Identify the protagonist.
She watches her own legs pump
the pedals, pinches the bell
in that obnoxious manner,
then tosses her legs
over the handlebar and coasts
bumping over sidewalk cracks.
Does the mother give her a warning?
She makes Red visit Granny, wear
the fancy clothes the old lady sews
to Sunday School and potlucks.
For her bike, she wears hand-me-down
shorts and T-shirts when it’s warm.
What happens to the protagonist?
Her innocence envelops her in stench.
A whiff sets him on her trail.
She sucks hair that escapes the hood.
Her legs escape the coat.
What is the grandmother’s role in the plot?
Granny’s wrapped her in a talisman
against the streets,
houses with no windows, chainlinks
chained and locked.
Is the antagonist completely bad or shaded?
Because his costume hides his expression,
she misinterprets the claws.
Check under the mask for a surprise
if your heart can stand the shock.
What happens to the helper?
Perhaps the huntsman arrives in time.
Perhaps he is there all along.
Perhaps you were wrong.
What happens to the antagonist?
Bystanders saw him leave with the pelt
and the stink around the same time
the huntsman disappeared.
In real life, punishments are a lottery.
Does she receive help from someone else
or does she help herself?
Remember that red velvet slid
in rhythm with Granny’s arm,
the thin needle dangerously bent.
Then she put it on like red shoes,
like a tongue back in the mouth.
Perhaps there is someone
at the window or a wrong number.
Does she help herself now or later?
When she moves into her first own
home she hangs her cape
with the claws in a glass box
mounted on the wall above the table.
Luanne Castle’s Kin Types (Finishing Line), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award. Her first poetry collection, Doll God (Aldrich), was winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, she studied at University of California, Riverside (PhD); Western Michigan University (MFA); and Stanford University. Her writing has appeared in Copper Nickel, TAB, Glass, Verse Daily, and other journals.
Artwork: Christian Schloe, Behind the Leaves