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The Wolf's Postcript to 'Little Red Riding Hood' -- Agha Shahid Ali

Another guest poem submitted by Matt Chanoff:
(Poem #961) The Wolf's Postcript to 'Little Red Riding Hood'
 First, grant me my sense of history:
 I did it for posterity,
 for kindergarten teachers
 and a clear moral:
 Little girls shouldn't wander off
 in search of strange flowers,
 and they mustn't speak to strangers.

 And then grant me my generous sense of plot:
 Couldn't I have gobbled her up
 right there in the jungle?
 Why did I ask her where her grandma lived?
 As if I, a forest-dweller,
 didn't know of the cottage
 under the three oak trees
 and the old woman lived there
 all alone?
 As if I couldn't have swallowed her years before?

 And you may call me the Big Bad Wolf,
 now my only reputation.
 But I was no child-molester
 though you'll agree she was pretty.

 And the huntsman:
 Was I sleeping while he snipped
 my thick black fur
 and filled me with garbage and stones?
 I ran with that weight and fell down,
 simply so children could laugh
 at the noise of the stones
 cutting through my belly,
 at the garbage spilling out
 with a perfect sense of timing,
 just when the tale
 should have come to an end.
-- Agha Shahid Ali
Ali died this week, at age 52. He was a Kashmiri exile, living most recently
in New York. He's apparently famous for introducing the Ghazal into modern
American poetry, where it's now common. The poem seems to me appropriate
this week, not only as a memorial for Ali, but for the comment it makes on
the vilified. The thing about Osama bin Laden and his ilk is that the evil
they do swamps any legitimacy. If there's something to think about how
Western (and Hindu) culture and politics constrict the possibilities for
Islam, or about how poverty and loss of culture lead young men to violence,
or about the the responsibilities that the world's only superpower may have
toward weaker nations, then these things are drowned out by the casual
murderers who act in their name.

Ali could have made this a trivial poem by being just contrarian and taking
the side of the wolf. Instead, he makes a stronger point by making the big
bad wolf human.

You can read about him at
[broken link] http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=128
or
http://www.salem.mass.edu/sextant/v4n2/keyes.html

You can read about the Ghazal form at
http://www.umr.edu/~gdoty/poems/essays/ghazals.html

In the Minstrels, Poem #748 by Faiz Ahmed Faiz was translated by Ali.

Matt.

25 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Melissa Towner said...

Thank you for this poem -- it made my day! It also reminded me of Anne
Sexton's poem "Cinderella." Aside from the obvious fairy tale connection,
the two share an enlightening glimpse into another point of view -- what
about the wolf? what does happily ever after really entail? Furthermore
both draw on the darkness of the original tales which most of us have
forgotten in this era of Disneyfication.

A few years ago I had my students (high school sophomores) write "Fairy
Tale Poems" using Sexton's "Cinderella" as a model. They were shocking and
exhilarating in their understanding of the "others" in the tales.

Melissa Towner

Martin DeMello said...

Also spracht Melissa Towner...
> Thank you for this poem -- it made my day! It also reminded me of Anne
> Sexton's poem "Cinderella." Aside from the obvious fairy tale connection,
> the two share an enlightening glimpse into another point of view -- what
> about the wolf? what does happily ever after really entail? Furthermore
> both draw on the darkness of the original tales which most of us have
> forgotten in this era of Disneyfication.

Along the same lines, Gregory Maguire's brilliant 'Wicked' and 'Confessions
of an Ugly Stepsister' are retellings of 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Cinderella'
respectively, from unexpected and very well depicted points of view.

martin

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talking about and a little out of context, but now you mentioned red riding hood, do you hear about this new movie with precious Amanda Seyfried as the red riding hood,I have to watch this movie.

SEO said...

I laughed out loud at the unexpected wordplay in the last
line, and it still amuses me every time I think of it. writing essays Definitely one of
those lines I wish I'd thought of myself.

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