Lucia Dove

Yaga

 
I
In no time at all three displaced women arrived to Somewhere, there was the smell of milk in the air
.                            and of lunch on the platform of smoked sprats on black bread

II
The smell of it all was stifling the mosquitos            the                dark
all the mud the mulch the muscles of the trees                                moving

III
Once there was and once there was not a furry head bent over under moth-filled light peeling potatoes
with fingernails while picking seeds out of peppers and flicking them to the birds, insects, plantlife

IV
One woman cried in fright      Let me linger here longer!      so the other two women became one
.                   and dipping their hands into their bread-lined pockets wandered into the forest alone

V
The smell of the boiled beetroot was delicious                     the                skin
from the heat of the earth and of the breath just                   peeling          off

VI
In the instance that people arrive to this place, liberated from the density of the city to the outskirts
where the thick birch blinds, pine needles prick sore feet, they arrive in darkness and covered in blood

VII
These people say      I am a recent transplant here     Can I pick the mushrooms that are white?
.                     I give good massages           Do you brush your bones at night?

VIII
We arrive from darkness and covered in blood. Muscles mutate into monsters, into memories
that mutate into muscles, into monsters. Lizaveta-Annibal’s shadowy grubs, just awakening to life

IX
In the freeze the roots of everything are bound to the forest floor. In the heat children cut tiny
hands snipping spiny fruits from an overgrowing patch. They catch, kill and eat the first fish

X
Women say               Swim with me in the lake                   Fetch my shashlik from the fire
                    Let me take your photograph            Stand over by the flowers

XI
There amongst the wind-bent trees stands a hut on chicken legs with crooked knees
.                                          its giant feet split like an awful starfish

XII
I tell you that Yaga can smell the thoughts of women, moulded into one factory matryoshka
as a fat mushroom, grabbing hands tight in her muff and going forth through the ancient firs

XIII
Lost in the wreck of snow, a small opening of face behind animal fur whose blood is so hot it toasts
the skin and lets out a stink of flesh, from bubbling yeast to fresh bread, from stove to forest

XIV
To the nostrils of a nose bitten with frost that has not seen the froth of beer for hundreds of years
.                            or felt how cheeks burn in conversation with other curious noses

XV
The woman knocks on the skull
blinking hut       let me in        let me out

XVI
And so the woman became two and the third arrived alone and covered in blood
and Yaga just there gently raking the coals with breasts and humming an old tango
And slowly …
.                        slowly …

the knocks on the door became

KNOCK                                            KNOCK

.   yablochka                                         yablochka

Baba                                                 Yaga

.                      BABA                                               BABA

.                                               Yaga             Yaga…

The three women watched as Yaga’s locks were picked, hinges oiled
and hairs grew and stomachs ballooned and teeth chewed and Yaga said

children live
but my
horses
are dead
bury them
for me
one white
one black
one red
or I
will eat
the children

A small kitchen in an old flat is still with me. The greasy curtains, the dirty snow
still falling, where I fell in love with buckwheat, roasted, cooled, boiled and salted
cooking is art
.                            vodka warms the blood
.                                       .                           kefir settles the stomach, vodka settles the stomach
bash birch branches on your body for good circulation
witness the nakedness of a woman as event

a woman
.                        cooking

.                                                                          drinking

.                                          bashing

.                                                         dancing
.                                                         the grizzle
.                                                         the gristle

.               call the dogs, and the mothers and their children and feed them buckwheat
pouring out from the full sacks by the back door, roast them, cool them, boil them, salt them…

XVII
This is what they did: the women left the terrible hut in search for three dead horses
a sack of buckwheat in their hands and their bellies stuffed with dill and peppers

XVIII
The reek of iron the heat of the hut made                     eyes              sore
chatter drifts to the rafters cobwebs licked           from             crevices

XIX
They say                   my hut is my body                 I sleep on the floor

my home my bosom              my womb my tomb                knock on my door

I have never worn a modern ring     taken off my shawl                held down a job                   
       
been abroad                                           torn a mussel from its shell             beheld much at all

XX
The horses found, the women saved from despair, Yaga sits on a bench and breathes
.                                the air so thick with earth that Yaga almost chokes and dies right there

 

Lucia Dove completed her degree in English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham. She comes from Southend-on-Sea, is half-Russian, and currently lives in Amsterdam where she works for Amsterdam University Press. Her poems have appeared in The Tangerine and The Poetry Review.