- Last Record: 2012-03-30 08:43:08 +0200
- Joined: Apr 22, 2011
“The shadows brim with hidden teeth:
Full moon above, gold eyes beneath.”
Peter learned this at Grandma's knees
While papa swung his axe at trees
And mama kneaded dough for bread.
“Stray from the path, you'll end up dead.”
But drink can make a man a fool
Thinking himself above the rule
His granny taught him to abide:
“Full moon above, you stay inside.
Full moon above, you bar the door.
And if you're wise you will ignore
The sounds that sometimes split the night
While you hold all your loved ones tight.”
Still drink can make a man behave
As though he thinks folly is brave
And though he knows the woods are deep
And filled with things that crawl and creep
And skulk and stalk and leap and tear,
He thinks there's nothing he can't dare
To make the maids admire his pluck.
They kiss him on the cheek for luck
Then watch wide-eyed as he sets out
Leaving the tavern with no doubt
That he can reach his grandma's place
And laugh at her astonished face.
For he has been long gone from here
And city boys they know no fear.
(Besides, Grandma is fading fast
And any day could be her last.
It's sad, of course, but she is old
And he has debts; he needs her gold.)
Beer makes him brave and makes him brash.
His grandmama would call him rash
But shadows hold no dread for him
And if perhaps he hums a hymn
It is because he likes the tune
And not from fear of the full moon.
The moon is white, the shadows black
Sobriety comes stealing back
And his bravado leaks away
Remembering his granny say
That when the moon hangs full and bright
Like some strange pearl pinned to the night
Uncanny creatures prowl the wood
A-hungering for human blood.
His cloak is warm, his cloak is red
Within he starts to shake with dread
And every breath of wind he hears
Just serves to further stoke his fears
And every crunch and every creak
Just makes his quivering knees grow weak
As he recalls the butcher's son
Who had so great a love of fun
When they were boys, that one dark night
Although the moon hung full and bright
He'd ventured outside for a joke...
They found him by the withered oak
In pieces like a shattered toy:
The broken wreckage of a boy,
His shin-bones gnawed, his pale skin torn
A grisly sight to greet the dawn.
He can't imagine why he thought
He should forget what he'd been taught
And plunge alone into the wood.
He raises up the warm red hood
And wishes it were made of steel
Telling himself there are no real
Monsters to fear, just fairy tales.
He squares his shoulders.
A frantic sound quickly cut short...
And now he can't escape the thought
That something out there in the night
Is hungry. Hunting....
Is surely not the wisest course
So, trembling, he tries to force
Himself to stay upon the path;
Assures himself that monstrous wrath
Is no more real than unicorns.
But all along some instinct warns
Him that the night has teeth and claws
And slinks behind him on all fours,
Sensing his dread, scenting his fear
And slowly, surely, drawing near.
He glances back, trying to prove
His fears are groundless...
And in the shadows he espies
The glint of hungry golden eyes.
He starts to run, frantic with dread
He does not want to be found dead,
His limbs all clawed, his face half-gone
Just like his friend was once upon
A time, a lesson he's not learned.
And so perhaps this fate is earned,
But he'll be damned if it is fair.
He stumbles on and branches tear
The woolen hood back from his head
And thorns snag in his cloak of red.
He scrapes his skin upon the bark
Of half-glimpsed trees and in the dark
The path is somehow lost between
One heartbeat and the next. Unseen
Behind him he can hear a growl
Start softly then swell to a howl
And terror hurls him forward now.
No hope, no plan, no idea how
He can escape some bloody fate.
He runs although it is too late
For running to do any good.
He runs as though somehow he could
Outrun his death, as if there might
Be shelter somewhere in the night.
He pants and wheezes, gasps and sobs
And in his throat his poor pulse throbs,
Pounding a rhythm for the race
Music to frame a frantic chase.
He is as lost as he can be
With nothing left to do but flee
When all at once he spies a light
A shocking and unhoped-for sight
Which spurs him faster through the trees
Until to his delight he sees
A tiny hut heave into view
A benediction, just a few
Last fearful, frenzied footfalls more
Before he's pounding on the door
And pleading to be let inside,
Abandoning all sense of pride
And caring nothing now who hears
The terror in his voice, salt tears
Still tracking down his fearful face
As he begs shelter in this place.
