of cakes and wine.

You think you can cozen me,
undress me, steal my nightgown,
my skin, my bones, take me in,
devour me whole, leave me nothing
of myself, not even a shadow,
not even a memory.

You believe I have learned nothing
in seventy-four years, that the woods
have taught me little: the scurrying ants
carrying ten times their own weight,
dung beetles rolling their foul burdens,
coyotes wallowing in rotting meat,
vultures, with their appetites
worn around naked necks.

You are wrong, old man, mistaking me
for an innocent, counting on my curiosity,
expecting my obedience, requiring my silence.
I am too old for such nonsense.
I’ll eat you up this time.

©2014, coming out next year in the mini book CRONE and then again in the expansion of MAIDEN/MOTHER/CRONE mini books as TRIAD.

What wonderful poems - I'll look forward to more of these!

What a lovely idea!

This one of mine first appeared in Chiaroscuro long, long ago, all the way back in 2006, and as such is practically juvenalia.

The Temptation of Little Red Ridinghood

you, you,
streak in the night
pan-flashing fleet, fly
out of my sight
into my head, spin
me into
sugar sticking
*tease* shy
girls and their eyes
*sir*, what you think
is of no consequence, for
the giggles hiding
between finger-fans
are seeking that place
under your skin
where it's warm and tight
and *prickly*—gasp! what
has been wrought, what
have you got, Mr.
*I know more than
little girls and
they'd best
listen—you don't
know, so,
eat up the crumbs and
get lost, boy.
The wood will do
you good.

Great idea!

I've written one! I think this was first published in a chapbook of mine that came out from Small Beer Press . . . (Geographical location is Boston.)

What Her Mother Said

Go, my child, through the forest
to your grandmother's house, in a glade
where poppies with red mouths grow.

In this basket is an egg laid
three days ago,
the three days our Lord lay sleeping,
unspotted, from a white hen.
In this basket is also a skein
of wool, without stain,
unspun. And a comb that the bees
industriously filled
from the clover in the far pasture,
unmown since the sun
thawed it, last Spring.

If you can take it without breaking
anything, I will give you
this ring.

Stay, child, and I'll give you this cap
to wear, so the forest creatures whose eyes
blink from the undergrowth will be aware
that my love protects you. The creatures
lurking beneath the trees,
weasels and stoats and foxes, and worse
than these.

And child, you must be wise
in the forest.

When the wolf finds you, remember:
be courteous, but evasive. No answer
is better than a foolish one.

If you stray from the path, know
that I strayed also. It is no great matter,
so long as you mark the signs:
where moss grows on bark, where a robin
builds her nest. The sun
sailing west.

But do not stop to gather
the hawthorn flowers, nor yet
the red berries which so resemble
coral beads. They are poisonous.
And do not stop to listen
to the reeds.

He must not be there first,
at your grandmother's house.

When your grandmother serves you,
with a silver spoon, on a dish
like a porcelain moon, Wolf Soup,
remember to say your grace
before you eat.

And know that I am pleased
with you, my child.

But remember, when returning through the forest,
kept warm against the night by a cloak
of the wolf's pelt:
the hunter is also a wolf.

The howling in the wood or on the moors
is almost singing; that is why it scares.
A predator that thinks as well as tears
your flesh with teeth, whose bloody drooling jaws

can almost speak. Whose eyes have deep inside
a sense of someone watching who might know
just who you are. At night, they almost glow
with magic. One lived with us, and he lied

said he was human, though his one long brow
strange looking fingers gave the game away.
They come among us, so grandmothers say,
they want our love, but really don't know how

to be quite human. So they kill instead
hoping to eat the secret from the dead.

Ok here goes - I am a mixed media artist, not a poet... I think there is a Red Riding Hood necklace developing in my minds eye. Until then:

Maiden meets man? wolf?
woodland path, rite of passage
choose needles or pins?

I loved the symbolic meanings of pins/maiden and needles/woman so while I was referencing the paths I was also implying so much more...

Cloaked in adventure
The beast will swallow you whole
The path is a blade

Little Red Riding Hood – and a scenario for a novel

Mother dead.
Mother not dead.
Faith sent to a grandmother unbeknownst
across the sea.
No woods till just near the very end
Then not a cottage but a mansion
With a cottage (the gamekeeper evicted)
Where grandmother lives now
(The mansion houses a hospital)
Gin soaked and tobacco roughened.

Where on the night of her arrival
Under the skittering and alive thatched roof,
In her bedroom -- There’s blood in Faith’s panties.
And a boy looks round her door,
A dark boy who loves Jesus.
Is he the wolf?

