Baba Yaga by Ashley Parker Owens

Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga is the devil’s grandmother,
suggesting she was a mother once.
She flies through the air
in a mortar & pestle,
& sweeps away footsteps
with a silver birch broom.

Her hut deep in the forest
stands on giant chicken legs,
with no windows,
sometimes not even a door.

The fence is made of human bones with skulls on top,
& visitors are granted entrance with the magical phrase:

Turn your back to the forest
your front to me

Baba Yaga is not good,
but is not entirely evil.
She is not a good mixer or easy-going.
She kidnaps children & threatens to eat them,
& provides wrong information to strangers
unlucky enough to lose their way.

Baba Yaga knows something about women:
they are desperate to learn the secret
of turning wrinkles smooth.
She knows a recipe,
but to ask her aid requires
preparation & purity of spirit
& a dollop of basic politeness.

She ages one year per question,
& is reluctant to help.
Aging reverses with a blend
of tea steeped with blue roses,
& the chant:

Turn your back to the forest
your front to me


(An earlier version of this poem was posted on Accents Publishing Blog as part of #lexpomo.

Ashley Parker Owens lives in the hills of Kentucky, where the gnomes are. She has lived in San Francisco in an ashram, and in Chicago where she helped with the Second Underground Press Conference and was the creator and editor of Global Mail. After the successful publication of Gnome Harvest by Double Dragon Publishing, Ashley is writing the next novels in the Gnome Stories Series. She has an MFA in Creative Writing at Eastern Kentucky University, and an MFA from Rutgers University in Visual Arts.

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