What Was the Wolf But a Woman, or
When Eating Sustains More Than (a) Life
by Paula J. Lambert

The cap was red, perhaps.
But what would peasants know of red?
Beets—the purple juices.
Apples? But when living a life
only shades of brown,
wouldn’t green be just as lovely?
And wouldn’t something as sweet as
apple be brought to the king
on silver trays?
(What would a peasant know of silver?)
There is, of course, the red of blood
that which comes when one dares to eat
even rotten apples
or to lick silver
but that red, spurt and ooze, turns slowly
the color of beets and then
the color of only kings’ fields. (How could
any peasant know earth so black
it offers food? There is only brown turning
that ugly beige as it cracks its way
to the ecru of bone.)
So. The cap was red or it was not red.
The cap was a cap or it was an open door
but most surely that girl was hungry.
And what she took to the hag
could not have been cream, the bread
most surely not galette, no apples
you see, nor sugar, nor milled flour
unless that red was indeed the sticky sap
of weeping beets, but the girl then could never have
gone to greet a wolf. What was the wolf
but a woman starving for wisdom—
there, the hag—
and a woman whispering prayers for
something like youth (really, just an ending
) and there—that’s the girl, that fountain
of half the wolf’s desire. The wolf
well she is teeth, and teeth bite.
They chew, do not know fear and don’t
take lives. Teeth save lives. And when you
have teeth, there is no need for a huntsman
added later
mon dieu!
by men who write things down
because they cannot remember.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I think of this poem as a feminist (interpretation of) a fairytale. The poem, based on “Little Red Riding Hood ” (“Little Red Cap”), originally a French peasant story, has much to do with socioeconomics related to misogyny. I hope it says that all women are powerful.

IMAGE: “Confetti Rain” by Del Kathryn Barton, represented by the Karen Woodbury Gallery.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paula J. Lambert is the author of The Sudden Seduction of Gravity (Full/Crescent Press, 2012) and The Guilt That Gathers (Pudding House, 2009). A residency artist for the Ohio Arts Council Arts Learning Program, she has published her work in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a past recipient of an OAC Individual Artist Fellowship and was a resident fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her MFA is from Bowling Green State University. Lambert currently resides in Dublin, Ohio, with her husband Michael Perkins, with whom she operates Full/Crescent Press, a small but growing independent publisher of poetry books and broadsides.