Cinderella and sleeping beauty also come into it.
Her mother up at the hospital mansion
Looks peachy as Grandmother smooths
A tender cloth of gold
Over the still brow and neck
Of Lady Amelia, Molly to her friends,
Shut in, and shut out by her husband
Who ran away with their baby
To a brighter, simpler life.

The honorable Faith’s pupils are huge
Her mind a chasm of sorrow and regret
Horror, confusion and hormones.

No, he’s not the wolf.
[thanks to Susannah for posting this to a poem-a-month group I'm in - this lateral-imagining helped me with a novel (series) I've been prewriting for ages and am now actually writing]

Here's an old one I wrote (under a different name). Remember this one Terri?


I'll never forget the first moment I saw you
flying across field and fallow
in a wild ride to grandmother's house —
scarlet cape streaming out behind you,
white hands urging that black steed
to madness, to death, to certain ruin.

Like one of the furies you appeared,
a creature not of this tame green place
but of my land,
where the lamia creep in crags and caves
and the bogey haunt misty borderlands.
A country where ghouls devour the sun
and the whirlwind stirs the fog on a whim.
I watched and waited.
And when I realized nothing pursued you,
not a demon's furious hunt or a spurned lover.

I smiled
and followed quietly on the forest fringe.
And now as the darkness approaches,
my appetite whetted by the rising moon,
ravenous thoughts consuming me,
forcing me to madness at the lush pain of it all
I raise my voice to the stars
and surrender.

I can't stand the fierce seduction a moment more —
that thick, dark pelt of sable hair and scarlet hood
hiding the heat of your throbbing pulse
from my ears, eyes and mouth.
I can't bear the torment, the bliss,
the fear of your savage secrets.
I love you so.
I'll gobble you up.

I didn't think I would join in here, but as I read, this idea just came to me with images from some of the words above, and Jenny's needle imagery definitely took hold. OK, so I've always written poems for myself, have no idea about punctuation, etc. and I usually write and re-write...

My great, great grandmother never fully recovered.
The story was passed mother to daughter,
as needles pierced cloth, two women
lit by a flickering fire,
in the safety of the stone house.

I imagine it was meant to be helpful, this story of
my ancestor, that I might know the dangers of the wood,
but fear was sewn under my skin,
in and out with a strong, red thread.

Up and down my spine, I feel the stitch.
On full moon nights it tightens.
I feel them out there,
silently slipping through silver-guilt trees.

Working by the firelight,
I wait to know when I should share the tale with her,
my golden-haired daughter.

Should I tell it?

the afterward

it is the afterward
it is the aftermath
her grandmother
is still tucked in bed
her face turned to the wall
she hasn't spoken since it happened

and the girl is left
alone with it all
with the loss of innocence
with the loss of beauty
with the loss of her life

she doesn't hear
the brook as journeys
she doesn't hear
the birds singing

she sits
in the darkening kitchen
she has shut the door
she has closed the curtains

and she sits
she is alone
with the loss
of her forest
of her world

the wolf
is dead
but her
has not yet begun
she sits staring
into nothing

in the before
she had played
in the wood
she had sung to a dove
she had gathered flowers
she had run with butterflies

now the woodsman is calling
has called to her twice
and the dog has
lifted his eyes to hers
put his greying muzzle
beneath her hand

she lifts her head
nods and rises
and starts the long walk
back to her life

'Will' and 'Grumbles from the Forest', Such power!

What a startling community of poets there is in this land of Myth and Moor!!!

Jane, can't wait for CONE!! GRUMBLES FROM THE FOREST - yes!!

woops.. CRONE, of course.

I agree, Stuart, I keep coming back to see what other jewel has been posted!

Off the top of my head, so not the greatest, but here it is...

Red is the colour of blood, of blood.
White knuckles clench, like winter, like ice.
My frozen heart pumps out the darkening flood.
Skin stretched over bone, like death come too soon.

Black is the colour of my true love’s hair.
Red are my lips, my mouth, my tongue.
Red is the colour of the grey wolf’s maw.
Black is the hair in my eyes as I run.

White are the teeth, there red is dripping.
My love is like a red, red rose.
Black are the eyes that hold no pity.
Will it hurt, mother, when he swallows me whole?

This is fabulous!
Thank you, Terri and everyone else.

