Baba Yaga is a witch from Slavic folktale. Sometimes seen as dangerous and violent, she is also a healer and a wise woman, living in harmony with the cold, Slavic forests and often consulted for her wisdom.
This sequence attempts to imagine, and recover, her experience of nature and her relationship to human beings and their bonds of love and family. It excerpts two mini-sequences, the first, "Baba Yaga's Nativity", describing her birth and life in her forest, and the second, "Baba Yaga In Love", her memories of falling in love with a man from a nearby settlement.
Baba Yaga's Nativity
Autumn I heard them, saw them spar,
the black-eyed deer inside their home of smoke,
sauntering like royalty
through the breath's applause.
Their antlers beating sounded like the music
gods play to blot the noise of storms:
sharp as bones and yet as light as air.
They made me think of how much comfort
the gods must need inside their rigs of cloud:
to know the sky they sail,
that fathered them,
keeps them, loves them, will not let them down.
Once, I found a dead deer by a lake.
Its eyes were burnt-out holes the size of stars.
Every two hand's-breadths the wounds poured flies,
armies of them, upwards to the sky.
I touched the fallen god. Its hide was dry,
moss in late summer. A royal cry
hung from its red lip like a key.
I began to wonder who he was,
the nameless foreign god who fathered me.
Ben Morgan is a poet and academic based in Oxford, UK. His first poetry pamphlet, Medea in Corinth: Poems, Prayers, Letters, and a Curse, was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2018. It retold the famous myth through poetic letters, spells, prayers, sonnets and songs, as well as theatrical interludes. He has also published poems in Oxford Poetry and at The Sunday Tribune and The High Window. He has taught Shakespeare studies and early modern literature at a number of colleges in Oxford and is completing a monograph on Shakespeare and human rights for Princeton University Press.