Jess Smith

Anastasia Takes a Lover

"She undoubtedly held the record for punishable
deeds in her family, for in naughtiness she was
a true genius."  
Gleb Botkin, son of Dr. Eugene
Botkin, court physician to Tsar Nicholas II


Claire Anna Baker  "SunBody Pendulum"

Claire Anna Baker  "SunBody Pendulum"

He died
with us, too. Famously
my corset is laden

with jewels, each seam
thickened by rubies and the blackest
bloodstone amulets. I am sexy,

from months in the House
of Special Purpose. My grand ramblings
now reduced to mumblings.

              But you can understand me,
right? My corpse-eyes still lined
        with black lashes which I bat

      at you? I’ll be your Mother
Russia. I’ll show you how pretty
my ribcage is beneath
            the layers. Do you think
these gemstones make me look fat?


   Anastasia means
breaker of chains, but you
can call me Nastya. Say it


         very slowly. Even slower
                 than that. Thread


your fingers into
my unwashed hair. Inevitably
         you’ll find me buried

in genitalia. Why do you look

so thirsty? So ashen? This

                is not a place


I haven’t been. I’m alive with you

inside me. Ermakov is always

in there, too, his whiskey-dick

        pistol whipping around

in a fit. Thank God you’ve got

this gorgeous kalashnikov. A real


modern man. Let’s be sure

            to use protection. I carry

the bleeding gene in me.



I wanted the baby
mostly but not the accompanying

father. A good man is good
for planning and helpful

when the bleeding comes and does not go.
Hair stopping every drain, strands

and strands of it circling
the Christmas tree. How long

until I’m able
to make love again? When

may I string together
tin cans and place one

to my ear? My mother is only
ten states away. My mother

is singing in the kitchen. Oh she,
of her many-babied-body. A gnarly caesarean

scar because I was an enormous
infant who grew into

a miniature adult.
I could climb back in through

her hurt places but all these other babies
keep blocking the way. Big heads and little guns

clutched in their just-finished fingers.
From my fetal position

on the linoleum, I work
to take a sonogram

with a camera phone, running
the dull automatic

flash over such sunken
skin. The panoramic

option. How the canyon
became more canyon.



Born in Georgia, Jess Smith received her BA in Journalism from The George Washington University and an MFA in Poetry from The New School. Her work has appeared in various journals including Lumina, Red Branch, The Best American Poetry Blog, Anderbo, and others. She currently lives and works in Oakland, CA.