I took the opportunity to tinker with a poem from my 'needs work' folder.


who is this wolf i meet
under moon-cold sheets
in the mossy darkness left
by the swallowed-sun.

my hands explore,
straying from the paths
of needles and wildflowers
into the deeper ways of the wood.

i press a hand to his belly -
all stretched skin, grizzled hair -
and other hands reach out,
try to take hold of mine.

when he wasn't looking,
i left a bowl of meat
at the foot of the bed.
just in case.

in front of the fire
lies a bodiless, russet pile,
parts of me which didn’t
make it into the flames.

we did drink the wine though.
i smashed the empty bottle
against the stone mantlepiece
though i can’t quite remember why.

now i wonder

how long will he stay
this half-tamed wolf
whom i coaxed in the door
with wishes and lies.

and who will i be when he leaves,
tail between his legs,
furs gathered hastily in his arms
belly full to bursting.

who am i who sits
cross-legged on the ground
eating scraps from the bowl
he knocked over on his way out.

This is so awesome Terri -- so much fun to read. I shared this post on an Arts & Letters group I run for online teachers-- hope they and their student can take advantage of reading all the wonderfulness here! Thanks for setting this up. So like you to bring a huge community together in creative play. xoxo

These are all absolutely wonderful! Thank you, thank you everyone -- I'm enjoying the variety of poems so much. (And do keep them coming!) I'll be running the Challenge through Saturday, so there are four more themes to go....

As for me, writing poetry is something I do only very rarely, so here's a different kind of contribution to today's theme:

Midori, please tell your teachers and their students that they are welcome to contribute poems too. All are welcome.

...and might you try one yourself sometime this week, Kath?

The Red Coat

I look back to the days
when my skin was pale as the crescent moon and as slight
I would sing a tisket a tasket
and swing myself around the ancient lumpen form that was my mother,
as if my basket was overflowing.
She would ignore me and breathe the fumes of a dragon across the room,
which in turn would push me out of the door like a shout.

I knew they would come, the wolves,
and slaughter me.
I had dreams of a saviour, longing for strong arms,
hair like golden fleece rising upon them like a sun drenched forest
sword at the ready,
but my father was shaped like a probing finger
and reaching out was to invite the wolf to feast.

I slammed the door on them
I shouldered my own axe, my own basket,
filled with fairy cakes, a lump of cheese, a knife.
My feet lead the way lightly as in dreams,
stealthily as in nightmares
and I pulled my coat over my head to shut out the din of the rain.
It was, of course, red and I was bleeding with it.
The damp earth drank from me,
the trees lapped me up thirstily,
the wolves smelt me.

I was devoured time and time again,
I laid myself down in fear,
I surrendered believing I was safe in the belly of the beast,
that I would, eventually, be released. I was.
Shat out, a stream of diarrhoea pooling on the floor,
watery, terrified.

My knife had disappeared, my axe was gone,
fairy cakes stolen, cheese rotting.
There was only the red of my blood to remind me of leaving.
I looked to the arms of my grandmother and
turned away, knowing the wolf had already been.

Now I tell my own daughter where the wolves hide,
and I give her a red cloak to hide in
I remind her that her blood is more powerful than any knife
her will stronger than any axe
and I promise to keep the wolf from the door.

Riding to Gramma's

Walk to the bus stop
past light poles
growing from the pavement
like metal trees...
watch the shadows,
zip that beat-up red hoodie
a little higher;
keep the goodies safe
a little longer.

There's wolves everywhere.

How lovely this idea is! It's so great to feel inspired to write a poem over lunch, when I never would have thought to normally. Thank you!


My grandma wouldn’t play wolf
Wouldn’t show which blood to drink
Kept her teeth on the inside

They ate her husband young
Ripped a huntsman from her belly

Instead we played at mermaids
Beads and mirrors in the bath
Safer creatures, mostly girl

She knew it was better
If they don’t know what we are

Mine, which also references "Hansel and Gretel," from my chapbook Out of the Black Forest (Centennial Press, 2012) that just won the SFPA Elgin Award. "Tail" originally appeared in Mythic Delirium.


It was the last fairy’s gift. They cut it off
immediately, while the baby screamed,
but it was back the next day, twitching
and curly. By the time she was of age to
appear at court, bustles and farthingales
had become de rigeur. An advantageous
alliance that could not be repudiated;
a magnificent wedding to the crown
prince—a hunchback. She was warned
to wear voluminous nightgowns, to lie
on her back, always undress in the dark.
But the royal bedroom was blazing with
a hundred candles, a thousand mirrors.
Her new husband slowly removed both
of their clothes, speaking softly to her
in the language she did not yet know.
When she was naked he kissed her,
smiling. Then he turned his back
to show her his unfolding wings.

!@#$%^&*Pasted in wrong poem - not enough coffee yet. From same chapbook, but poem should have been "Teeth" - first appeared in Star*Line.


