Carol Ann Duffy Quotes

Little Red-CapAt childhood’s end, the houses petered outinto playing fields, the factory, allotmentskept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men, the silent railway line, the hermit’s caravan, till you came at last to the edge of the woods. It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf. He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud in his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw, red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big earshe had! What big eyes he had! What teeth!In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me, sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink, my first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods,away from home, to a dark tangled thorny placelit by the eyes of owls. I crawled in his wake,my stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazersnagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoesbut got there, wolf’s lair, better beware. Lesson one that night, breath of the wolf in my ear, was the love poem.I clung till dawn to his thrashing fur, forwhat little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf?Then I slid from between his heavy matted pawsand went in search of a living bird – white dove –which flew, straight, from my hands to his hope mouth.One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said,licking his chops. As soon as he slept, I crept to the backof the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books.Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head,warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood.But then I was young – and it took ten years in the woods to tell that a mushroomstoppers the mouth of a buried corpse, that birdsare the uttered thought of trees, that a greying wolfhowls the same old song at the moon, year in, year out,season after season, same rhyme, same reason. I took an axeto a willow to see how it wept. I took an axe to a salmonto see how it leapt. I took an axe to the wolfas he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones.I filled his old belly with stones. I stitched him up.Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone.