Nina Kossman. You’ll have a good sleep where we’re going to lie down together.

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Nina Kossman. You’ll have a good sleep where we’re going to lie down together.
A general view of Babi Yar in 1961. From the archives of Yad Vashem via Emmanuel (Amik) Diamant.
Nina Kossman. You’ll have a good sleep where we’re going to lie down together.

* * *

Где сестра твоя непутёвая, говорила мать.
Сегодня мы всей семьёй идём умирать.
В дверь, слышь, фрицы опять стучат.
Собирайся быстрей, зачем тебе столько книг.
Там, где мы будем, обойдёшься без них.
Всегда ты последний, сынок, говорила мать.
Ну вот, собрались, а теперь ему хочется спать!
Выспишься там, где будем вместе лежать.
Чем книги в мешок совать, сестру б отыскал.
Ну что за дурак, в самом деле, какой вокзал?
Вот и сестра нашлась, лежат всей семьёй.
А тот, что колонну их вёл на убой,
до пенсии дожил, до внуков и даже до пра-,
у внуков натуры тонкие, не надо их тра-
вмировать болтовней про какой-то лес,
что с того, да мало ль на свете мест,
что с того, что поляна, ведь никто не воскрес;
а про то, как дед их метился в мать,
да про то, как младшему хотелось спать,
а когда упал на мать и из рук выпал мешок,
посыпались на тела книги да какой-то мелок…
Молчите, зачем вы внуку-то про ваш лесок.

 

* * *

Where’s your good-for-nothing sister, said his mother.
Today we are going to die together, as a family.
Don’t you hear, the Krauts are knocking at the door again!
Collect yourself quickly, and why take so many books.
Where you’re going, you’ll manage without them.
You’re always the last one, son, said his mother.
Time to get ready, and now you want to sleep!
You’ll have a good sleep where we’re going to lie down together.
Rather than slip books in your bag, find your sister.
Well, what a fool you are, indeed, what station?
There’s your sister, found at last, the whole family lies here together.
And the one who led their column to slaughter
lived to collect his pension, to have grandchildren
and even great-grandchildren, all of whom are so sensitive,
they’d be hurt by talk about some sort of forest,
so what, aren’t there all kinds of forests in the world,
so what, no one is going to rise from there,
so don’t talk about how he aimed for the mother,
and about how her youngest boy wanted to sleep,
and how his body fell on the mother’s, and how the books
and some chalk dropped from his hand onto the bodies . . .
Keep silent, why tell the grandson about that forest.

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 Нина Косман
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