The House on Chicken Legs

Stephanie Parent

Her cottage prowls the forest
On legs of rubbery flesh
Clacking bones
Prehistoric claws

It leaves footprints large enough
To swallow a girl
Hood and boots and all

Don’t bother to follow the tracks—

The house finds you

And when Baba Yaga beckons you inside
The birch tree by the door will tear at your flesh
The dog will nibble at your cold ankles
The cat will scratch your thin wrist

The witch will demand the impossible
To separate the seeds of millet
The peas and the poppy seeds

But such a task is not so difficult
For one who lives in a world of cruel stepmothers
Jealous sisters and forgetful fathers

You have been separating peas from poppy seeds
All your life

And when your eyes burn
From hours squinting in the candlelight

When the scratches on your skin smart
And your limbs grow heavy as tree trunks

When you hear those chicken legs
Rustling beneath your feet
Feel the floor thrum

When the house runs
And carries you away
From everything you’ve ever known

When the old witch snores, and it sounds
Like the sound she will make
Once she’s devoured you

A voice you carry in your pocket will whisper:

Morning is wiser than evening

And a light that burns
Inside a skull
Is still a light

And you will go on.

Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Her poetry has been nominated for a Rhysling Award and Best of the Net.