Red Riding Hood As Wild Child
I used to love to walk
in the woods in the rain.
Mother said it was because
I was a brainless child,
stupid and wild.
She was also fond of asking,
“Were you raised in a barn?”
And I kept wanting to answer, Yes
Mother, that makes you a cow,
but I knew to hold my tongue.
In my red cape, I was never cold.
I could go out in any storm
and be completely safe and warm.
Grandma made that cape with love
for sure, but it also seemed
sprinkled with a bit of fairy dust.
It was a magical sheath,
and I was lucky to be entrusted
with its power to make
others adore me when I wore it.
The showers of praise I received
made me feel special as I never had.
The hooded cape suited me, all
the neighbors said, these same folks
who never noticed me before.
But to my mother, I was still an ordinary
brat, the reason for everything wrong
in her life (like father leaving her
for a younger wife) and no coat
was ever going to change that.
Whenever I could arrange to sneak out,
I did—in rain, sleet, snow.
I tried to be discreet, shutting the creaky
back door, quick and crisp.
It was always a risk.
The front door was an impossibility.
Mother was usually passed out
drunk on the couch, but the slightest
rearrangement of a particle of dust,
and she’d be up and ranting.
“Red, get back here!” she’d scream.
“Scrub those pots till you
see God’s face in them.”
No matter how hard I polished, I never
saw anyone’s face in them but my own.
Previously published in Red Riding Hood's Real Life (Night Rain Press, 2017).
Lana Hechtman Ayers has authored nine collections of poetry and is about to release her first speculative novel—a time travel adventure. She manages three poetry presses and works as a manuscript consultant. Lana lives on the Oregon coast where she enjoys the near-constant plink of rain on the roof and the sea’s steady whoosh.