little, red, wolf
The snow hushed the city sounds and from far far off came a chorus
of howls and yelps. Mama, I hear wolves, she said. Hush, my dear.
There are no wolves near. It’s only the wind in the dried old cornstalks,
only the whine of the furnace turning on, said Mama. But the girl knew
no furnace yelped so high and wild, no wind howled so savage and
lonesome. She dreamt of dark fur speckled with glints of light like a
winter night sky, of a pool of warm red that spread across the fresh snow.
At her grandmother’s house, it was no wolf who lay in wait. It was
the woodsman in sly disguise. Grandma, what big hands you have,
she said. All the better to touch you with, my dear, said he. His voice
was the wind in the dried old cornstalks, the screeee of dead tree
limbs rubbing in the cold breeze. He lay her down and lifted her dress.
You can never tell, he said. His hands were hatchets, cleaving the flesh
between her legs. Look, how red, he said.
One no-sleep night hounded by visions of woodsmen, hatchets, tree limbs
hewn and dead, she pulled on her cloak and stepped out into the yard.
She lifted her face to the blood-red moon, stretched her neck and opened
her mouth and keened. Lonesome and wild she howled; savage and high
she cried. She waited in the silence after her stormcall, waited until
from far far off she heard one voice, then a second, a third. She listened
to the wolves, and they said: Teach your legs to be quick and quiet as
falling snow. Grow your fur long, wear it as a star-flecked night cloak.
File your teeth until they are sharper than any axe. Be vicious, relentless,
unforgiving. Go for the throat. Bite, tear, shred. Then look, my dear.
Look how red.
By Jessie Lynn McMains
Jessie Lynn McMains (aka Rust Belt Jessie), is the Poet Laureate of Racine, Wisconsin. She has performed spoken word on tour with the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, at FILF in Cleveland, and at Queer Open Mic and Bitchez Nueve in San Francisco, as well as various other places across the US and Canada. She has been publishing her prose and poetry in her own zines since 1994, and her work has also appeared in The Chapess, New Pop Lit,The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Wonderlust Lit Zine, Razorcake, and Word Riot, amongst others. Her short story “Insect Summer” was nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize. She currently writes music reviews and essays for Witchsong. Someone once called her the Debbie Harry of poetry, and she thinks that’s a pretty rad description. If you like, you can also refer to her as the punk rock Edna St. Vincent Millay. She loves music, adventure, community gardens, home-brewed beer, tarot, dancing, playing dress-up, her friends and family, and her four-year-old kidlet. She collects souvenir pennies and stick and poke tattoos. She is perpetually melancholy, restless, and nostalgic. She believes storytelling can change the world. You can find her website at recklesschants.net and her blog at rustbeltjessie.tumblr.com.