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Lana Hechtman Ayers, originally from New York, made her way to the Pacific Northwest via New Hampshire where she obtained an MFA in Poetry from New England College and a Masters in Counseling from Antioch. Lana works as a poetry manuscript consultant and writing workshop facilitator. She is also poetry editor of the literary journal Crab Creek Review and runs two chapbook presses, Concrete Wolf and MoonPath Press. Lana is author of two chapbooks and three full-length poetry collections, of which the latest is A New Red, a novel in verse that tells the real life story of a grown–up Red Riding Hood and her associates. Lana lives with her husband and seven black and white fur babies on the Kitsap Peninsula across the Puget Sound from Seattle.

These  poems are from Ayer’s recently published poetry collection, A New Red: a fairy tale for grown-ups. (Pecan Grove Press, 2010)


Red Riding Hood’s Real
First Encounter With the Wolf

     We meet no Stranger, but Ourself
         —Emily Dickinson

After Grandma was diagnosed as terminal,
we sought a second opinion from doctors in the city.
When I took her for some tests, I had a few empty hours
of waiting—a rare thing, with my job at the daycare
and catering to my husband’s many whims.

Right across the street stood an art museum—
a structure of steel and glass—to me
more fearsome than any folklore beast.
Yet I felt compelled to go in because it was
the last place anyone would look for me.

As fate would have it, the admittance fee was
more than I could pay but it was two-for-one day,
and the gentlemen ahead of me was alone, offered.
“Fine sir,” I said, “how very kind of you,”
and then he turned—the Wolf—

a dark stranger with eyes like tunnels.
By stranger, I mean like no one I’d ever seen.
His composure was keen, he had a fierce elegance.
“Not at all, fair one,” he said,
and walked away as if walking

were something done with wind and sky
not bones and gravity.
And I didn’t know why, but I felt something
within me unchain—
I went his way.

The room was high-ceilinged everywhere,
thick color forested the walls. Suddenly,
I felt unwell, almost fell upon a bench and sat.
Before me a woman danced.
The placard read, “Salome of the Seven Veils.”

I knew the painting was not moving
but the paint whirled around her, dizzy,
whirled around me, and her arms
were serpents drawing me in,
her hips thunderclap, cloudburst,

a soaking rain I had not the sense
to get out of. “Like looking
into a mirror,” gentleman Wolf said,
and when he did, at once the rain stopped,
all seven veils dropped.


What the Wolf Whispered to Red
During Their First Encounter

your eyes are like autumn
      after all the leaves
           have come down


Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Discuss Rothko

     Time is white
     mosquitoes bite
     I’ve spent my life on nothing.
                —Lorine Niedecker

They stand in front of Rothko’s painting
White Over Red.

The Wolf says, “What do you see?”
Red looks deeply.

“I see two blocks of color,
one atop the other.”

“Yes, but there’s more.” The Wolf implores her,
“Look again, as if you’re leaving.”

Red steps back, and as she does,
like Lot’s wife, turns.

She sees that the bottom of the canvas burns,
the top becomes a cavity.

Red informs the Wolf,
“Inside desire’s many rooms

are many closets,
but all of them are empty.”

Lana Hechtman Ayers
© 2011 Lana Hechtman Ayers

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