Will I be remembered by those stories they tell,
more grotesque with every telling? No one
gets it right: but what can I expect, with my species
abused and reviled—by farmers and herders,
by townsmen fearing music of the forest?
First of all, I never dressed as her Grandma.
Finding the nightcap in the bedclothes, she set it
on my head as a joke. It fell off as she went on
tickling, rolling around, pressing her body
against my fur. And she wasn’t a little girl:
she was tall and strong from work in her mother’s field
and long hours in the woods, gathering the plants
her Grandma paid her to collect. In her hooded cape
around her plain dirndl, she shivered when she saw me.
It wasn’t fear—that’s not what I saw in those eyes—
and it wasn’t the chill of the deep forest where sunlight
doesn’t penetrate. Listen, I was young and in those days
a loner: I too craved companionship. The hood
slipped to her shoulders—her hair was sleek and tawny.
Her eyes, direct as a wolf’s, looked at me,
looked for new experience. She knew to rub
the fur under my jaw slowly, sensuously.
I followed her to her Grandma’s cottage, deep
in the forest. The trail hadn’t been used except
by deer, some voles, and a badger. No people.
Now, to set things straight: Grandma wasn’t sick,
nor in bed, but in the kitchen, passed out from gin
in a rocking chair, so Riding Hood could sneak me
into the bedroom. Grandma’s inhuman howls
were eerie but she always passed out again.
Riding Hood tickled me, rubbed my fur
in ways I appreciated, had me lick her,
sometimes delicately, sometimes washing her skin
roughly, then gently again. I could see the effect
as my fur caressed her pink skin.
I set my jaws around her face and growled
a little. Nervous for a moment, she relaxed and squeezed
her arms around me. Her hands grasped and opened
on my fur, her eyes rolled up, her breathing became deep
and slow as I nuzzled and licked.
When we heard the huntsman outside, she threw
a blanket around her, distracted him at the window,
allowing me to sneak out the back of the cottage.
She made up that story about me, her, and Grandma;
the huntsman added his own heroic details.
In further tellings it became ridiculous. Sure:
I swallowed the girl and Grandma, and he cut me
open. Right. I suppose she invited the huntsman
into the bed, though I can’t imagine an attraction
between furless bodies.
Now that I’m known as the leader of my pack, few
associate me with the clown of that story.
And I hardly remember that time myself. Sometimes
I recall the sleek tawny hair as it caught
sunlight through the trees.