She Meets the Dogs
When the second daughter, the Little Hare,
Walked to the house where the dogs were,
They lay chewing bones, growling by the door,
Their eyes missing nothing with a yellow stare.
She greeted them with respect but no fear
And made to pass by. But they blocked her,
Pulling their snarling lips up to show
Their spiked canines, grinders in a row,
And black blotched gums, sneering do-not-pass.
From her basket she took cold white snow
And blood roses, whose petals made the air glow
With attar, but the dogs still growled low
And left them lying at their restless feet.
Then she took from her throat a sweet
Song whose notes were red roses of sound
And again the air was dampened with heat,
And again the dogs ignored the offered treat.
Then the Little Hare took red pepper
From a packet in her pocket, and blew
It up their noses and into all their eyes,
And in their confusion, she passed through.
She Eats an Apple
The second daughter laughed; sunlit leaves
Laughed with her. Might and right? She’d
So little interest in them, though (since you’d
Mentioned it) she thought the dogs might be
Mightier than her. ‘Its a matter of wile,’ she
Said, lifted her skirt and reached guilelessly
Into the top of her stocking, at which you carefully
Backed off, suspicious. She smiled sweetly,
Opened the paring-knife and peeled a red apple,
The thin skin unfolding in a reel
Like a rolled up cello-hole. Then the
Little Hare ate the apple, and closing the knife
Tucked it back into her garter, smoothing her
Skirt down afterwards. ‘If I played you a
Trick, she asked, how would you know?
And if I only met you as if I were
A friend, would I be the second daughter?’
She smiled as she said this and you came
Closer, watching her hands. ‘Maybe you’d prefer
That,’ she said in a delicate half whisper,
‘But I don’t know if it would become me.
And here’s something to consider, sir—
The unexpected can and often does occur.
And it may be I shall still surprise you.
She Visits the Witch
Soon after she was fully grown,
But before she took to men,
She visited the witch (who was maybe
Her grandmother) to get tisanes
For the baby’s colic and her mother’s pains.
The witch showed her certain things
And taught her to use the grinding-stone,
Demonstrating for a whole afternoon.
And afterwards the second daughter was still
And brooding for days, which she spent alone.
She kept about her small papers, bones,
Herbs, red beans, and something that smelled
Sweeter than ice cream, and one
That reeked bitter as a gall-stone.
There were also strings that she
Knotted into nets and bags, and hung
From trees. You may think she did these things
Somehow in imitation of the crone,
But she would curl her lip and swing
Her head to the side at the suggestion.
Besides which the old woman was
Tidy and exemplary in her restraint,
Always well dressed, her clothing plain
And precise, as befits a witch.
She Eats Honey
She went down Road; she was going
Too fast for safety. She liked the flowing
Wind, it made her hair corn, silk, white water
Behind her. She stopped running
At a cairn where Ratel sat sucking
Honey from a golden comb, licking.
She asked Ratel for a picking
And he willingly shared, offering
Her the best bits, because he knew
For certain that she’d trick him
Out of any withholding.
They ate honey till it was all gone
She liked to lie in the sun, the second daughter.
In the mornings you could see her, if you sought
Carefully, stretched in a grassy place, her limbs
Pitched wide but her eyes in the shadow.
That’s how a brothel-keeper found her
Once in the garden, and he tried to invite her
To join his staff. She was on her feet before he
Could blink, up a tree quick as thought,
Whence she pelted him with rotten fruit.
‘Come down, my pretty one,’ he besought her,
Wiping sticky fig juice from his shoulder.
‘Not yours, nor pretty,’ she took careful aim,
‘Nor even one,’ and the next missile caught him,
Stinging white juice in the eyes, which brought him
Tears. Now while his eyes are burning, she skims
Down the tree in a flurry of laughter
And as she nimbly moved past him
Her feet were quick but her hands were faster
And she was gone. A little later
She was at last alone, still gasping,
Grasping the wallet plucked from his suit.
She Finds a Man
The second daughter found a man who, like her,
Was a hare. She took him into the pasture in the
Night, where she had him skitter and thump
While Orion’s belt passed from the east to the
West. In the morning she went gathering herbs
Upstream, where you met her. She said, ‘I prefer
A man who is a hare when he is asleep, being a
Young woman of discretion.’ You asked her
About her own animal nature, and she replied
That all the water in the stream made her
Want to pee, went round a bush and did not emerge.
When the man who was a hare woke up, he found
That he could not speak, nor wanted to, and he
Wandered off to find red mushrooms and berries,
Both of which were in season, and plentiful.
She Uses the Phone
She hated the phone, never used it
Unless compelled to. When it
Rang she’d stare out of the window,
Hoping for leaves, ignoring it.
Her mother made her answer, but it
Was only a voice emerging from a plastic
Box, like a toy bear from which
A pull-string hung, and who sighed Kiss
Me, kiss me, before winding down.
The voice spoke well, but she saw it
Only as an articulate box with lit
Buttons, which when pressed played a tune.
The Little Hare Runs
The Little Hare liked to run. It kept
Her long limbs taut. She loved the sweat
And breath of it. She ran past houses with
Their trees and fences, past back yards swept,
Beyond the squared roads, the well-kept
Lawns, streetlights holding the night away
In fuzzy bubbles, past where the homeless slept
On the broken glass, up to where it’s too steep
To keep the wildness out, and the true dark waits
With hard stars when the evening star has set.
There she came to her home, the animal tracks,
Rambled all night the routes without purpose.
The second daughter could turn herself into
An owl, she told you, and made her hands into
The shape of talons, all skin and tendon.
At the same time she made her eyes go
Round, and swivelled her head, so
That it was easy to see her in flecked down,
About to snap her wings open
Like an umbrella, and rise up over
All with one air-cupping thrust. She said she
Only did the change at night, and then only
On certain nights. You wanted to know
If she hunted. She said, ‘Oh yes, I hunt, I hunt.’
When the second daughter sought her
Fortune, she carried with her
Only a small bag with the simplest
Of things—a day’s bread, a needle, some water.
She said she must save place for her
Fortune, which was large, she felt sure,
And likely to be heavy. Her mother
Offered her all she could offer—
Medicines, cosmetics, clothing, useful devices,
Books, words, chocolates. She thanked her
Vaguely, but she was already turning new corners,
So she left without them.
Arriving in a new place, she always spent
The first night prowling, seeking, as she went,
The place. She leapt over alley walls like the hare
She was, over stones and fences, all about.
The second night she spent sleeping. Then
She’d give the third to love. After that she’d get
Restless, stride and hop like a prancing hare, skit
Against an unseen tether. Nothing could pen
Her, or so she thought, and she’d move
Down Road, or over Path, always content,
With her little bundle. Each step being an event,
She was always arriving in a new place.