Wayne had already flung off his t-shirt, pulled off his black Khakis to set up our tent—I can work faster if I’m naked—a new weed in the wet and wild. Faster, maybe, but not better: he slammed things together, tangled ropes. He was angry because we arrived too late to camp near the others. Because our Ford Country Squire was stuck in mud. Because I didn’t bring the small shovel. Because that next morning he knew he’d have to get down on his knees, rake the mud away by hand instead of cannon-balling naked off the lake dock.
But there we were: in a light rain, surrounded by a scourge of mosquitoes; our pup tent’s left hip sagging, missing a peg; the zip on, zip off flap—gone. I wanted to call it a day, a weekend, I’m done! and head back home to our Triple Decker on Mission Hill.
What’s the matter with you, Wayne barked as he sprayed repellent on his skin, careful to avoid his penis. What he meant was: why was I still wearing clothes—jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, a t-shirt and a pair of sunglasses—even though it was after five.
It wasn’t because I imagined a couple of skeeters flying too low, curious about the new sweet sweat scent. Or because I had told him Charlie’s here, and feared the absence of a tampon string would make me a liar. And certainly not because I’d feel inadequate or self conscious around the other “campers” at the Get Down Hoe Down, pot bellies split with Caesarean scars, squash-shaped sagging breasts swaying joyfully, or that group sportin’ softies at the Mister Softie Machine. No, I didn’t give him the satisfaction. To hell, I thought.
The next evening, his chest slicked from dancing, he’d picked at his wrinkly steamed hot dog on his paper plate, looked out into the mob of flesh, and said this is where we belong. That he’s not always going to look this good.
Babe, come on, he’d said, take off your blouse. Just once get out of that busted radio of your mind always stuck on some high-strung wavelength. The kind that always ruined the party.
Busted radio... Okay Okay I said, slowly pulling off my t-shirt. Just enough skin to call it fixed.
He shook his head, you really need to build up your shoulders.
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 co-recipient with Friedman of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Grant. Her newest poetry collection, Bad Harvest, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon in fall of 2018.