Baba Yaga


Baba Yaga is a major character of Russian and Slavic folklore. She is said to ride around in a mortar using the pestle as a rudder, and live in a house on chicken feet. She is both witch-like in that is it said that she eats small children (and may perhaps be the original model for the witch in Hansel & Gretel) and she is also sometimes considered a source of wisdom and guidance to lost souls, both antagonist and protagonist.

This poem was written as answer to a writing challenge on the late lamented TIBU writer's site. The challenge was to take a folk tale character and place them in the modern world. In this context, the voice of the poem becomes much more clear.




BABA YAGA


Boundless anger bleeds her eyes,
more red than eyes can be.
A dozen centuries and more
writ large across her face
in crevasses and pustule
give lie to reports of her demise.

The dirty skies above her homeland
taste of grit, sewage and despair.
Her herd kills itself in slow disdain
for her gifts.
Likewise has her tribute
vanished like the white
of the snow along the Volga,
replaced by filth.

Movement, always movement -
stillness would prove fatal.
From village to urban blight
back to village
she hunts, seeking the goat
left by her herd in exchange
for life, health, abundance.
Finding nothing, her gut churns,
her anger builds.

Hunger threatens to challenge rage,
no tribute in over a hundred years.
Still she flies,
thrusting pestle at wind currents,
jumping from star to star,
outrage to outrage,
on to the next disappointment.

Worn weary by lack of homage
she retires to her haven,
chasing her insolent house,
avoiding its taloned rebuke.
Let them survive another winter without.
Perhaps then, they will
seek her favor.

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