SPOTLIGHT: ‘Our Wolves’ by Luanne Castle


Identify the protagonist.

She watches her own legs pump
the pedals, pinches the bell
in that obnoxious manner,
then tosses her legs
over the handlebar and coasts
bumping over sidewalk cracks.

Does the mother give her a warning?

She makes Red visit Granny, wear
the fancy clothes the old lady sews
to Sunday School and potlucks.
For her bike, she wears hand-me-down
shorts and T-shirts.

What happens to the protagonist?

Her innocence envelops her in stench.
A whiff sets him on her trail.
She sucks hair that escapes the hood.
Her legs escape the coat.

What is the grandmother’s role in the plot?

Granny’s wrapped her in a talisman
against the streets,
houses with no windows, chainlinks
chained and locked.

Is the antagonist completely bad or shaded?

Because his costume hides his expression,
she misinterprets the claws.
Check under the mask for a surprise
if your heart can stand the shock.

What happens to the helper?

Perhaps the huntsman arrives in time.
Perhaps he is there all along.
Perhaps you were wrong.

What happens to the antagonist?

Bystanders saw him leave with the pelt
and the stink around the same time
the huntsman disappeared.
In real life, punishments are a lottery.

Does she receive help from someone else
or does she help herself?

Remember that red velvet slid
in rhythm with Granny’s arm,
the thin needle dangerously bent.
Then she put it on like red shoes,
like a tongue back in the mouth.
Perhaps there is someone
at the window or a wrong number.

Does she help herself now or later?

When she moves into her first own
home she hangs her cape
with the claws in a glass box
mounted on the wall above the table.

Grandmother and Granddaughter
Sit Down to Tea

The wolf retreats from the cottage
with indigestion boiling inside,
his pockets empty of Gaviscon.
When he throws up the girl
she plops onto the floor crying
so loud it hurts his tender ears.
Whose teeth are those in the glass
on the nightstand? she says.
He doesn’t fit well in the nightgown,
tufts of fur poking out at the neck
so that it tickles her in the hug.
Granny double bolts the door
and tells him to get lost or be sorry.
This wolf has no sense of direction.
With his big nose the flowers’ scent
confuses him more than most.
He steps into her path and urges
her to stop and sniff the fairy slippers.
The girl runs toward the playground.
Laundry overflows the basket
and must be hung on the line.
The mother asks the girl to help
can peaches in the sunlit kitchen.

You All Been Waiting for a Wolf Confession

Am I right? Doesn’t everybody love the instant
when the bad guy on Perry Mason, sitting
in the witness box next to the judge, suddenly
rage-twists his face and screams, “I did it,
I did it, and I’m not sorry!” Well, I didn’t.
I didn’t kill anybody. Not that crabby gran
or her fever-cheeked little grandkid. You
might say I have a stake in this family, too.
I can’t admit to what I didn’t do. Even if I . . .
never mind. It was the hunter was after the girl.

I’d been looking over that little one for years.
Before she could walk, I spooned squash
and strained peas into that rosebud.
Clamped pins in my mouth while I diapered her.
When I taught her to swim she clutched at
my fur until she got the hang of floating.
I didn’t let go of her new bike until
she could sail down the sidewalk on her own.
I kept my lips smoothed down over my teeth
most of the time. She wasn’t always good,
and to prepare her for the future I sometimes
showed her them, all yellow and snaggled.

So when she first put on that sexy red
and sashayed on down the path, I acted
crazy so her mama would warn her.
That woman is such a narcissist, did she do it?
And did the girl listen to her if she did?
Because I knew I was the only one I could
count on, I followed her to granny’s, hiding
behind garbage cans and cars along the way.
That’s when I saw him and the way
he long-looked at her, while sharpening his
knife on the thick leather strap of his kill bag.

I took the precautions of locking granny
in her closet and when the girl got there, put
her in with the old lady, then waited
for the hunter to show up with his knife
and leering face. But it didn’t go well for me.
The hunter is an experienced killer, and
he slashed me into squirrel pelts.
He lied with all the candy in his pockets
but while the girl told her truth, the law
agreed that the hunter rescued the women
from my innards, setting back feminism
a few more centuries when really that girl
was prepared, what with the swimming
and biking and dealing with me all those years.

I’m a Woodcutter, Dammit*

Remember that hunters don’t carry axes.
Guns, yes. Sometimes bows and arrows.
But this here’s a Husky multi-utility axe.
You heard wrong about me, your language
weighed down by umlauts and jenga words.
Backpfeifengesicht, no offense.
Repeat after me in English:
woodcutter, one who cuts wood, that’s me.
By my efforts, you’ve got timber
for your shelters and fuel for your stoves.

So. I’m resting on a stump, pouring
from my coffee thermos, when I witness
what went down that moonlit night.
She might have been small with narrow
wrists and ringlets, but, man! Her bellow
bounced off the stars and into the moon.
She kicked him right in the tender spot.
I knew how he would react to that, but
remember, I am the one with the axe.
The end of the story is all up to me.

Did I dash after them, a chicken after
the knife has its way, rushing to save her?
Or did I sit here nibbling a Danish, sipping
the Black Label coffee, and clipping
my nails? If so, that’s the end of girl
and old woman. The mother didn’t warn
her & let her travel after dark on her own.
Gulp. Gulp. The end. The end.
Keep in mind that I’m not a natural hero.
Remember that I’m just a woodcutter.
When the wolf came back to the forest,
he wanted to work off some calories
and offered to chop some trees while
I took a nap in the echoing silence.

*In some of the French “Little Red” versions there is a woodcutter, but in the original Charles Perrault tale, there is no rescue at all. In the Grimm Brothers’ version the rescuer is a hunter


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