Dzvinia Orlowsky

Dzvinia Orlowsky

Pitchfork: Ohio, 1978


I don’t remember grabbing it
from our barn
                        that morning
three malpractice lawyers
stood in our driveway,
wrapping up my father’s

                        the x-ray unchecked,
the cancer spread, rampant
as wildfire

How to move water to those fires?—
drop by drop
from puddles
to waking life


I welcome the unexpected—

how farm tools take on a different life
hanging inside a barn,
less useful, untouched,

yet inside our home:
long handle, five curved tines

legal jargon pitched
toward Father’s
the deposition
that like an already full glass
would never hold

low listless hum of work,
proof that the dying are still
with us


Raised to be polite,
I offered each lawyer
tiny sweets, iced
water with a bitter twist,
until the heat
in my parents’ bedroom
gave off a cloying smell—

What year did you finish your residency?
He couldn’t answer
Poland or Ukraine?
He couldn’t answer questions of place
When did you come to America?  But
holding up a ski trophy
he kept near his bed,
hand shaking, voice shaking
then crying, he responded…1978
as if recalling a favorite song
with sound mind

For three months, my mother stood up,
left his room to let the dogs out
One day, a letter arrived


The deposition held up in court
Father already passed,
compensated for work hours

I don’t remember grabbing it
from our barn that morning
three malpractice lawyers
stood in our driveway

or thanking them
for making
the drive out—


P.S. one wrote on the letter:

What a treat, so pretty
in your green farm dress,
a pitchfork raised, ready to drive
it through each one of us,
“Get off our property!”

Farm tools take on a different life
hanging inside a barn—
less useful, untouched,

I don’t remember grabbing it
Just a girl, untouched,
barefoot on the gravel

DZVINIA ORLOWSKY is a Pushcart prize poet, award-winning translator, and a founding editor of Four Way Books. She’s published six poetry collections with Carnegie Mellon University Press including Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones, winner of a Sheila Motton Book Award and Bad Harvest, a 2019 Massachusetts Book Awards “Must Read” in Poetry. Her poem sequence “The (Dis)Enchanted Desna” was selected by Robert Pinsky as a 2019 winner of the New England Poetry Club Samuel Washington Allen Prize. Dzvinia and Ali Kinsella’s co-translations from the Ukrainian of Natalka Bilotserkivets’s poems, Eccentric Days of Hope and Sorrow, (Lost Horse Press in 2021) was a finalist for the 2022 International Griffin Poetry Prize and winner of the 2022 AAUS Translation Prize. She and Ali are currently working on translations from the Ukrainian of Halyna Kruk’s poems, due out from Lost Horse Press in 2024. 

Photo credit:  Sharona Jacobs

Read more by Dzvinia Orlowsky:

Author’s Website
Poems in Plume