The mother said the red hood
would always make it easy to
find her, as would the silver bells.
The father told her what paths
she must follow: At the dead oak,
turn north; go deeper into the valley.
Go further. At last you will come
to the cottage where grandmother
lives. The heavy osier basket
was covered with a clean linen
napkin she had spent all winter
embroidering with snowflakes.
When it grew dark, she lifted
the napkin. There was no bread.
In the moonlight, white pebbles
glistened like teeth.

Love this! Thanks for the challenge and for the answering entries.
The following comes hot off my fingers.


Grandma's shrieks
tell Red
the Wolf is back.

And for a moment
the subdivision
vanishes --

dark woods
burst through roads
as the sun sets.

Time to carry
her basket of pills
to the bed,

dodging Grandma's teeth
and claws,
her ridiculous strength --

until the Woodsman
from Hospice.

A Lupine Haiku

Hopeful, yellow eyes
Glowing in the early dark
Red hood, bloody snow.

Back So Soon

She returns home by moonlight
clutching a basket of berries
only to drop the load
upon seeing the crooked of the door,
its brass hinges loosened,
and the paw prints of dust
circling 'round the home like a wild labyrinth.

She tears open her wicker trunk
and pulls an ax into her grip,
the glint of metal reflecting the fury in her eyes.

"Child, back so soon?" he calls.

She swings the ax over her shoulder
before ascending to Grandmother's room.

She's not falling for this again.


I'd also like to offer, if anyone is interested, a look at a painting I completed, "Red Riding Hood and Green Man", here:

This is an excellent sharing, thank you!

A haiku cycle , this came out in Phantom Kangaroo, 2012:


When she left the wolf,
She came out cawing, all teeth,
His belly a cave.

The woodsman refused
Her the axe. On the mantle
Still: dark fur, pale bone.

A murder, tell the
Child, names any group of crows.
Even old mothers.

Terri-- what a heart-warming wondrous thing! Thank you, wow, for this incredible gathering of poets with red-caped girls and hungry wolves prowling their hearts, brings me a lot of happiness. Love, S

This is lovely, Stuart, the rhythm and the sound of it (yes I read it aloud) are both just mesmerizing. Imagery is powerful, too.

Oh, I love this. Swoon.

Oh my goodness, this is so powerful. I'm bookmarking this page so I can read it again and again. Thank you for sharing it.

Such potent imagery and symbolism. I'm going to be rereading this one, too.

Both poems are amazing, I'm glad two were accidentally shared.

Woops... "silver-gilt"

Thank you, Raquel. The Ondine poem last week was the first time I'd put my poetry on show for literally years. Thanks for the encouragement.

Oh, I've loved reading these! I'm actually hard at work drafting two new Little Red poems this week...but here's a finished one, a crossover with Sleeping Beauty (hope that's okay!), which first appeared in The Heron Tree earlier this year....

Sleeping Beauty Says Goodnight to Little Red

I won’t sing you to sleep, don’t ask me.
I know—torn hood, wet bread, your upturned basket
of stars—how hard it’s been: nights

in the wolf’s blood woods, and before,
in the oven of your mother’s womb.
I was a girl, too, before I went to bed.

I woke to this—motherless: bare head, tight dress—
a prince who could buy my life back with a kiss—
but when it starts to get dark in my fingers, I remember.

Nights now, I fall into some closed oak door
that’s not there. I’m unwelcome in dreams.
Some nights I have the prince for sleep

and that’s like a door, but stranger. Here,
child, lie down. No songs.
A lullaby is a broken cup waiting to slice your lip.

Close your eyes, hope for a hundred years.
Your hands are cold: I’ll hold them. Now go
from me: I’m unwelcome in dreams,

even yours. Sleep will cover the trees, their teeth
and eyes—sleep will leaf over the throat of blood
that dreams you back down. Sleep will come

and cover what we’ve lost: the bodies
of girls bending like trees in a dark wood.
Let’s not speak of it. Let’s not sing.

I am LOVING all of these! Here's an old one of mine:


The first time we met on the path in the wood
he said to me, "my what big eyes you have."
Soon I became a much more dutiful granddaughter.
A little something special in the flask
kept dear Grandmamá quiet
while we availed ourselves of her cottage.
Something went awry that day, she woke early...
it was terrible, but we couldn't let her go to Papa.
We cobbled together the wolf story in a panic.
I suppose her gory dressing gown
was convincing enough evidence
but my, what silly tales folk will believe
from the lips of a pretty girl!

This is a lovely idea, Terri. I am enjoying the many interpretations of the theme.

