How the Story Goes

How the Story Goes

My name is Red
for all the usual reasons – the hair,
the character flaw of anger, a preference
since childhood for scarlet hoodies.

I am a comparative mythologist – I know,
I know, people call me the Fairy Tale Sleuth,
but the media – what can you do?
I’m really just a text wrangler,

a recorder of oral histories. I listen
at the pregnant belly button of the world,
omphalos of all story. I am
the squirrel Ratatosk running

on Yggdrasil, the eternal green ash tree
whose branches spread over the nine worlds.
I listen to Nidhug, wily vampire dragon
of the roots, and I carry his unlikely tales

to the eagle flying from the leafy
top of the world. I see all restless heroes
setting forth from little cabins squatted
too contented in the woods. I hear

the subtle Calls to Adventure
that whistle them down the wind.

And I have been known to help the hapless hero,
but there are other helpers, too, the King of the Ants,
Jesus or the angels in disguise, the tired,
the poor – Samaritan blood spills eternal.

I watch, I listen, I see those children
cross blind into the Zone of Heightened Power
and begin that terrible Road of Trials
from which no god can save them –

not even gray-eyed Athena could save
Odysseus from his tragic voyage home.
I thrust my hands in my jacket pockets,
pull the red hood up over my flaming hair,
and turn away.

I know how it goes, and knowing
maybe makes it harder to watch, easier
to turn away.

Crucifixion. Dismemberment. We laugh
when Coyote, trapped in the Great Mother Tree,
has to take himself apart to escape
that suffocating womb, pushing

his body parts, even his balls out through
the woodpecker’s hole,
all needing to be reassembled
on the Other Side. That’s tough.

It’s always tough. But that’s just
how the story always goes.
I’m up here in my Ivory Tower
trying to play it cool, but I still

get angry at the dimwitted Fool
stumbling along the rocky road to love,
or power, or enlightenment.

I feel every story like bearing a first born child,
and every fairy tale or ancient myth
is that dreadful push to leave
the Mother Tree behind, to reconcile

with the Sky Father, find a name
that is our own, one that rings true
to our toes. We seek the Elixir of Life
and Mastery of Two Worlds.

Let’s face it. We’re all lost in the woods
stalked by the top predator of the soul.

My name is Red.
And I know how the story goes.