Let the Dead Bury the Dead

Surely she would want to hear one final song, something from the Carpathians, something folkloric about flying geese or curly hair, just to calm her nerves before he laid her to rest.  Or she might ask for a glass of chilled white wine, even though he never quite learned how to pour it well, forgetting to twist the bottle, or how to sip it, gazing into her eyes.  He would have to find his domino cufflinks, but first he would have to find his arms.  He hadn’t needed them for so long.  The wind shushed through where his ribs once curled, a fat robin lodged itself in the invisible branches that spread where a human heart once beat. He’d remember not to wear his Adidas maroon three-stripe sweat suit, the one that made him sweat only if she saw him and grew angry.  This is not the way to seduce me, her dark stormy eyes would reprimand.  Should he bring a shovel?  Could he bear to toss dirt on her remembering that he didn’t particularly like it, the sound like heavy intermittent rain drumming on the roof of his casket, his friends staring into the burial vault, wondering what it would be like down there instead.  Would she lie down quietly?  He’d remember to reserve the moon.  He’d ask a distracted God not to sweep too close to the stars. The tall grass would sway in the night breeze as if nothing had changed.  Maybe he wouldn’t need to bring his guitar, just his hands, if, he could remember where he last placed them.  He hoped not to disappoint her with his cup of cracked black walnuts and a blushed apple unwrapped from a white lapel handkerchief luring her into the next world. Any way, she was still very much alive.  Night after night she stood in front of their bathroom mirror brushing back her filaments of fine hair.  Why couldn’t he see her there—spraying clouds of Paris Eau de Toilette in large continuous circles onto her white gauze nightgown, hear her reticent sigh.




Dzvinia Orlowsky is the recipient of an NEA Translation Fellowship (with Jeff Friedman) and a Pushcart Prize, and is Founding Editor of Four Way Books. She is also the author of five poetry collections published by Carnegie Mellon University Press including her most recent, Silvertone and Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones, co-winner of the 2010 Sheila Motton Book Award.  Recent co-translations with poet Jeff Friedman from the Polish poetry by Mieczysław Jastrun have appeared or are forthcoming in The Antioch Review, The Spoon River Review, Los Angeles Review, and Poetry International. Her translation from the Ukrainian of Alexander Dovzhenko’s novella, The Enchanted Desna, was published by House Between Water in 2006. She teaches poetry at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing of Pine Manor College and at Providence College. Her sixth poetry collection, BAD HARVEST, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon in Fall of 2018.

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