— after Vasyl Stefanyk (1871-1936) Ukrainian prose writer, political activist
Remember your village of always uphill,
a water-warped leather neck-strap,
the cramped wagon with an oak shaft.
Remember dirt, hunks of manure
flecked with feather and bone,
dust settled on the road before sunrise—
your horse hitched to your nearside—
you, a saint, tied to a breast collar of rope,
forever carrying light on your back.
Bulging veins, engirded chains of blue steel,
your forehead swelled—
human sweat, animal sweat.
If a thistle penetrates your foot—so what?
Blessed is that washed with saliva.
Blessed is the pinch of salt
buried in a wake of hoofs.
Remember it for its silence
the hill where you staked
your life—stacked stones
into a cross, carved your name
into its old silt surface,
tiny phosphorous stars—
You knew no other marriage,
no other stony eyes.
Cup your hands—
press them to your lips:
at times a deep-water wave uproots
a rock and washes it ashore, it remains
lying there heavy and inert.
From the rising and setting sun
it beholds the lively water and grieves that it no longer
bears its burden—
Dzvinia Orlowsky is a poet and translator. She is the author of five collections of poetry published by Carnegie Mellon University Press including A Handful of Bees, reprinted in 2009 as a Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary; Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones, recipient of a 2010 Sheila Motton Book Award; and her most recent, Silvertone, for which she was named Ohio Poetry Day Association’s 2014 Co-Poet of the Year. Her translation from Ukrainian of Alexander Dovzhenko’s novella, The Enchanted Desna, was published by House Between Water in 2006; and Jeff Friedman’s and her co-translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczyslaw Jastrun was published by Dialogos in 2014. She is a Founding Editor of Four Way Books, a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Massachusetts Cultural Council poetry grant, and a co-recipient with Jeff Friedman of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Grant. She serves as Editor for Poetry in Translation for Solstice Literary Magazine and teaches at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing of Pine Manor College and at Providence College.