December 15, 2011

Red is for Ritual, By Gerri Leen

The red coat rustles, whispers secrets
as our grandmother passes
Once she was the maiden, then the mother
Now she serves as crone for the last time
She smells of clove and all spice
Apples and balsam
She has bathed in the sacred waters
Her gray hair is tied up with vines
The red leaves of the maple give it color again.


She is beautiful


The wolf sits on his throne, his eyes closed
He sniffs the air, his fingers clench
They feed him grapes and dried venison
Give him drink of herbs and flowers
His eyes dilate as he looks
on her, his mate
He lifts his face to the moon
Howls in the fashion of wolves everywhere
The people, the crone, and I howl back


He is magnificent


I finger my red coat, much brighter than hers
I worked on it for weeks
My blood soaking in where the needle stabbed me
I have never been handy that way
But I was not chosen for my skill
I am the maiden
I have been bathed and perfumed
My dark hair tied up with vines
The red leaves of the maple give it light


I am innocent


I wait the prescribed time, then walk through woods
grown darker than before
The moon is hiding behind a cloud but I know the way
It is in my blood, in my soul
I see grandmother leaving out the back
as I open the door
The wolf lies in bed, he smiles
As I drop my robe and stand naked
I see what big teeth he has


He is terrible


He holds out his hand and I climb into bed
We dance the sacred dance
The sheets slide over our skin, white on white
"My goddess," the wolf says.
"My consort," I answer back
We finish, loudly
The door flies open
The priest is there, his axe held high
The woodsman kills the wolf


It is the way of things


The god dies every winter, another chosen in spring
To take his place by the Mother's side
Rule as the summer God, the horned one
Until the night of the wolf
Until the night of the sacrifice
Until he dies
His blood draining, blessing the land anew
I take the hand of the priest
He lays the axe next to my lover


We leave the wolf to bleed


BIO: In addition to having several stories and poems published by Enchanted Conversation, Gerri Leen is celebrating the release of her first collection of short stories, Life Without Crows, published by Hadley Rille Books. See what else she's been up to at her website: http://www.gerrileen.com.

3 comments

  1. I really like how you worked the pagan themes into the story line. Your imagery is beautiful, this felt very powerful :)

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  2. I stumbled upon “Red is for Ritual” and was very surprised. Quite possibly the most shocking version of “Little Red Riding Hood” I have ever, and very possibly, will ever read. Although many of the other versions are dark and foreboding, this version traps the reader into the malevolence and wickedness of the tale. The reader is unable to escape the undertones found in many other versions by blatantly subjecting the audience in a graphic depiction which if full of description and violence. Definitely not for children, but as an adult reader, I found myself shocked, horrified, and fascinated all at the same time. The way the stanzas are separated is very well done, and the introduction of the huntsman, sometimes referred to as the axe-man, as a priest is very interesting. It brings a religious aspect of cleansing through violence, which is very entertaining when done correctly, and in “Red is for Ritual” it is done perfectly.

    -Adam Z.

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