The Famine of Baba Yaga
Here, it is always the same brittle year: nightjars
shrill in the canopy, and a crone (like the specter
of a lost history) spoons the shimmer of a moon,
and whatever darklight that is unshimmerable, into a cauldron.
Reflections of the girl she never was, shimmer there too.
Baba Yaga, grinding the pestle, riding the mortar, roosts
in her bony house, tethered between its cockerel legs
and the moon's umbilical pull. Between tidal tug
and spurred fury. Long gone are the fatted days
of young women, chalk-soft, come to wheedle her conjury.
Valiants too. And like their fairer counterparts,
their thick toothsome flesh filled her cookpot, their lard,
yellow as butter, greased her lithic skin, oiled it
to a high shine. The only voices in this graywood
are crow-call and the frantic wind lifting cinderflake
from her blooded hearth, licking wormwood
into leaf swirl, parching the thin, claustral shell of her heart.
In her unalterable world, winter's knot never loosens.
And the only starry glimmer is firefly flicker
over the kitchen midden, or the dun carp,
their backs seining her lightless tarn. Sometimes, she croons
as she carves infant faces on bone-dolls, and dreams
of children soft in their beds: that good meat. She shakes
with twin hungers: insatiable ache to devour marrow-sweet
limbs, and the gutting ache to be a vessel, (the untenanted hollow
pitched between her knobbed hips swelling with pulse
and kick). Nurslings cradled to her breast. Cat-like
she longs to lap their milky breath, nuzzle their egg-fragile heads.
Baba Yaga pulls handfuls of rue and witch-parsley
from her garden, seasons her pot. Tips icy light
into its iron belly. Stokes an appetite she will never fill.