“La Femme Rouge: Redux,” a Rumpus Original Poem by Veronica Golos


La Femme Rouge: Redux
(Red Riding Hood, Aged)

What I know is more than thorn
and thistle, whistling through
an oak forest, trees large as barns.

What I know is Wolf,
and that cannot be reckoned;
for I have been inside

Him, and have seen through His gold eyes
and smelled the world.


This was the choice: to be taken whole
as I was then; or,
to be eaten
bit by bit –

By whom?

By you, my dear.


Of what did I dream?

At night, I ran a familiar path. The stars smelled bitter.
I spoke as human—resisting
the long throat cry.


Each wolf has a girl inside—


What was it like?

His eyes, his scent, fur, teeth—the tunnel—his long lope.


Yes, sometimes
we grew too large
and were released
to became
a ballerina en pointe, in red shoes;
or a Charleston shaker, cake or tightrope walker—always hunting
for the moment
when lifted into leap
we were undone—


I rubbed myself with smells:
poppy, wheat, the stalks of
contained fields. Nothing. I smeared
myself with the offal
of the pack. But I could not
bring them back.


That fable that you’ve read?
I can tell you this:

I was a girl, that much is true. Not innocent,
but virgin. We make too much of innocence;
perhaps we mean ignorance? But I digress.

Many times I walked in that forest, humming and
talking to myself. Singing in a low tone. Calling,
I realize now.


All those years outside

I saw distance and
felt the damp between my thighs.

There was little I didn’t do: the short
needle, a long affair, an intimate drunk. I
rubbed against the world trying to break back in.

You see, they thought they’d saved me. Wrapped me
in a white gown; fed me
clear broth.


I am tired, but here is an old woman’s secret:

Kill them all, they will return—
you’ll draw your fear through you
like an arrow to the heart. I know
what I know:

The world will burn black.
The mountains will roll their snows
Down upon your cities.
And you, two-legged, thumbed speaker
Will feed the earth, and will be gone.
And the world will be silent for an eon.

Then the Wolf
Will raise a new word,
And that word shall be Need
And we, we shall be
Inside Him,

Veronica Golos

Read the Rumpus review of Veronica Golos’s Vocabulary of Silence.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →