Red Within

by Steve Toase

When Red Riding Hood felt the leaves of the wood brush 
against the inside of her ribs 
she was confused and not a little frightened.
She was not the devourer.  Her teeth were neither big or sharp, but small and pearl like.
Yet still from deep within 
she felt the breeze stir the branches of large, ancient pines.

When Red Riding Hood felt the footsteps 
walk deep inside her a chill spread through marrow and nerve alike.
Another was the consumer.  Her appetite was small and human 
flesh not to her taste.
Yet she recognised the shuffling footsteps of one who told dark tales of her own, 
with Red Riding Hood cocooned on her knee.

When Red Riding Hood heard the howl echo inside her 
she felt faint and took to her bed, 
then a smile crossed her face.
Maybe victory was hers, the tearer of flesh torn asunder himself.
Yet she felt needle pointed teeth bite and feast from within.

When Red Riding Hood saw the sparks from the axe sharpened 
against her heart, 
she closed her eyes to the starbursts of iron.
She didn't feel engorged, 
her skin neither strained nor stretched
Yet she could feel the 
as the cuts winnowed her away.

When Red Riding Hood tasted the woodsmoke and scorched fur on her tongue 
she cried tears of pure glass
The words caressed her throat and ate the breath 
until they flowed out of her mouth.
“Once upon a time, there was a little darling damsel, whom everybody loved that looked upon her”