All the Better
When grandmother tells me stories, it isn’t the woodsman
who comes and saves Red in the nick of time.
That, she says, is an outright lie.
Oh, the wolf dies alright—Red slits his belly open
and crawls inside to see how it feels
to wear this hunter’s body, this predator’s shell.
She strips his pelt, drapes it round her shoulders,
peers through his skull, still glistening red on her tangled hair.
Thus garbed, she strides back out into the woods,
feet in the shadows, breath quiet, eyes sharp.
Her basket lies abandoned, no hands remain to hold it,
no stomach left for bread and wine.
Instead she finds fondness for this midnight lope,
this long, lean body, this bloodred fur.
The wood that once hid monsters
now opens to her amber eyes, a-rustle with welcome
as pale nails lengthen and curve to bite the earth,
her lips stretched wide to fit her moon sharp smile.
Born in Korea, Jessica now writes speculative fiction and poetry in New England, where they balance their aversion to cold with the inability to live anywhere without snow. Previous work can be found at Flash Fiction Online, Fireside, Anathema, ApparitionLit and others. They blog infrequently at pengolin.wordpress.com and have slightly more frequent feelings and opinions on Twitter: @transientj
Jessica Jo Horowitz
Author of “All the Better”
What inspired you to write this poem?
I’m full up on helpless damsels and damoiseaux in distress and sometimes you just gotta kill the wolf yourself to get past it all. I’ve been on a big retold fairy tale kick lately and one of my favourites to poke at is Little Red Riding Hood. Transformation seemed like the perfect theme to start with and off we went.
To give other writers hope, would you mind sharing with us how many edits and/or submissions this poem has been through?
I wrote this piece specifically for this issue and it was a bear to pin down at first. I usually don’t rewrite my poems since my standard process is to edit as I go, but this one kept wanting to wander off down other paths than I had planned. Sometimes I’ll let it in order to see where it ends up, but this time I had to tear it down to the foundation more than once.
Recommend something to us! This could be a book, a short story, a video game, a project you’ve heard about, something you’re working on, etc. Anything that has you excited and that you want people to know about.
Books! I just finished T. Kingfisher’s THE TWISTED ONES and loved it. It’s the kind of horror that sneaks up on you and draws you in and next thing you know you’re afraid to look out the window even though you don’t live in the woods. On the slightly older end, I recently read Ellen Klages’ novella PASSING STRANGE– queer, 1940s San Francisco with light magic, vivid setting and gorgeous writing. On the much older side– I just found out this year that Tove Jansson, creator of Moomin (if you’re not familiar, picture a hippopotamus crossed with a marshmallow), also wrote short stories. I’ve been working my way through THE WOMAN WHO BORROWED MEMORIES and enjoying it quite a bit.