Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Baba Yaga
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Mamas and papas always
tell the children strange old
tales to keep them away
from the wood. Baba Yaga
will get you, take you by
the hair into her big, chicken-
foot home and eat you!
Baba Yaga,
the fearsome and toothless
gossip, but as God weaved
and knotted it, I met her once.
Truly. And Baba Yaga
is a kindly lady, at least
she was to me.

I did get lost in that deep
oak wood. Well, half oak
and half saguaro back then,
and it was the night
of the white blooms.

I came upon a brown cottage
made of dirt and bone.
The door opened before
I could knock.

Madam, I said, Are you
the Baba Yaga?

She was strange
in that she looked young
and old at once.

Well, Baba Yaga’s a bit
nicer than La Llorona
or Queen of Harlots.

So you are?

I’ve a thousand names,
little one, so yes,
Baba Yaga will do me
fine.

She was knitting and
the home smelled like
buttered toast.

I asked her if she
planned on eating me
and she said,

I eat the green
from the leaves
in autumn and I eat
the moon about once
a month, but never children,
and never hares.

She let me ask her
a hundred questions;
said it wasn’t rude
because she was lonely.
She said she was born
in an apple orchard
five hundred thousand years ago,
that she was married once
but her husband was too stupid
for her tastes, that she
has too many children to count,
and that her given name was Eve.

But after she said that,
the name Eve,
she blinked quickly
as though she realized
she had told me something
she didn’t want me to know.
At that moment, she
kindly escorted me out
with bread, blackberry jam
and a jar of wildflower
honey.

Right there was
my home, like she’d been
my neighbor all along,
and when I turned to say
goodbye, it all had
disappeared,
the lady, the bone and
the dirt,
leaving only
long chicken scratches
in the clay.


Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is a painter and poet inspired by myth and folklore, lupine and quartz. She lives in Florida with her husband and son. More of her work can be seen at raquelvasquezgilliland.com.

  • Ruth Asch

    VIvid, delightful and thought-provoking.