Here is one I wrote this morning... xx Aleah Sato in Phoenix, AZ


Bloodthirsty Girls

Everyone focuses on the wolf
But it is the knife in her basket I see
Polished to reflect a crescent moon
The careful curve of a soft hip
All those sanguine smiles –

Everyone focuses on the girl
But it is the woman under the robe
Who emerges – stroking pelt and
Wielding her steel blade for the man
She will entertain with more than a sweet kiss

No – she rises from the bed of her ancestors
Where the wildness sings out to his boys –
They always have their crew and she waits
For him to run to his familiar blood
The bruise-prints of paws

The wagon is a heavy ride – contents spill
The berry stain and ambergris
Such humble roots of a woodsman’s girl
Her horse would be a fine steed
But she walks among the animal night

In search of food, hunger makes a story real
Her thin ribs poke and her mother sobs for more
The needs of the poor are not so fey
Butter and cheese, bread and meat
Oh how she dreams of the scent of meat

When the tale was written, no mouths were fed
No wolf can correct the pangs of the starved
Red is not the lesson – yet, it is the burning of leaves
In amber – it is the woman, half born
Curled with the smell of forest and of sex

The story should begin with the bed –
The quilts full of this coil of skin
We should admire her work or watch how he
Watches her in the fire light
Not a girl, only the lust of need

She does what must done
The village men have started to talk –
She has heard their perverse tales in bars and shops
They start with a girl who has begun to bleed
They start with a girl who has never seen
The teeth or heart of a man

It is the folly of men to speak of girls this way
How could they know the true story?
How she hid behind ferns, close to the earth
And waited for him to emerge with his boys
Their bad bite and ravenous call

How she lifted her skirt and licked the face
How she stroked the dumb beast, the lupine
Beneath the full mirror of night
And they ate together
The pleasures of being fed

Now he no longer returns –
His voice, distant with the kill of a new girl
Wearing red, finding her face in the blaze
Pulling her pocketknife and showing him
Just how the woman will emerge

This is beautifully written - sensuous and precise.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth ( ); title from the translated moral to Perrault's tale.


here: have a red cap
or a red shirt
in this story you are the prettiest creature
or expendable
or both

have some accessories: a fresh-baked cake
a fresh act of heroism
a fresh-faced naiveté

have a pot of butter
and the good regard of your fellows
have some good intentions
and trust in your mother
your commanding officer
do as they say

have an impossible situation
where grandmother has lost her mind
or her body
or both

have death or an axe to kill her
have the kindness of strangers

the moral of the story is
your fault regardless
and also
no one is safe

Great stuff everyone and thanks Terri for sparking off a veritable furnace-fire of creativity!

I've just sneaked out the kitchen while Cook isn't looking to share my humble mumble:

The Wolf Maligned.

The wolf is maligned.
I swear it's not good
to say he's unkind
to Red Riding Hood.

For without the wolf
what now would she be?
An innocent child
For eternity?

But a girl must grow,
become woman and wise
and learn to see through
that cunning disguise.

Learn to see what lies beneath:
Treacherous eyes - and terrible teeth!

(based on the assumption that the beast gets destroyed in the end and all ends well, rendering the wolf as a kind of trickster/initiator. It is also not *serious* I'm just a penny-ballad bard and no mistake!)

Pulse of the Forest

Go out into the forest, she said.
See your Grandma, she needs this.
Handing me a basket, she pushes me out of the door.
Bare feet on track, I try to hold rhythm,
sensing the pulse of the forest.

The path is clear. I walk on briskly.
Tall trees, soft moss, running deer in the distance.
Suddenly a quick rush, eldertree branches part.
Wolf stands and stares, red tongue lolling.
Pulse of the forest quickens in tune with my breath.

Wolf moves like a whirlwind.
Bone-white teeth shimmering, he leans in closely
Sniffs my hair, sweeps off the red cap.
Smells of warm herbs crushed in sunshine
And of musk and blood and night.
Pulse of the forest stops.

Tenderly I reach for his matted coat
Dropping the basket, forbidden
I touch soft ears, inhale wildness
Inside me something remembers
How it is to be untamed and free.
Pulse of the forest returns stronger.

Upon reaching my grandmother’s house
I find her waiting for me
She made me a new coat
So I can roam the hills
With wolf more often.
Pulse of the forest is healed.

The Naumberg wolf
by Eileen Nephin-Bishj

Crossing through a verdant meadow
The gallant lad from Endamor
Across the sea
Stands tall and opens wide
His eyes and ears
Surveying all he sees and hears
From a lamppost
By Naumberg wall.

