Little Red Riding Hood

Hood

Do not stray from the path.

They knew the forest in those days,
knew, and had reason to fear
old growth, vine-encrusted, blotting out the light
thickets tangling the route
no trail of bread to guide the way
the wolves that, in hunger, lose their fear.
Our forests seem tame
second, third-growth, monoculture, trash forest
all handicap accessible
with markers to teach us what once we knew.
I have walked the forest
alone
with only the stars
(fading year by year from the encroaching light of cities,
miles away)
and feared nothing worse than a misstep,
a stubbed toe
(do not stray from the path)
though it did turn out later
there were bears
stealthier than we knew.

We do not fear the forest.
Instead we fear the urban jungle
city buildings, vine-encrusted, blotting out the light
cold breezeways leading us astray
blind alleys, lairs where danger lurks.
Our predators wear a more familiar face.
I have walked the city streets at night
alone
over my friends’ objections
(do not stray from the path)
under the brilliant summer sky
or the sodium glow of a snowy winter
and feared nothing worse than an obnoxious drunk
though it did turn out later
that mere blocks away
a human wolf was taking his toll
in those days
when I dyed my hair red
and knew that I would never come to harm.

March 23, 2009

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