Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Vasilissa’s Doll

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Sadly, she fell out of favor. The angel
mother voice that comforted the orphan,
that advised the child, soured. She nagged
as well. The borscht needed onions, the linen
needed starch, the Tsarevich needed a spanking.
Vasilissa shelved her. That did for daytime,
but all night she was busy. The court would wake
and find their papers tidied and lost,
the cooks found the meats seasoned already;
who knew what was in them? The Tsar
disliked the tight balls the doll made of his stockings.
Finally, the Tsarina took her mother's gift
and walked back into the forest. She was brave,
as you know, and adult by that time.
When she reached the hut on its chicken legs,
she left the doll on a gate post with the skulls,
and went home quickly. She knew not to look
back. The doll's better off now. Baba Yaga,
who'd always known the trick -- no child
could have survived that ordeal alone --
is glad of company and conversation.
They discuss the young, who don't appreciate
wisdom. They smoke. They eat blini.
The horsemen of the red dawn, the golden
noon, the black night, pass in
and out the gate of skulls. And sometimes
there's a treat: a child arrives,
sent on death's own errand to find
her deep impossible self. Baba Yaga
provides the terror. The doll gets her chance to
comfort and advise. And all night she performs
the undoable tasks set for the apprentice,
separating barley from oats, poppy seeds
from dirt, so that one day the young one will walk
out the gate of skulls, carrying fire in a death's head,
knowing in the bones of her soul that all
she has gained was brought to her life
through the virtue of her own strong hand.


Anne Brannen lives in Pittsburgh with her partner and 13-year-old son, where, for her day job, she teaches in the English Department at Duquesne University. Her poetry can be seen online at Cabinet des Fees and has appeared or will be appearing soon in journals such as New Mexico Poetry Review, Kestrel, and Illumen. She keeps a blog, under the nom de plume “Pandora,” at Ephemera Ephemerae.


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Really nice "ever after"! I love where you took it. A nice find on the internet, when I was out looking up other things!
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