Nina Kossman. I Have No Proof, Except for the Story I Tell Everyone I Meet
Nina Kossman. I Have No Proof, Except for the Story I Tell Everyone I Meet
Photos of Boris Shternberg; in the center - document from 1937 confirming his execution and a memorial plaque installed by "Posledny adres" on the building where he lived before the arrest in 1937.
Nina Kossman. I Have No Proof, Except for the Story I Tell Everyone I Meet

My grandfather was executed in Moscow in 1937, after he had been tortured into signing a false confession of being a British spy, which automatically made him an “enemy of the people”. I saw this photo of him when I was a child, and I always knew that he had been innocent. He came to me in a dream one night and told me where to go and what to do in order to bring him back to life. I went where he had told me. When I finished doing what he had instructed me to do, there he stood in front of me, tall and frail and leathery-skinned. He was significantly taller than anyone else in my family. He was also significantly weaker. When I gently turned him around, I saw a hole in the back of his head. He was afraid of sunlight, and as soon as he stood up in front of me for the first time, he made as if to hide in the darkest corner, to fall apart into pieces again, to dissolve into nothingness. I held onto him with both my hands, I wouldn’t allow him to become dust. I guided him outside, where tree branches waved, welcoming him after so many years of absence. I found a spot under a tree, maybe an oak, a big tree generous with its shade. I had my grandfather stand there, leaning on the tree, protected from sunlight and occasional passersby. I told him I had to leave him alone for a short while, hopefully no more than a few minutes, and while I’m gone, I said, he should stand there, and not attempt to go anywhere, just stand and wait until I come back with my car. You don’t know this world anymore, everything has changed, the world is dangerous. Something moved in his eyes, they filled with liquid, and I interpreted it as a yes. I kept turning back at him as I walked away, to make sure he was still standing, still flesh. My car was parked six blocks away. I ran, my speed the speed of the wind. When I got into the car, I saw that the street in front of me was blocked by traffic. The wait seemed inordinately long, ten or fifteen minutes, until a traffic policeman opened up a side street, and all the honking suddenly stopped, and I followed other cars driving in a wrong direction on a one-way street. I saw the big oak or whatever it was, that tree generous with its shade. My grandfather wasn’t there. I searched everywhere, every tree in the neighborhood, every bush, I knocked on every door. Some doors were shut in my face, some people felt pity for me, most looked at me blankly when I told them that I’d lost my grandfather. I didn’t tell them I had resurrected him from the dead. Or that he had been tortured and shot by Stalin’s henchmen over eighty years ago. If the great purge and its millions of victims are no more than a tale to most of them, then why would they care about what I say? And of course, I have no proof, except for the story I tell everyone I meet, hoping they have seen the man with a hole in the back of his head, walking like a blind man through the streets of our merciless city.

 

About the Author:

Nina Kossman
Nina Kossman
New York, US

Nina Kossman (Нина Косман) is a bilingual writer, poet, translator of Russian poetry, painter, and playwright. Among her nine published books are three collections of poems in Russian and English, two books of short stories, an anthology she edited for Oxford University Press, and a novel. Her work was translated from English into French, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, Hebrew, Persian, Chinese, Russian, Italian, Danish, and Dutch. Her Russian poems and short stories have been published in major Russian literary magazines in and outside of Russia. Her plays were produced in London, New York, and Sydney. Her English poems appeared in major anthologies, such as Gospels in Our Image,  Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths, etc. Two volumes of her translations of Marina Tsvetaeva’s poetry are in print.

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Nina Kossman
Bookshelf
by Gari Light

These English poems by Gari have the same energy and elegance as his Russian poems, and they are enriched by his multilayered, polyphonic use of the English language to express thoughts and feelings with sophistication and humor.

by Marina Tsvetaeva. Translated by Nina Kossman.

This new edition by Shearsman Press (UK) contains translations of Marina Tsvetaeva’s narrative poems (поэмы). They can be seen as markers of various stages in her poetic development, ranging from the early, folk-accented On a Red Steed to the lyrical-confessional Poem of the Mountain and Poem of the End to the more metaphysical later poems, An Attempt at a RoomPoem of the Mountain, a beautiful requiem for Rainer Maria Rilke, New Year’s Greetings, and Poem of the Air, a stirring celebration of Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and the quest for the soul’s freedom. These translations were first published by Ardis in 1998 and reprinted by Overlook in 2004 and 2009. The current edtion was published by Shearsman Press (UK) in 2021.

 

 

 

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