The Red Hood


Robin Mork


The hood had come off
My adventures were done
Red as the ocean that swallows the sun
And never, oh, ever again would I try
To make sense of the trees
As they tickled the sky.

“What is this sorrow?”
You hover to know
How one so young could have suffered this blow.
There are teeth in the shadows, hungry and sharp!
Beware, there are answers
That live in the dark

Answers to secrets
And answers to lies
Scented like crumpets and blueberry pies.
That day I wandered, by nighttime I fell;
What happened between
Is too frightful to tell.

But tell you I must,
For the darkness draws near.
So listen, I’ll say what you’re straining to hear:
A fitful romance between childhood and age
Was trapped in my skin
And my bones were its cage.

My skin was aglisten
With rose-scented dew
And to me the whole world was delicious and new.
I thought of my lessons, of sweetness and good
And loaded my basket
And fastened my hood.

Mothers, remember
The things I have said
And never dress your darling daughters in red!
My hood and my cloak like a matador’s brand
Attracted the evil
That guided my hand.

The blush in my lips
And the glow in my skin
Reflected that crimson and invited him in.
‘Him, who??” now you ask me, you gasp and you gulp!
You’re right to be frightened.
I speak of the Wolf.

The trees were like lords
As they towered above
And the wind whispered secrets of terror and love.
Deaf to the warnings that sliced through the air,
I danced through the bushes
And into his lair.

We think we know evil,
We’d know it by sight!
But darkness looks lovely when dressed in the light.
He looked just like anyone, anyone could,
While lying and dreaming
Alone in the wood.

I thought to pass by him,
So peaceful he seemed,
When he stretched and he yawned and emerged from his dream.
“An apple? A cherry!” The Wolf cocked his head.
“I dreamed of a morsel
All colored in red!

And lo, there you are!
A ruby so fair,
And bearing a basket with goodies to share!”
Said I, never once to imagine a trick,
“This food’s for my grandma.
She’s awfully sick.”

“Tragic!” he cried,
And he gave me his arm.
“I will stay by your side, then... to keep you from harm.”
Gallant as any true chivalrous knight,
He escorted me into the woods,
Out of sight.

And as we traveled
Through arbor and glen,
The Wolf was the nicest, the kindest of men.
He told me tempestuous tales of his youth,
And boasted my beauty
And swore it was truth.

At length, there we came
To a twist in the trees,
And there was a Woodsman, down on one knee,
Gliding a stone ‘gainst the edge of his blade
And eyeing with savor
The trees ‘round the glade.

His eye caught my color,
The red of my hood,
And as we observed him, he suddenly stood.
He brandished his ax and with thundering voice
Said, “Release the young lady
Or die! It’s your choice!”

Shocked at this violence,
I turned to my friend
And asked what it was he had done to offend?
He gazed at me sadly and bid me adieu,
Kissed my hand gently
And sadly withdrew.

Ah, clever! You see,
He had known from the start
Just how he could fasten his claws in my heart!
And now to my savior I loosed such a tongue
That a tempest of hatred
Poured out of my lungs.

The Woodsman, of course,
Could not tell what to say.
He gathered his ax and at once stalked away.
And so, there was I, all alone in the glen.
I continued the path
And longed for my friend.

Little I knew
When next we would meet!
My heart was now heavy, and weary my feet.
And still did I fume at that woodcutting louse
All of the way
To my grandmother’s house.

I knocked on the door
And I let myself in
And never imagined the horror within,
Not an inkling of what had arrived in my stead!
I set down my basket
And turned to the bed.

Now, I had not seen Grandma
In some time, you see,
But I knew in a moment that this wasn’t she.
I hid my surprise, I duly confess,
When the Wolf turned to me
In my grandma’s nightdress.

I saw that he thought
I was blind to his ruse.
He asked after my health, and I told him my news.
“Today, Grandmama,” I slyly began,
“I set out for your house,
And I met a man!”

“Just what sort of fellow
Was this that you saw?”
“Just a big, bad old Wolf,” I said, stroking his paw.
“A Wolf, through and through, but I liked him a lot.
Dear Grandma, I say,
What great large ears you’ve got!”

“All the better,” he grinned
Just as wide as he could,
“To hear of your journey to me through the wood.”
“And Grandma,” I said, quite enjoying the joke,
“Your eyes are enormous
As well, holy smoke!”

“All the better,” he said
And he winked and he smiled,
“To gaze at your beauty, my own dear sweet child!”
“But Grandma, have you been filing your teeth?
They’re so long and sharp!”
And then, said he:

“My darling red morsel,
I do so regret,
I’ve planned to eat you since the moment we met!”
He cast off the gown and he leapt to the floor
And I didn’t much care
For the Wolf anymore.

He’d eaten my grandma
And what’s just as bad,
He’d proven himself an insufferable cad.
I raced to the door and he followed me near
Slathering over
The scent of my fear.

My heart was beating
Quite mad in my chest
When I heard a sound just off to the west.
With a “choppety-chop!” and “Timber!!” came the cry,
I watched as a redwood
Careened through the sky.

So into the woods
With the Wolf giving chase,
An expression of hunger and rage on his face.
Caught in the labyrinth of evergreen shade,
I at last reached the clearing
The Woodsman had made.

With a roll of his eyes
And a leap from the heights,
The Woodsman stepped up to me, ready to fight.
The Wolf now advances! The ax slices past!
But that mean old Wolf
Was too terribly fast.

The Woodsman was down,
Never to rise,
And my Wolf fixed me now with his cold yellow eyes.
“You know, Wolf,” I said, out of breath from the brawl,
“You aren’t the Wolf
I had thought you, at all.

You’ve conquered the Woodsman,
And Grandma, and so,
If you wish to eat me, I will not say no.”
The Wolf, you imagine, could hardly concieve
The plan I was hatching,
The trick up my sleeve...

“A little red morsel,
You called me, I think?
Let’s go back to Grandma’s,” I said with a wink.
So back to the house in the gathering gloom,
Scarcely to breathe
‘Til we reached Grandma’s room.

“Now, how would you like me?
With chestnuts and apricot jam in my hair?
Or maybe I’ll bathe in a Riding-Hood stew?
Tell me, what sounds
Most appealing to you?”

The Wolf, he mulled over
The menu, his choice,
And said to my surprise, with a catch in his voice:
“I’m not quite as hungry as I thought I would be.
Perhaps we could dine
Together, you and me?

There’s always a wanderer
Out in the night.
We’ll hunt him together and eat by moonlight.”
I hung up my cloak and my crimson red hood
And now I’m the Wolf
In the shadowy wood.

And the next time your baby
To Grandma’s embarks,
Remember what’s lurking out here in the dark.
And when she never returns to your arms,
Remember this lesson
And that you were warned.