'Forever and ever,' 'Snow-cooled,' and 'As I pass your jail door'

Forever and ever,
fight upon flight,
sea waves upon seamen,
seaweed upon sunk trunks,
and a cry above it all-
gods of all nations, deliver us!
gods of all seas, unite!
Hero, so un-god-like,
goddess, so un-womanly,
upon a wave, so unworldly,
seas of all continents,
seas of all dreams,
those who fought you,
those who lived by you
now lie in your depths;
their arms are corals,
their hair is seaweed,
their dreams of reaching the shore
are nothing but sea water,
wave upon wave,
gods of all seas,
preserve the coral reefs
that used to be men.



angered by stillness,
as though it were a crime,
eyes half-closed,
hands separating
anemones from asphodels,
stalk by stalk,
petal by petal...
And don't forget water-grass,
how it fed on the asphodel,
flower of the dead,
symbol of memory,
and that short burst of the sun
in the valley of the soon-to-be-dead,
while your tense hands
go on separating
petal from stalk,
oblivion from memory
in the grove of the gods
who no longer rule us.



As I pass your jail door,
I remember you,
free of walls and doors,
locked gates and security guards,
wardens and cell mates,
a "room for visitors",
and all the accoutrements
of a totally finished life;
I remember you, free,
reading a poem by Yeats,
writing your own poem,
now that your life is over,
and there is nothing I can do
to relieve the pain of memory
but remember you, 
free of cell-doors and locks,
and of a warden's voice,
saying, "Visiting hours are over, sir."

Over, indeed. 
Finally, you are free.



Nina Kossman

Moscow-born Nina Kossman is a painter, sculptor, bilingual writer, poet, translator of Russian poetry and playwright. She is the author of two books of poems in Russian as well as the translator of two volumes of Marina Tsvetaeva's poems. Her other books include Behind the Border (HarperCollins, 1994), a collection of stories about her Moscow childhood, Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths (Oxford University Press, 2001) and a novel. ninakossman.com. Nina recommends the Rainforest Action Network.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 - 22:16