I. First Sister, Sister Winter Snake
I didn’t know what choked me in the Russian courtyard,
amid the drifting jeweled wisps. I came to drink our history
hidden behind iron gates, to interpret the flag fluttering
its sickle and hammer, to witness one lone cottonwood
bright in the golden-red light. Myth, our sister said, Revolution.
A weight of fingers, again, around my throat in the sunset's glow,
luminescent and ghosting. I could neither speak nor breathe,
my tongue clamped by the past’s vice-grip. When the server asked,
Coffee black? I shook my head, eyes watering, hands quaking.
We know her, are her, our sister said. We are ancient as babble—
a language withered by family truth. Who had I believed
we were for? I held the fairy book of Baba Yaga, the one gilded
with her image—long nose, mouth to suck, teeth to cut
a heart—open in my lap. Why do I hunger?
II. Second Sister, Sister Moon
My little babuscha, my mother whispered to my wrinkled face,
squeezing pruny fingers and toes, mussing my hair, knowing
the cold, sharp edges of Moscow streets, how they would scour me,
how they would whet my teeth to points and shear my leg to bone,
shaping me into yet another. Baba Iaga, they called me in school,
skinny girl with bony shanks, hawkish nose, birdlike fingers
carving horns to cull songs. I shaped a firebird charm to wear.
Classmates stared where it jiggled, dropping feathers of ill-luck.
My name means horror, fury, torture, pain. Baba Yaga, we’re called,
a name I was born into, grew into, am. I wobble on chicken legs,
build fences like rotting bones, live in a home on stilts that turns
in wind. My days feel mundane—cook, sweep, grind herbs to spell,
curse, and hex, warn so many away, tend to my sisters. Snuffling,
I nestle candles in skulls. Lift my nose, sniff for Russian men.
III. Third Sister, Sister Death
One of us was naive, the good girl men would sing-speak pop songs to
over vodka, “I Will Survive" a humming drunken mumble in July sun
as music warbled from the Black Sea boardwalk of flapping tents.
One of us was compliant, letting fate grind and mash her
like dreamspells of herbs worked by mortar and pestle,
she licking the limbs of men, cracking and sucking them down,
men of marrow and bone. Are we here of our own free will?
What answer isn't a lie? One of us was fierce, riding out the night,
a shadow’s specter, refusing her mother’s latching warmth,
the sweet suckle of milk-tit beyond babyhood. I cast my voice
to the moon, snarl, be the wolf bitch for the world. Who doesn’t
consume to escape? I ride the pig. I dance the old men, pull
them down. Give me secrets, I say, Give me your babes.