ferns at night
Photo by Akin Cakiner on Unsplash

Hades' Love by Nina Kossman

Naked leaves sifted nightly,

gathered, fondled, and stored

in long sheets of black fire,

free of feelings' clatter,

freed most of all from the earth

whose fingertips touched fire, arms

steeped in the sickness of its craving:

Hades' love is persistence; rust;

Hades' love is torpor; rust;

time spread over wide pastures; weeds

perpetuate the difficult love:

earth over leaf, thuds of jealousy,

black, over the shapeless earth.


Nina Kossman is a Moscow-born poet, playwright, writer, painter, and translator of Russian poetry. Her short stories and poems in English have been published in journals in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Among her published works are three books of poems in Russian and English, two volumes of translations of Marina Tsvetaeva's poems, two collections of short stories, and a novel. For Oxford University Press, she edited the anthology Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths. Her writing has been translated into Greek, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish, and she is the recipient of a UNESCO/PEN Short Story Award, an NEA translation fellowship, and grants from Foundation for Hellenic Culture, the Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, and Fundación Valparaíso. She lives in New York.

Author's note

From Nina Kossman's introduction to Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths (Oxford University Press, 2001): "If we think we now know the answers, it is because the questions were first posed in antiquity. If we now see far, it is because we stand on the shoulders of tradition. Myths belong to us as much or as little as the imagery of our own unconscious: the deeper we dig into our psyches the more likely we are to stumble upon an ancient myth. Our ancestors are us or we are our ancestors: the texture of our bones is passed on, along with the texture of our dreams. And perhaps it is because the myths echo the structure of our unconscious that every new generation of poets finds them an inexhaustible source of inspiration and self-recognition."

"Hades' Love" originally appeared in Women Waken in 2015.