Poetry by Nina Kossman


Know, mother, your son shall die,
before you, in torment,
the apple of your eye,
a promise fulfilled
before the first lullaby,
the fruit of your womb
pierced by the sky.
Be still, young mother,
in woe and grief,
virtue and poverty
in stillness and song
and unmistaken delight:
still your soul
your body
your soul


In this second decade of the third millennium
born three times of the tree of flesh,
fallen thrice from its empty branches,
the diaphanous heap of water,
red from the maternal sea,
syllables of my name rushing to rescue
your lips
your lips are trying to form as my name-
“complaints of the wind over the heap
of bones”-
this be my name in this life:
The Sky Rushing to Meet the Water.
Stony water
colored by wind,
chiseled by the light fallen off your eyelids:
one moment is all in the silence of the newborn.
Now take a pitcher,
pour out small echoes, equally
onto the earth,
onto the scorpio fortress,
upon the transparent stones,
and the motionless flame at the door.
Dipping my cheekbones
into the blind substance,
into the cooling water of the maternal yes,
I, river of your body,
I, the tightrope of fear your body walks,
return to you nightly, motionless,
daily, nightly
I bury both hands in your solitude:
answer me in your valley of closed eyes.
Salt of the earth in a sunflower seed,
salt on the leaves of the tree of destruction,
salt opening and closing
like a flower,
labyrinth I must pass
to close my eyelids with your fingers of sleep
to open yours with my fingers of clay and water.
In the second decade of the third millennium,
hallucination of flame on the face of a child,
the guardian of the child’s aerial dreams,
all of his breaths now a single breath,
all of his words an unending sentence,
I split myself into parallel moons,
I spill myself into a bowl of blood-
You will see me the salt of your body,
you will hear me think in your thoughts…
When I offer to you one face of the moon, you know:
my face is the face eaten away
by years of sickness and hunger,
face of a child who died
fifty years ago.

Poetry by Nina Kossman

Nina Kossman is a bilingual writer, poet, translator of Russian poetry, painter, sculptor, and playwright. Among her published works are three books of poems, two volumes of translations of Tsvetaeva’s poems, two collections of short stories, an anthology published by Oxford University Press, and a novel. 

About the contributor

Related Articles

Recoding Grief a poem by Diana Manole

Diana Manole is winner of the 2020 Very Small Verse Contest of the League of Canadian Poets and of second prize in the 2017/18 John Dryden Translation Competition

Three Poems in Translation by Laura Dan

Laura Dan's poems seduce the reader with their simple, visual touch and their dainty details.

2 poems by Efe Ogufere

Listed as one of the top ten contemporary poets you should be reading.

More Like This

Poems by Sohail Ahmad Khan

Sohail Ahmad Khan is Dean of Oriental and Islamic Learning Faculty at Lahore's Government College.

Poetry by Viviana Fiorentino

Viviana Fiorentino’s poems bravely tackle the conventions of the mother-daughter relationship in simple yet raw language.

2 poems by Chiara Salomoni

Chiara Salomoni’s is currently translating poetry by Silvio Ramat, Andrea Zanzotto and by Corrado Govoni.

2 poems in translation by Cindy Rinne

Cindy Rinne is the author of several books, including 'Knife Me Split Memories' (Cholla Needles Press), 'Letters Under Rock with Bory Thach', (Elyssar Press), Mapless with Nikia Chaney (Cholla Needles Press),

2 poems by Tonno Bisaccio

Tonno Bisaccio's work can be found in Apeiron, Gravel, Alimentum and others.