Squirrel Hill

“Other people would tell this story differently and none of them would be wrong.”
     — Barbara Kingsolver
Eyes of the author.

Pam O’Brien

PHOTO: Pam O'Brien

Pam O’Brien has been writing poetry since she was a student at Allegheny College. She has three chapbooks, Kaleidoscopes, Paper Dancing,and Acceptable Losses (Pudding House), and a full-length book, The Answer to Each Is the Same (Dos Madres, 2012), which can be purchased from Dos Madres or Amazon. Pam teaches in the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh and serves as the Associate Director of Public and Professional Writing there. She resides in Pittsburgh with her husband, Jack, and is the mother of three grown children.

Wolf: Where does she live?
Red Riding Hood: A good quarter of an hour farther into the wood. Her house stands under three big oak trees, near a hedge of nut trees which you must know.
— The Brothers Grimm

That’s right. Read the epigraph.
I gave that wolf clear directions to Granny’s.
Honey, I’m no innocent.
I’m way past the Crayola stage.
Think about it.
What mama sends her kindergartner
into the woods alone?
What red hot female chooses
her grandmother over a wolf?

Sure, I had my red cape on,
along with my size four slinky sheath,
red stiletto heels.
Not hardly hiking-in-the-woods clothes.

And now, years later,
don’t be thinking I’m sorry, honey.
The lovers who came after were nothing,
you hear me, nothing
to the feel of his hot pelt against my thighs,
the wet-fern smell of him,
his lips as he wolfed me down.
The Little Mermaid
My eyes extend beyond the farthest bloom of the waves;
I lose and find myself in the long waterÉ
— Theodore Roethke

On your sixteenth birthday
you swim to the surface for a day
and finally see the strange creatures
of your grandmother’s stories.
The ones who walk.

And you want legs, too.
You want to live in the palace,
to escape the danger of being submerged
or of drowning in that long water.
So you strike a deal with the sea witch.
She takes your voice and delivers the handsome prince.

And now you are like them,
except for the long silence
that follows you everywhere.

Prufrock claimed he heard the mermaids
singing each to each. But you,
now beyond that farthest bloom of the waves,
you must learn to sing to your prince
from the other side of words.
Mrs. Darling Speaks

What can you expect from a boy
whose address is second star to the
right and straight on till morning,
from a leader whose lost boy band is so divided
that each has his own hollowed out tree.
For such a boy
it all starts because
he is looking for a mother
or he doesn’t want to grow up.

Be ready, my daughter,
if such a boy should come to your bedroom
seeking his shadow self.
Be watchful, my daughter.
Don’t get stuck cleaning the hideout,
sewing on pockets,
measuring medicine onto tiny spoons.
Don’t be the one who has to walk the plank.

Yet don’t miss out on
an adventure with such a boy.
Practice telling good stories.
Leave your window open.
Learn to fly.