2. Narrator: This I is shifting, okay? Over there, I was a schismatic. I’s own birth was an act of rebellion.
3. Fairytale: The taiga is a swath of coniferous forest—the world’s largest Terrestrial Biome. Eleven percent of the northern hemisphere. You go in by helicopter. You take boats or skis if you are half-witted, as most are, and for six months the snow is waist high and doesn’t bother the wolves. The taiga’s depths are eddied by the heli-guttering of survey parties. The taiga is a dark house on chicken legs where no footprints mark the snow. An amber stripe of iron ore the hero risks his tongue to gouge. Where spruce spines string Europe to China and Mongolia to the arctic arc to make the sign of the true cross. Or Northeastern European Floristic Province of the Circumboreal Region of the Holarctic Kingdom. Or, there are some woods can eat the paths behind you. The eyes of trees do not blink and as the alder flicks its faceted gaze you turn and turn clockwise and are lost as you always would have been. Oh, Godmother.
4. Narrator: I do love to go outside. Have you been sent there?
5. Fairytale: When you are sent to the two-legged hut of the Baba Yaga for a needle and some thread, you will need a ribbon and a tinderbox, a bread rusk and a slice of ham.
6. Narrator: This year I am paid to work as a dissector of fairytales.
7. Narrator: I am a researcher trained at a search between folds. I pay my rent by listing motifs. And so I read fairytales in bed, a lot. So I am literate in offal. In auguring. I ply and look for patterns that can explain.
8. Fairytale: Birds, wolves, isolation, white, air, crystal, flowers, pearls.
9. Narrator: If these seem worn and trite to you it is because you never knew them otherwise.
35. Narrator: Idea: The head is not a place that can be hairy. Elsewhere though, is.
36. Narrator: Diapers to diapers—cradle to grave they say. Baldness of the head is not admired, except in infants, and even then.
37. Ugrešić (on Ugrešić): “Here, then, is how things stand…. There are no better and worse literary interpretations, there are only good and bad books. Secondly: myths are memes, ‘units of cultural transmission.… Myths take themselves to pieces, add bits on, mutate, get transformed, adapt and readapt. Myths travel; in travelling, they retell and ‘translate’ themselves.”
38. Narrator: Beds are flying things. Places of birth landings and death takings off.
39. Ugrešić: “The elusive Baba Yaga sometimes appears as a helper, a donor, sometimes as an avenger, a villain, sometimes as a sentry, sometimes as an intermediary between worlds. Most interpreters locate Baba Yaga in the ample mythological family of old and ugly women with specific kinds of power, in a taxonomy that is common to mythologies the world over.”
40. Narrator: I would like to be buffeted at all times, a referent on each side. I want to live on the coast of a solid textual landform. I seek compression so that ideas get their own container and stay.
41. Narrator: Out of bed, I like to work on the floor of libraries, between the shelves of books containing the subjects of my interest. My pair of legs is the exact length of the floor space dividing most stacks. I pretend osmosis in these instances, the physical weight on my soles and spine, this condensing of one body on into the next. And I detest movable, crushable, electronic shelving. Someday it will lock us all down.
shear he and Savin of their beards and take their hymnals and force the children away from the garden and back to Patriarch Nikon I spit on his name, but Papa invited the people inside “since you have traveled this far,” and so they came. When they stood in the doorway they seemed full up with evil. Light streamed from their backs as if they lay together in the river and each of them wore the most indecent trousers I had seen. They troubled the grass at the brim of my trunk. The thin one’s eyes spread and curled back into the corner of the house like two mice and Natalia fell to her knees and lamented, crying, “this is for our sins, this is for our sins.” Then the people were gone the way they came and we all prayed the children would not go away with them. And ascended into the Heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end;
156. Ugrešić: “Mythical beings give themselves away by the noises they make. Baba Yaga uses repetitious phrases and can be recognized by her remarkable wheezing breath. Many of those attributes—specifically ‘noisiness,’ hand clapping, repeating words (echolalia)—could be attributed to autism, or old age.”
157. Narrator: Idea: Second, a woman is scary because she cannot behave as is expected, and because she could act out of turn and tempt or upset the balance (scared because of).
158. Ugrešić: “Yet, more often, she appears as a helpmet and liberator.”
159. Narrator: Idea: Third, a woman is scary because she is no longer desirable or impregnable and is understood to serve no physical function (what can she do with her body?) and then she is invisible and so she is scary because we do not know what she plans for us, because the functionless, like her, begin to symbolize death (scared of).
160. Ugrešić: “Hunters in the forests of north-eastern Siberia build little cabins that they call labaz or chamja on top of high wooden stilts (like the hen’s legs under Baba Yaga’s hut!) as a hunters’ storehouse, to keep supplies safe. The back of the labaz is turned towards the woods.”
161. Narrator: But what is the thing? The second thing? No, the first. The first thing is everything and the second is hard to say. It does not like sentences. It writhes out and leaves a husk of dress clothing behind that smells nothing like an idea anymore.
162. Narrator: Tidy up the syntax.
163. Narrator: Tuck in the folds of skin.
164. Narrator: The labia and jowl are touching.
165. Narrator: Come, say just what you mean.
Sarah Minor is an essayist and designer from Iowa. She curates a series on visual writing at Essay Daily and teaches in Athens, Ohio, where she is a doctoral candidate in Creative Nonfiction. Her work appears, or is forthcoming, in Conjunctions, Black Warrior Review, The Normal School, Passages North, and PANK. She was recently awarded first place in Hotel Amerika’s TransGenre Writing Contest.