How the Mighty Have Fallen

By Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Platinum-bleached Miss Romanoff, Tsarina
of bookkeeping, with layers of caked powder
on her sour, corpse-like face, a voice like shovels 
scraping dirt off coffins, was my tormentor,
kept me at my desk engaged in combat
with the giant leather ledger 
until assets and debits matched to the ultimate cent. 

My revenge was musing on her ruined ancestors,
the Russian royal family shot to death 
(first made to pose for a photo proving
they were still alive): Nicholas, Alexandra 
and their children, including the enigmatic
Anastasia, who'd reappear from time 
to time — portrayed by Ingrid Bergman in the movie —

till the bodies were dug up and DNA
showed Anastasia dead without a doubt. 
But for the Revolution twisting history, 
Miss Romanoff, I imagine a distant kin, 
could be a lady-in-waiting in taffeta, 
rendezvousing with wealthy counts rather 
than keeping accounts for a discount furniture store, 

shriveled by her thwarted fate, spitting 
bile on a girl who lacked her noble blood,
starting college, afraid to be late for class. 
But I endured her with a silent glee. 
She was bound for life to the leather ledger, 
while I would stage my private revolution
and know a different kind of royalty.
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About Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Lynne Sharon Schwartz's first novel Rough Strife was nominated for a National Book Award in 1980. Other works include Balancing Acts, Disturbances in the Field, Acquainted With the Night, The Melting Pot and Other Subversive Stories, Leaving Brooklyn (nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction), The Fatigue Artist, Ruined by Reading In the Family Way: An Urban Comedy, Face to Face, In Solitary, Referred Pain, The Writing on the Wall (2005), and The Emergence of Memory: Conversations With W.G. Sebald, as well as two poetry collections, In Solitary and See You in the Dark. Her work has been widely anthologized, and she teaches in the Bennington Writing Seminars and at Columbia University's School of the Arts.

One Comment

  1. Charanjit Singh
    Posted April 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    O I love the humor laced with spicy satire. Thank you Lynne.

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