Riding Hood

A poem by Zoë Fairbairns

In my scarlet patched-together coat
I built a cage of teeth of rusty tin.
I fitted seven locks with ancient numbers –
forgot the numbers – clambered in.

My cloak had once been bitten from my body
by a wolf-grandmother, old and wild
But I was never to speak of it
I was only a child.

It was my secret with granny
The only one who knew
And the wood filled up with snarls
between us as I grew.

Now she prowls with eyes and ears
larger than she can use; she lingers.
She thrusts cold claws at me through bars;
They become warm fingers.

She wants to mend my riding hood
But I’m wrapped in it against her pleas;
I know a woman from a wolf
but I suspect apologies.

My hood and I are safer in my cage
whatever meanings she may bring.
A grandmother is not a wolf
but stories can be anything.

Riding Hood was previously published in Spare Rib magazine
and Cinderella on the Ball (Attic Press)