Inside every grandmother there sits
an attractive young girl mouthing pieties,
complaining of sore lips or God knows what.
They prophesy the past with unerring accuracy;
history for them is painful gossip
half way between myth and memory.
They are nodding terms with skeletons
who take the shape of husbands in dull rooms,
and they can tell the future as it shrinks
into its faint determined pattern.
It’s hard to like them, harder still to dislike them.
Their faces are light wrinkles in the water.
There were the books, and wolves were in the books.
They roamed between words. They snarled and loped
through stories with bedraggled wolfish looks
at which the hackles rose and the world stopped
in horror, and she read them because she knew
the pleasures of reading, the page being rapt
with the magic of the fierce, and she could do
the talk of such creatures. So one day
when teacher asked if there were any who
could read, she rose as if the task were play,
to claim the story where she felt at home.
The tale was Riding Hood, the wolf was grey.
The fierceness was the wood where grey wolves roam.
She read it round, she read it through and through
It was as if the wolf were hers to comb,
like those bedraggled creatures in the zoo
that, trapped behind the bars, would snarl and stride
as you’d expect a page or wolf to do.