He knew full well his task that day
Had heard Riding Hood's harrowing tale
While far across the English seas
He read the handbills well

Across the sea in comley lands
This plea from the Naumberg folk
Went out to all who care:
Please - take this dreaded wolf away
'Tis he has brought a pox of death
Upon this fair and gentle land.

So gathering his courage
To the sticking point
Our fair and gallant lad
Wiped his weary brow
And strode tall and stalwart
into sadhearted Naumberg town
Full faced he looked
across the market square
Right through those cold
Cruel yellow eyes

With a glancé to the East
From whence he'd come
Our gallant lad did take
Full measure of his quarry
In the town's lonely square
While with a low rumbling growl
The dreaded wolf did the same.

And as they eyed one another
Rumble turned to roar
And our brave lad
Very calmly turned his
Face to see death's door
As he looked into those yellow eyes
The wicked wolf did bare
In his evil fearsome teeth
A poor song sparrow clenched

Sharp teeth that oft dripped blood
Of little ones he'd easily outrun
Had thought to make do
With this gentle singer to the sun
Broken sparrow is dropped in a flash
Red blooded neck sliced in a gash

Wolf thinks to himself
Now- shall I dine well this night
On this tall tow headed boy!
His tender meat
Smells fresh and sweet
I am a-drool with joy!

Then giving voice to
A fearsome roar
From across the square
Sprang the wily wolf
Into the fragrant autumn air
Flying high as a wild winged bird
His rippling tail's
becomes kite

Less than a cart length away
Our brave lad acts
As quickly he
Shoulders his bow
An arrow tipt in silver
Plucks up from his quiver
Then pulling back the bowstring
hard and taut - he deftly
And the obliging arrow
Flies unerringly to its mark
As Death's blow to the wolf
Is delivered

Our gallant lad's bowstring
Had not yet ceased to sing
When the arrow hit true home
And dread cruel yellow eyes
Go black

Then from each village doorway
Echoes a happy cheer
At the sound of "thwack"
As the dead wolf
Falls from the sky
To hit hard upon the cobbles

A red clad girl rejoices
And bids her Granny come
As she kist our gallant lad
Upon a downy cheek

Rejoice Rejoice
Naumberger's dear
This gallant lad
From Endamor
With his trusty arrow and bow
Returned our sweet peace and safety

The cruel spirit of the devil wolf
Who'd plagued them for so long
Was plunged to the depths
As the villagers cheered with song
The maker of wolf-hell
Our gallant Endamor lad

Said he
Please let the happy hue
And cry go round
My friends
No more shall ye fear
Or shed a tear
For the wolf who's prayed on thee
To a hell place gone has he!

Evermore shall Naumberger's share
Tales of our brave and gallant lad
Of Endamor
Who with his trusty bow and arrow
Returned our lives
And saved us one and all

But - Aye, what of the sparrow?
His ghost flies
Sweetly -- sweetly
Singing by the barrow


Once, we flew over the raging seas.
The roaring beast below,
Opened its frothing lips,
reached for us,
with its greedy, rolling arms,
and tried to swallow,
our wings, and our endless song,
as the wind carried us above,
the reaches,
of its ceaseless hunger.

But that day,
Your fathomless arms,
and their breadth of soft, angelic shadows,
failed you.
That day,
our song,
of a thousand seas and skies,
failed to keep you here with me,
and you plummeted
into the cavernous heart,
of the monster who claimed you for its own,
You will lie there,
I know,
Forevermore, in the shadows of the sea.

And now,
As the frost nips at my side,
it is time to cross that endless hunger
once again.
Now, who will sing with me?
Who will ride the current of the wind,
By my side?
You are gone, and I feel,
A great weight,
As if I should be gone,
As well.

Yes! Thats a haunting one - I liked its future setting. And the needles,and the woman's work, and the labors, creating... yes.

Moon-cold sheets. Love that phrase...

I have to add - as a non poet - I was so fueled by this that I started sculpting a Red Riding Hood shrine today... Inset niches for a pincushion, and bread/wine. A shallow impression on the reverse for text. Branches in relief up both sides and arching over the Gothic top arch...

Thanks to one and all, and especially Terri for a most fruitful morning!

What a wonderful idea, thank you!

Here is a short poem I had published in Phantom Kangaroo last year:


When she left the wolf,
She came out cawing, all teeth,
His belly a cave.

The woodsman refused
Her the axe. On the mantle
Still: dark fur, pale bone.

A murder, tell the
Child, names any group of crows.
Even old mothers.

Also, an image by Kiki Smith on the theme:

Oh, I was waiting for yours, Austin. Not disappointed :) This is wonderful.

