Wednesday 21 April 2010

Little Red Riding Hood IV, by Sandy Tozer

Charles Robinson, 1911

For Sian
From Sandy

I smell of clean rocks and the grey lichen caught in my bristly fur. I am heading for the pines, down, downward I go towards the tree line - slipping a bit now - hold on, hold on.

Sliding down scree... mountain ridge to col the fast way. The others are ahead. They wait, yawn, red tunnels, white portals.

I can see them scratching. Look, one lifts his head. Small, far below, but clear I can hear his half tone whine escape... that'll be Baldor.

He is, they all are, blood belly full, so no fear. Gather in your cloak as we pass into the trees, no threads for opportunistic Ariadnes to wind and spin and give to men. We're free.

***Sandy is a fellow MA student at Sussex. A talented poet, short story writer and graphic novelist, Sandy is also a compassionate and intellectually generous friend with a fruity laugh and a passion for Ted Hughes.

Friday 9 April 2010

Little Red Riding Hood III, by Terri Mullholland

Millicent Sowerby, 1909

Once upon a time I met you and it was as if I had known you a long time ago. In you I found a friend. You complimented me on my red hood, you said red was your favourite colour. You smiled at me. You weren't like the wolves in the stories my mother told me. I delighted in your glossy coat and you let me rub my face against yours. Soft wolf, gentle wolf.

We met several times to play in the woods together. You were often hungry and glad to share my lunch. One day I explained I couldn't stay long because I was taking some cakes to my Grandma's house. 'The dear old lady on the other side of the wood? But I know her very well, we're often to be found taking tea together.' We rejoiced that we had found someone in my family to bless our friendship. While I finished gathering my fragrant bouquet, you said you'd run on ahead and tell Grandma to set another place for tea.

Later, when I knocked at Grandma's door, I knew it was you answering. You had put on a silly, high voice to make me laugh. I joined in the game too. In the dim light I could see you lying in Grandma's bed, one of her bonnets over your head, your ears poking out comically. We went through the routine, like in the old story. 'What big ears you have Grandma.' You smiled at me, your eyes looked longingly into mine. 'What big eyes you have Grandma.' I walked forward and took your paw in mine. Your paw lay black on the white bedspread with the red roses. Red your favourite colour. 'What a big mouth you have.' Your face came towards me, your smiling red mouth on mine.

*** I first met Terri sixteen years ago. She and I spent many happy hours together as undergraduates, sharing Lord Byron fantasies. A committed bibliophile, talented writer and all-round clever-clogs, Terri can usually be tracked down to one of a number of libraries, either at Oxford or in London. She also dances expertly and with great enthusiasm, plays a mean wooden spoon, and is thus a fine addition to any party.

***I hope to post further responses to Little Red Riding Hood, over the coming months. If you too would like to get involved in this project and write a short (no more than 500 words of prose or 100 lines of poetry) response to the story, please email either
Rebecca or me at Poems, stories, prose-poems will all be jubilantly received and posted on one or other of our sites, although we won't be able to pay you for them, as neither of us have any money. Alternatively, if you'd rather post a reponse on your own blog, please just let us know where it is and we'll link metaphorical hands, or rather, paws.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Little Red Riding Hood II, by Jenny Walters

Jennie Harbour, 1921

Here's another piece on the same theme, this time from the lovely Jenny Walters. It was Jenny's idea to write about Little Red Riding Hood, and in many ways this piece lies curled at the heart of my own response... no doubt it's licking its paws.

A button came loose on your little red hooded coat,
You sat by my side as I threaded my needle and started to sew.
I click the T V to black and the room is silent like the forest.
The words come to me,
I cannot stop them,
Have I ever told you the story...?
I know you are frightened of the echo in my voice
From years before. It is written in you too.
You glimpse my teeth as I tell you,
Trust no-one,
Do not follow the path.

Monday 5 April 2010

Little Red Riding Hood

Arthur Rackham, 1909

For Rebecca and Jenny.

A few things to remember if you ever find a wolf hiding behind a tree in the woods.

Don't stop to speak, though his smile is a friendly, 'Hey there,' smile, a hand-holding smile, and your paws are really very cold.

Don't look into his eyes, which are wide and open as the idea of fields. Don't forget, you're in a wood, things are different here.

Don't sit down beside him on a moss-covered trunk, and rub your elbow while he talks. Don't give in to the urge to lean a little closer when he lowers his voice or looks lonely.

Don't stroke his fur, no matter how thick or how curly, and don't breathe his scent, which has something of the secrets of forests.

But most important of all, don't let him show you the anemones that are blooming on the earth all around, which you hadn't noticed until now; so you start to suspect that he's made them appear and you wonder, if that's true, and he has, could he really be so bad after all?

*** So much for going down the rabbit hole. ***