boris kukuliev
Russian Fairy Tale
by Kryssa Schemmerling

Our mother decorates a jade tree in the window
beneath the wandering jew. It’s Christmas

in Los Angeles. My sister and I know nothing
about God or snow. The bright blue bulb

of an onion-domed church dangles
beyond the freeway, just out of reach,

an ornament we long to touch. It looks
like the castles in our book filled

with maidens who cry diamond tears
and turn into swans. We beg our mother

to take us there. The only person inside
is an ancient nun who leads us

through a thicket of gold crowded
with saints and martyrs, pausing

among them to pull from the folds
of her habit a photo, worn and creased:

the last Tzar and Tzarina wreathed
by Romanov daughters. A nimbus

of princesses in new-fallen
white. The sister

assures us Anastasia
will rise again

as I scan the family’s faded,
thumbed over

faces, wondering which one
is Our Savior.

IMAGE: “Russian Fairytale” by Boris Kukuliev.

PHOTO: The author in bed the night before Christmas. West Hollywood, California, c. 1969.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is from my forthcoming chapbook, Iris In, a collection of poems that looks at the world through the lens of a camera. These poems are concerned with the history of early cinema and photography, how they intersect with the history and myths of the American West and with my own memories of growing up in California, specifically Los Angeles.

Kryssa Schemmerling

Kryssa Schemmerling
‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rufous City Review, The Cortland Review, Mudlark, Poecology, 2River View, Big City Lit, and The Same. Her chapbook Iris In will be published in 2016 by Broadstone Books. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who received her MFA in film from Columbia University. Her most recent film, The West Begins at Fifth Avenue, is a narrative short that imagines the New York City childhood of outlaw Billy the Kid. For more, visit: