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Ben Morgan: a poem

Author's note

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.


Impatient, I stand before the deity,

a woman of middle years, not ancient,

a woman who has never been tendered,

offered, accepted, desired.

I know myself wicked and harmless,

merely a woman, desirous and loving and lost.

Is there no law, my mother, in the trees

to teach me how much I cost?

Do not answer me, my love, with stones,

the stones of this country I trust.

Trust has betrayed me, proved wanting,

a red-eyed accomplice to lust.

Now I stand at the doorway of love's house,

a heart in my hand like a pear.

It is not ripe, my darling, but subtle,

a piece of the forest,

a prayer.

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.

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