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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.


He spends the chilly mornings chopping wood,

a prince of a smoky palace.

All the sky seems to gather where he stands,

his neck a settled curve, sure as a river,

his hands a pair of gloves worn by a god.

He reminds me of an instrument which sings

just by standing still, against the wind.

He spoils my life

by showing me what it is –

a place of wormy delves and sudden starts,

where nothing strong, as strong as him, is kind.

I wish that I could thank him,

could approach his house from my own country

with a gift

to catch his heart, to bring him subtle comfort.

Because of him, I sleep in company:

now my dreams soften my stone bed.

Inside them, he unfolds, a tapestry,

set above a hearth to keep off grief.

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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