Bedtime Story

Baba Yaga wraps her bony fingers around the pole and climbs. She tugs her body over bumps

and scaly chicken skin, crawls between the teeth of the door, drops the basket of berries,

shoves stringy black hair behind a pointed ear, and fans the coals.

 

The stairs outside my room moan under my stepfather’s feet.

 

Ashy hoof prints cover the floor. A ragged wolf pelt cures over the hearth. Crumbs scatter.

A petitioner’s blue rose wilts on the floor. In the corner, the mortar smeared with mud.

The pestle’s crack keeps it from steering her through the forest.

 

A crash on the stairs and a beery curse.

 

She glares at the broken broom, mutters about walking like any old hag. The silver straws: plucked by pig brothers who swore to clean for a night’s board. Vasilissa crouches

in the corner combing her doll’s hair and begging to go home.

 

A chapped hand slips around the edge of my door.

 

Baba Yaga polishes the teeth in her keyhole’s mouth and mumbles under her breath. Strangers enter her hut too often. First the girl seeking light, then three porcine brothers. She’s witch

of the woods, not fairy godmother. Time the chicken legs scuttled to a new marsh.

 

His grinning face hovers in the hall.

 

Vasilissa glances out the window and nods a greeting to the Night horseman. He spurs

the horse past the gate. Baba Yaga pinches the girl’s arm, shoves a glowing skull

into her hands and points to the door. The girl races away.

 

He’s leaning over me now and the room shrinks.

 

Baba Yaga bolts the door and her three hands shimmer into view. The pigs spoiled the place then tried to sneak off at dawn. At least the girl said please. Baba Yaga plucks the ruined flower from the floor, checks three pork roasts, and adds more coal.

 

His hand slithers up my shirt.