Baba Yaga

by TJ Hoffer

In a bone hut made of young girls
resides a lonely old crone,
taking on unwanted maidens
who work as servants

Father took me there
to serve the Baba Yaga
to make step-mother happy
My presence a disturbance

The legends made me scared
She would break me to pieces
                  eat my flesh
                  drink my blood
                  add my bones to the hut
if I do not do what she wants

Weeping before hearth,
the mice offer to help me
for some food in return

           Why would you do that
           Don’t you work for the Baba Yaga?
           In a manner of speaking
           You seem kinder than most
           so we teach you the ways

Given some gruel,
the mice show me what to do,
pleasing the Baba Yaga

She offers payment in clothes
                                    rich foods
if I keep working hard

One day father comes
while the Baba Yaga is out
He wants to take me home
where he says I belong

The bone hut is my home
The Baba Yaga loves me
more than he and step-mother
were ever capable of doing

He refuses to listen
      says I talk nonsense
      forces me to come with him
even as I scream and cry

Step-mother is not happy
                     says the Baba Yaga is a sham
                     punishes me for living
                     decides to send step-sister

The night before father takes her
I whisper to step-sister
about things she should do
to please the Baba Yaga,
giving her faulty advice

After step-sister leaves
step-mother mocks me
                    says step-sister will turn out better
                                                    please the Baba Yaga
more than I ever could

I sneak out and follow father -
needing to return home
missing the Baba Yaga
             the kindly mice -
and take the dog step-mother mistreats

I see father reach the bone hut
and come out with a basket,
step-sister’s bones inside

After he leaves with a bone rattle
I go inside with the dog
The mice climb the dog
                demand payment of fur
to make a nest

The Baba Yaga smiles
                          gives me a tight hug
                         welcomes me home
                         praises me for my cleverness
For the rest of time
I live with the Baba Yaga
help good maidens
dealing with bad ones

© 2019 Helen: a literary magazine