He peers back out into the night
Squinting to catch a glimpse of white
Teeth shining, or of golden eyes.
His back pressed to the door, he cries
And yells and screams and makes a din
Until somebody lets him in.
He falls back flat upon the floor
And kicks out quickly at the door
Too focussed on the need to close
It to care yet just who he owes
His thanks to for this safe retreat.
The door bangs shut. Each breath is sweet.
Long moments pass. His heartbeat slows
As he at last starts to compose
Himself and to recall his pride.
His fears seem foolish from inside
A stout cabin with windows barred
Against the night, and it is hard
To know if it was sense or drink
That prompted him to truly think
Himself at risk of brutal death.
He sits up straight, draws a deep breath
And looks about the hut to find
Whom he must thank for being kind;
Whom he must hate for seeing him weak.
His eyes alight on what they seek.
A woman stands in silhouette
Before the fire, face shadowed yet
Her form enough to make him drool.
But she just watched him act the fool
And weep and beg, he thinks with shame,
Feeling his cheeks begin to flame.
He pulls himself back to his feet
And tries to make his scowl curve sweet
Into a smile of gratitude.
He mouths some silly platitude
About true friends in times of need,
And folly caused by beer and mead,
While wondering if the girl is fair
Behind the curtain of her hair,
And wondering if she lives alone
Now that she's let him in her home.
“Where is your father, Miss?” he says,
Already thinking of the ways
She might help him improve this night.
“He's dead,” she says, and that is quite
The best news that he could have heard.
“Your husband, then?” he says. “Absurd
To think you live here on your own.”
“I do,” she says. “I'm all alone.”
She glances sidelong at the fire;
He feels a dark twist of desire
At the half-glimpsed curve of her lips
And the neat angle of her hips.
She tilts her head. Memory uncurls.
She never was like other girls,
The butcher's birth-mark-sullied daughter
They'd tried to wash her clean with water
Laughing as she kicked and spat
And spluttered like a drowning cat.
Her brother was a merry lad.
(Though Peter's granny called him bad
And said he was his father's son
With an unholy sense of fun.)
It's ten long years since Peter left
To seek his fortune, fingers deft
To cheat at dice and cheat at cards
For wood-cutting was far too hard
And village life too dull as well.
He's transformed into quite the swell.
He'd long forgot her curse-marred face
And how she held herself with grace
At her poor brother's wretched wake;
The hail of insults she would take
Whenever she walked through the town;
The ragged sweep of her patched gown
Enough to make them point and jeer.
Now he recalls how they would hear
The butcher's voice cut through the walls
Of their small hut, the countless falls
She claimed accounted for black eyes.
He views her now with deep surprise
Having supposed her long since dead
Or else, conceivably, long wed,
While he was working far away.
Instead it seems she chose to stay
Out here alone deep in the wood.
He should be grateful, knows he should
And that Grandma would think it wrong
To use the fact that he is strong
And she is weak, her father dead,
Her brother too, and she unwed...
His parents too would disapprove,
Yet still his feet begin to move
Taking him closer to the girl
And closer still. Fingers uncurl
And wrap themselves around her arm.
“My dear, I don't mean any harm,”
He lies, “But I do not believe
That I will accept 'no'.”
Begins to flex under his hand.
He clasps her tighter, smiling, and
Not caring if he leaves a bruise.
“Ah, but, you see, I do not choose
To be the victim of your game,”
She says. “It's really such a shame
You did not heed your gran's advice.
You should know there's always a price
That must be paid for breaking rules.”
Her smile is sharp; his ardour cools.
Her confidence seems out of place.
Then, though her hair half-hides her face,
He sees a sudden glint of gold
And all at once his blood runs cold.
He drops her arm as though it burns
And backs away. Too late he learns
Sometimes a wolf looks like a mouse
And you should stay in your own house
When full moon hangs high overhead
Or else you may well end up dead.
The shadows brim with hidden teeth:
Full moon above, gold eyes beneath.
I don't dream of shiny crowns
Or of a life lived in a palace.
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