Uhoh, not quite the right prompt for this poem. I read the words "Poetry Challenge" and got a little bit overexcited and rushed a bit before actually reading everything. My bad!

I hope I'm not too late.

Reading Red Riding Hood, Age 6

There will be a wolf in the woods
There will be a young maiden and an old hag
I understand most of this
The woodcutter scares me
His axe sticky with the sap of his victims
His burly body slick with sweat
He bursts in and
Slices open the beast
He seems to kill a lot of wild things
I think Granny and Red
Were happy to be eaten
Masticated and slowly digested
In a dark place, far away from
Axes and sweat and heart’s sap

In The Place Where Red Riding Hood Once Lived
by Joel LeBlanc

In the place where Red Riding Hood once lived
there is now a local park, emerald green grass
flat and cut clean of dandelions and wild flowers.

There is a playground with red swing set and a sandbox
and benches of parents watching their children
play and fight and pretend to kill each other.

The monsters, the witches, the animals, even the thorn trees
are all gone; not one untouched place left
for wild ghosts to wander.

And grandmother's house? Long vanished -- a fish & chip shop
now marks the place where the old woman was devoured
and the creature was carved open.

No remembers the cold nights of eating offal
and blood soups and black puddings; those memories are buried
six feet beneath the top soil.

Children are safe here now, growing up plump
and healthy and bored on their tablets and smartphones
in the town built above the graveyard of wolves.

Busy day, just arrived...Wow!

Mother, mother, so sorry I'm late,
Yes, some-one licked the plate
And drank the cider and all the laughter
And yes, I'll tell you what came after.

This rip on cape and riding hood?
Uh, something you...well, not so good...
I will call it a game of tag and hiding,
When he asked me what I was riding,

Rude? Oh yes, but those green eyes,
And slouch, like one of those spies
Who behind a tree, chuckle and cough
As if just looking is quite enough.

But he was brazen and stepped right up
Ran in before me, got Grandma's cup,
You know she's half blind. "Who's this?
Your friend, deary? Who gave me a kiss"

My frozen tongue, one salty tear
Like sugar for him; oh, my fear.
A tableau; him ,her and me, still
As our shadows. No fighting skill

For me. I quivered, "Grannny, where
Are the condiments. "Over there."
He lounged, his tongue so red
As one waiting to be fed.

I sorted them out, thyme, cinnamon,
sage, rosemary, pepper, cayenne,
Sweetly did I blow all them and he
stomped and howled most unmercifully.

Wrapped him in a blanket Granny
and me. Tied him to a tree.
And all that he could do was bite
My arm. No harm. All delight.

What's on my face? Why a smile.
Whiskers? Fangs. Oh how vile.
That kind? Him? Oh mother, so sorry.
But you did wish I would marry.

No music or vow, no white veil.
I hear my future, in his wail.
Farewell mother, and think of me
As not lost, just wild and free.

Genderbend ALL the mythic things?


He comes through your woods unafraid.
The cloak red as new blood, the heartbeat
that thrums in his breast. His scent says _young_,
a kit, a cosset, ripe for the having.
Your teeth are white. Your eyes shine.
He will never know what you are not.

I LIKE the 'silver-guilt' Valerianna, it adds a whole new layer of meaning, and mixes meanings too!

I LOVE this, I've had a vague storyline in my head for years now about a disfigured boy who really has wings, so this one just gets me right in the heart!

I agree, stunning!

Thank you! :)

I am loving this, all these wonderful treats, all so different and all so inspiring. They are adding so much depth, so many luscious layers, to the story.

There are maidens and there are wolves,
And then there are the rescuers,
Big, burly, brave,
They burst in, uncalled,
Dragging with them, death,
In bloody trails.

But the forest is old,
I, older still.
I have walked these paths,
Known each tree,
Known each beast,
And held their magic,
In me.

Know, hunter, when you kill,
And spill life,
I am watching,
For you to burst in again,

My grandmother and I,
We are readying a feast,
Wolf is by the hearth,
The fireplace warm,
Outside storm clouds gather.

You are lost, hunter,
Tired you drag
Feet weary and hands blistered,
Fingers caked in mud and blood,
You seek us.

In a lone cottage,
A welcoming light shines,
Inside two women and one wolf,
Ancient and endless,

Wait, hunter,
For you.

I thought I didn't have a poem for this challenge, but I remembered this one just as I was wondering what I could write off the top of my head in ten minutes. Published originally in The Drowning Girl (2012) by Caitlín R. Kiernan:

The Magdalene of Gévaudan

Mater luporum, mater moeniorum, stella montana, ora pro nobis. Virgo arborum, virgo vastitatis, umbra corniculans, ora pro nobis. Regina mutatum, regina siderum, ficus aeterna, ora pro nobis. Domina omnium nocte dieque errantium, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, ora pro nobis.

