(Ekaterinburg, Russia, 17 July 1918)
His mouth agape, as though still asking questions,
the Tsar lies at the end of his long reign.
(Blue lips almost struggle to explain,
caught in the halfway realm of last expressions.)
The Empress sprawls, hands crossing her stained bodice.
Behind her rest the bayoneted heirs,
blood in pools around their jewelled stares.
Yurovsky stands above the heap of bodies.
A Chekist practiced in the art of killing,
he commends his men as gun smoke settles.
Their trigger-fingers, though, are cocked and curled,
their executioner eyes more than willing—
all of them, like him, poor boys from shtetls,
still eager to help mend the broken world.
* Hebrew for “the mending of the world”
Source: Leo Yankevich, Tikkun Olam and Other Poems (The New Formalist Press, 2008)