Sussex County, Delaware. Land of chicken farms,
chicken houses, chicken catchers, fortunes earned
from chickens roasted over open flames in
cinderblock pits, chicken dinners, dumplings.
Now she’s come for them, flying
40 feet above the flat, fat lands between
Chesapeake Bay and Altantic Ocean,
the legs of her house scratching the sweet soft dirt,
stirring up the powdery tilled fields.
Dust spins behind her like a parade of furies,
her three servants follow, but in this country they ride
tractors—a white servant on a white tractor with
white tires—this one is Day. A red servant on a red tractor
with mirrored fenders—this one is Sun. A black servant
on a black tractor decorated with skulls—this one is Night.

Some chicken houses rise into the air to follow–all the birds’
wings zzzzzzzzzinging like hummingbirds
fueled by her promise of wisdom and meat. Others rise up
on a thousand pairs of chicken legs, suddenly coordinated
by the sight of such giant chicken legs
and the goad of the cackling witch
screeching in Russian at her invisible servants.
The doorknob of her house has grown its own beak.
The house pecks at the ground for anything it can find—
whole cornstalks, possums, pigs, chicken farmers.

Baba Yaga’s found the piles of feathers, beaks and bones
behind the processing plant. She’s landed her mortar and
pestle (her favorite way to fly) and loaded the bowl
with what’s left. She’s grinding away.
Hear the bones shattering? The beaks cracking
between the rock of the bowl and
the rocking pestle? See the filaments
flutter up around her grinning face as she grinds.
The chicken houses have skidded to a halt.
The chicken houses wait. Even Baba Yaga’s own house
bends over to watch. They all watch her pouring
blood that is neither theirs nor their fellows’,
watch her stir and speak words full of k and sh and io
all stirred up together.
The mortar boils over with bricks,
thousands of bricks pushed over the rim by
more bricks rising up from the bowl. Bricks tumble
everywhere. Baba Yaga speaks again to the bricks
and they pile, brick on brick, rising up.
They become an oven. All the chicken houses
dance and scratch the ground while
she fuels the oven with their manure. They know
the oven’s not for them.

Kai Harper Leah’s Baba Yaga

Kai Harper Leah is the chef/owner of a small restaurant in Penasco, located in a small town in Northern New Mexico.  She and her partner have been in business at Sugar Nymphs bistro for eight years.  The bistro is in a landmark theatre that is the country home for Wise Fool NM circus.  Before being a chef she was and still is, a Buddhist practitioner.  Kai learned to cook at Zen Center in San Francisco where she worked at both Greens Restaurant and the Tassajara bakery.  Before being in the food business she went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and majored in 3 Dimensional Design.  Her favorite mediums are colored pencil, acrylics and encaustic.  The Baba Yaga is a colored pencil drawing.  She exhibits in shows in her area.

7 Places in America (Stone Quarry Hill Art Park)

In June, I spent time in Cazenovia, New York as an artist in residence at Stone Quarry Hill Art Park. I had an amazing time walking the enormous grounds, often in mist or fog, coming upon all kinds of sculpture. The posts below, where my brother thinks about Baba Yaga, made me remember I’d written about her too. And it was when I was back in the “old country”–not Russia but upstate New York.

Tree House (The Mary Hackley Treehouse)

In childhood, where the surface
Was so clean and tidy

I could only suspect
Something underneath.

Even my mother’s house
Had its own private life

The creaks and meows of night,
Shadows of the copper beeches.

Out in the woods, there was a clearing
Called Flat Rock

As if this bit of glacier ground granite
Had some kind of intimate meaning to be named,

And Black Bear, which was an enormous
Mass of fungus hanging high in the maples

Like a tumor, or a warning
Or a sign of guardians.

So little was left of the wild
Except for the story

Where Baba Yaga, the witch,
Russian as my grandparents,

Flew through the air
And where her house, the one that walked on chicken legs

Could speak, and always turn towards you
As if we both knew what we wanted.

Daniel Sagan Sketchbook

The image below is from a sketchbook by Daniel Sagan. Daniel is my brother–also an architect, builder, artist, and professor at Norwich University in Vermont, where this is part of a faculty art exhibit.
He refers to these images as “somewhere between industrial blight and Baba Yaga’s house.” Baba Yaga of course is the Russian witch whose house walks on chicken legs.
We grew up in New Jersey, and it formed some of our aesthetic. Daniel says “Trenton, New Jersey is like being asleep and awake at the same time…you ask yourself: how did that church get under that highway?”
I asked him about Spiral Jetty, the earthwork by quintessential New Jerseyian Robert Smithson. It is in Great Salt Lake. I said–but anyone from New Jersey knows that a jetty has to break something, like surf. What does this break?
Daniel said: Time.