wicked alice| fall 2011


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Jessica Young

Little Red Riding Hood

Oh sweet little red, if we just change your hue,

there are myriad things you canít do we can do.

 

You know our tendency to revise the past: at the end

of The Little Mermaid Ariel kicks the bucket, vilely, but

we tell kids what kids need to hear. She lives, loves. Recall

now Cinderella, whose poor sisters take knives to their feet, slice

 

their own toes away, that the stubs might slide into

glass slippers like butter. You know the drill: innocence

wins. Red and grandmother make it out alive, scared but alive,

load that sucker down with rocks. Good triumphs; the ever-after is

 

as happy as ever-afters get. But you think youíre one

step ahead here. You know the real ending, gross and gory.

Maybe youíre even aware of the version with a slice of sexual.

Think thatís the real ending. And it is. But what youíve missed is

 

the beginning, and so youíve missed the pointónamely,

how Red and company were looking for an exit, concocted

a plan to lure that wolf with jelly-slathered biscuits, whistling

for him to come on out from the deep darkness of the woods. Red,

 

standing there, singing in a voice thick as molasses, making

that irresistible ďcome hitherĒ motion, rolling finger by juicy pink

finger. She coaxed that creature, swiveled those jelly-biscuits under

his wet and wanting nose. How she begged him to come home with her,

 

offered him all sorts of sweet pieces. Ask yourself: how

can a wolf refuse a gesture like that? You know the answer:

he canít. Red and grandma knew it, too, begged him to take a bite,

to put an end to it. But donít stop there. Itís tempting, I know. Resist.

 

Ask questions. Just donít ask why these stories get watered

down. Donít ask who does the watering. None of that matters.

What matters is this: there once was a little girl, a girl sad enough

to invite death, but doubtful enough to have sweet grandma go first.

 

 

 

 

 

Fib Sequence

 

I have said before, Iím sorry, Iím just timid with someone new.

 

I have said it, and I have kept a list of those who have heard me say it.

 

I have kept itóthis listóand I have kept it updated, and in mind.

Really, it is a Word document with a coding system cataloguing

 

who, exactly, got what of me, and when. It was Darleneís idea.

The list keeps growing, she said, but our memories remain

small, false, and isnít this something we should keep straight?

 

So I got to cataloguing and having something to catalogue,

to saying blank statements on shyness. And I have said things

too private, and now Iíve said these things to too manyó

the grand emotional gestures, and the almost-whispered

admittance of self-hatred. And itís not that theyíre lies,

 

theyíre just a little less full each time spoken. But the air

can never hold them, just as I cannot, so they exist now

in the minds of those I told, those I bore and bared myself to.

 

And these minds are connected to heads connected to bodies

in four states across the US, and on European nation.

But now I have no right of use, of entry, to these lives

as they carry my echoes through aisles of Whole Foods,

of Winn-Dixie, of Shoprite, Meijer, El Corte Ingles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary and Math

 

Picture a bright red bird dipping down from the sky

and its churn of clouds. Picture it landing on the grass

twenty or so paces away from where you are picnicking.

Perhaps its round figure touches two dozen blades

of grass; perhaps it touches more. What matters is,

technically, the birdís body-mass rests on one blade.

If you were to spell it out mathematically, you could

pinpoint the one blade at the birdís center of gravity.

This is all to say: What were the odds of the red bird

landing on that specific blade, out of all the ones

within eyeshot? Infinitesimal. Yet it did. Consider this

logic when something happens, and someone says

 

something went wrong when really everything went as

could have been predicted if that someone had just been

paying more attention. If that someone hadnít been

so busy all the time and had been better about looking

after her daughters. That is, weíre talking about math.

So say you want to know what it means when a girl gets

knocked up and her mother finds out one Tuesday and

is angry, scolds her, and says, Mary, I do not understand how

this happened; itís a one-in-a-million chance. The mother who

said that probably meant it without actually meaning it

because she was upset and you let her down again, but

sheís just laying the foundation for analysis by probability.

 

It will make you feel a little better to think this way. Try.

Englandís current population is about 20 million. Assume

this event happens to one person in every million this year,

and assume half the residents of England are female.

You can logically reason 10 English teenage girls will get

pregnantóaccidentally, mind youóthis year. Which is

to say it is going to happen to 10 British girls this year,

which is to say it has to, okay? Donít say these things

donít normally happen to someone my age because

they do; here are numbers, Iíve given you numbers.

And itís not a fault thing, and itís not a virtue thing,

itís a numbers thing, and it was an accident.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica Young's Pushcart-nominated work has appeared most recently in Copper Nickel, Versal, and Cold Moutain Review. She held the Zell Fellowship for poetry in Ann Arbor, MI after completing her MFA (poetry) at the University of Michigan, where she received two Hopwoods and the 2010 Moveen Residency. Her undergraduate work was at MIT.