A Poem by Brittany Hailer


Little Red

I

My mother sent me into the woods,

pushed me

gently forward, and locked

the wooden door

against the snow.

I met my father

on the path, his back

a jagged mountain side.

He smelled my mother’s blood,

reached through the trees,

traced my face and neck

with his claws.

Hush, he said.

Grandmother found me

burned the tattered red cape

that lay at my feet,

washed my naked body,

picked the wolf’s coat

from my torn skin,

slicked back my wet hair.

She whispered, Hush.

Hush, Child.

Hush the lock’s click, the gnashing teeth, the pumping heart,

the blood of the wolf and the lungs inside you.

Hush the howl, Child.

Animal you’ll surely become.

II

My daughter was born in winter

from the belly

of the hunter.

I stitched

her inside him

myself

with golden string.

A pregnant carcass

in the snow,

he was beautiful.

III

My Dearly Beloved,

we are the hunted.

You too are animal:

black-eyed, muscled,

matted fur and twitching back.

One day, your skin

will grow too tight

you will finger

your scalp,

pull at your eyelids,

open you mouth wide

in the mirror.

Then your dress

will stretch

until the buttons pop,

and fur will cover you

like gray morning.

The fear will come first,

then the hunger.

When you are naked

you must

run,

run

with your hunched back

exposed,

through the field

and over the river.

Run

to the woods

and disappear.

They will try to take

everything from you.

But please remember

to rake the bark

and open the flesh

the of trees.

Claim the woods

as your own.

Please

believe your body

is capable

against their machines

and silver bullets.

Do not

fear man, and mothers,

and fathers

and guns,

and burnt rubber.

Girl with a crown of bone,

fill your lungs,

show your teeth.

Howl for your mother.

It’s the only thing

that will scare them.

Brittany Hailer has taught creative writing classes at the Allegheny County Jail and Sojourner House as part of the Words Without Walls program. Her work has appeared in Hobart, The Fairy Tale Review, HEArt Online, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere. She is the Voices Unlocked reporter for PublicSource and MFA program assistant at Chatham University.


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