The Romanov Family Portrait

The Coil
The Coil
Jul 1, 2016 · 3 min read


At midnight,
gunfire breathes on the prison house. Yurovsky,
leader of the executioners, focuses on the brow
of the family doctor. He explains:
In view of the unrest in the town,
it has become necessary
to move the Romanov family


A barred window
ornaments a bare room, eleven feet by thirteen. Yurovsky
leads them in for a painless
photograph: first Nicholas, carrying his frail
son; then Alexandra and the girls, following
in worthless dresses, hoping they might disappear
into a ballroom. Sugarcoated
bullets spurt from the leader’s lips: Please, you stand
here, and you here … That’s it,

in a row.

The family waits
with shoulders back, grander still
in degradation. A family photograph
might yet lift Nicky’s drooping
mustache — a reason to smile. He stands close to
the ones he loves
more than the country

he lost.

to summon the photographer. At Yurovsky’s
orders he enters, without a camera. He is
eleven men armed with revolvers. Yurovsky
looms before the last czar, a scrap of paper
in his palm, his voice calm.

In view of the fact
that your relatives

Smile for the family portrait.

are continuing their attack
on Soviet Russia,

This moment will live, but

the Ural Executive Committee
has decided

you will not.

The 2015 Charter Oak Award

We are pleased to announce the second place winner for The 2015 Charter Oak Award for Best Historical, honoring the independent press’ best writing on historical topics. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blindly and selects the full list of finalists. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final. The second place winner receives a printed certificate, publication on The Coil, publication on Alternating Current’s award page, printed publication in the literary journal Footnote #1 with the selection indicated, and two complimentary copies of the journal.

CHRISTINA ELAINE COLLINS is an MFA candidate and Honors Award recipient in fiction at George Mason University. Her stories and poems have appeared in various literary periodicals and anthologies, including Jabberwock Review, Weave Magazine, and NonBinary Review. In addition to three Pushcart Prize nominations, she has received Finalist and Special Mention awards in several literary competitions such as the 2014 Katherine Paterson Prize at Hunger Mountain, the Heavy Feather Review 2013 Featured Fiction Chapbook Contest, and the Gambling the Aisle 2013 Chapbook Competition. She has been a writer-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, as well as the Art Commune program in Armenia.

Poem originally published on 2/18/15

The Coil

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The Coil

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The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.