Mother of wolves, mother of walls, star of the mountains, pray for us. Virgin of trees, virgin of desert, horned moon's shadow, pray for us. Queen of changes, queen of constellations, eternal fig-tree, pray for us. Mistress of all who by night and day wander, now and at the hour of our death, pray for us.

This is unbelievably beautiful. Such evocative imagery! Such passion.
My favourite lines:
"a creature not of this tame green place
but of my land,
where the lamia creep in crags and caves
and the bogey haunt misty borderlands."

Only a half hour late... not bad for only hearing of this an hour or so ago. :)

"The Path of Needles and Pins"

"I choose pins" she said,
dreaming of dresses and dances
and sweet stolen kisses,
as he walked her down the road
to Grandmother's house.

"I choose needles" he said,
thinking of sweat and night
and drinking deeply,
as he walked her down the road
to Grandmother's house.

"I choose love" she said,
believing in words and tales
and playing at house
as they sat down together
in Grandmother's house.

"I choose lust" he said,
coersing a taste and a nibble
and a swath of skin,
as they sat down together
in Grandmother's house.

"I choose life" she said,
taking her heart and her dress
and taking off across the river
as she left the charted road
away from Grandmother's house.

"I choose life" he said,
keeping his heart and her taste
and keeping to the wild wood
as she left the charted road
away from Grandmother's house.

I came over here after seeing Dora Goss's facebook post linking your Red Riding Hood challenge. By the way, I LOVE Lawrence Schimel's poem. Look forward to seeing what you have in store for us tomorrow. Here's today's response:

No One Red

Behind my house,
a pine tree,
a pine cone lipped into service
by a rough chisel,
silver nips
and buds
the things we can't have
on the trail

and the red cape
in my mother's closet
seams of burgundy and mahogany and ruby
there's no one red I can cling to
just the nap of it
the rest of it
the smell of mother

the things you miss on the trail

and the howling doesn't end

just because you need to eat

the howling doesn't end because you need to work

the howling doesn't end because love does

at least there's the trail
with its rough needles
and silky mud

there's nothing better than the trail

each step eats me alive

--Francesca Myman

It wasn't like she said, Red Riding Hood,
that day I met her in the wood.
She said 'I'm lost' and asked the way
I set her straight and said 'Good day'.
I didn't do her any harm.
But the basket she had on her arm
was empty and I saw cake crumbs
along the path where she came from.
And later when the girl went home
she said I was the wicked one
and they all cheered her near escape.
But it was Red who ate the cake
and drank the wine meant for her gran.
There was no wicked wolf, no plan
to eat up little girls. Just me,
a black dog resting by a tree.

- Ashley,
age 12, Somerset

this poem is for Tilly

"they want our love, but really don't know how

to be quite human."

A chilling poem, and yet poignant too. Bravo.

Sly and delightful.

Excellent, Stuart.

Jane, these are terrific, and "Will" knocked my socks off.

So sad. But beautiful.

I want to hear this one as a song, Christine.

A very different take on the tale. Love it.

Powerful. Wow.

I agree with all the comments here.

Hope you'll post a link to your necklace when it's done; I'm intrigued to see how these lines inspire your art.


There's definitely a novel lurking in there....

Very much like the premise of the poem, Valerianna, the story passed down the family line.

Your contribution is no less powerful for being told in paint instead of words - though I do note and like the words in the painting's background. Beautiful work.

These two lines struck me especially vividly:

but my father was shaped like a probing finger
and reaching out was to invite the wolf to feast

An urban Riding Hood!

I laughed out loud, Raquel. And love the painting.

Thank you for addressing an aspect of the tale that has always intrigued me: What must it be like to craw out of a wolf's belly? It's a strange echo of birth, a re-birth of sorts, but from an animal's belly.

This is absolutely excellent, Ms. Sato.

Love it.

Heartbreaking, at least for those of us who believe in the importance of myth and lore.

Ah, I've been waiting for yours, Phyllis. And well worth the wait!

I see this dance played out among my (university age) students all the time. A terrific use of the Riding Hood theme.

Thank you, Jack

i love this Aleah, so wonderfully vivid! :)

thank you jack, i was quite pleased with that line also! :)

I am overwhelmed by the generosity of all of you who have contributed poems here, and also those of you who have taken the time to comment on them. Three cheers for the Mythic Arts community!

I've read and enjoyed every single poem here, and love the tapestry they weave from diverse threads.

Tilly says to say Thank you!!!

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