Fairy-Tale World by John Grey

In the fairy-tale book, there’s illustrations by Rackham.
If the words themselves won’t give you nightmares,
I guarantee the pictures will.
Red Riding Hood is so innocent, you’ll fear for your children.
And the wolf is fooling nobody.
Not even the worst grandmother has teeth that sharp,
snout that long, hair that thick.
But that’s the point of childhood isn’t it.
Start with the nightmares and grow from there.
Aren’t we all grounded in witches hauling themselves
up towers on a princess’s long gold hair.
Or dragons in caves. Or giants smelling blood.
By the time the warnings come around
to strange men in cars, kids from rough neighborhoods,
we’ve shuddered from clutching trees, invidious gnomes,
larcenous beggars, talking toads and, worst of all,
little boy and girl devourers.
The predators, the tough kids, just add to that
roaming band of evil-doers.
And later in life, the ranks of ogres thicken…
co-workers with a sharp knife for your back,
women who cheat at every turn,
so-called friends who rob you blind.
And that’s not even taking into account
bad drivers, clumsy fork-lift operators,
hunters with lousy aim,
and politicians who would send you off to war.
It’s a dangerous world.
It’s a dangerous imagination.
I’m reading my child a story.
I’m showing him the illustrations.
He won’t sleep well.
Nor should he.

John Gray Copy
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Silkworm work upcoming in Big Muddy Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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