Dzvinia Orlowsky

Bad Harvest
December 14, 2014 Orlowsky Dzvinia

Bad Harvest           

“even if it was mentioned, it was one sentence…”

The Ukrainian Weekly:  Day of Memory,
Recollections of Famines



Does my name take your tongue’s

otherwise unclaimed space?


Swallow once for me.

These gooseberries are not stones,


this cup of water,

this cup of water.



My father worked, mother waited in line

at night for maloyem, crust thin as a wrist,

a breath, an octave


between one child

and the other lying in snow,

how blue that blue.


Dnister River Snails

faces, green grey,

like of those fallen with swollen bellies


The snails promised

we’ll hold you


until summer.


Eating Grass

no livestock   no chickens

no crumbs


hunger  if it could open its mouth wide enough

open its wide enough

open wide enough


hunger would tear

out the windows


Shortly before Deaths

of those already called back to air,


silk plums of your bruised feet split

& you dreamed, instead,


of slipping through any weightless surface.



Come out we have a doll for you


Neighbors disguised–kindly,

not succumbing.


Never open the door.


I am not afraid to speak of this

a cry from the heart

given by my parents,


a grain from the burning storage chamber

doused with kerosene,


the meat from the market–


no history

no pigweed, no stinging nettles left.

Pushcart prize poet, translator, and a founding editor of Four Way Books, Dzvinia Orlowsky has published six full-length poetry collections including her most recent, Bad Harvest, a 2019 Massachusetts Book Awards “Must Read” in Poetry.  Her co-translations with Ali Kinsella from the Ukrainian of Natalka Bilotserkivets’s selected poems, Eccentric Days of Hope and Sorrow, (Lost Horse Press), was a finalist for the 2022 Griffin International Poetry Prize, the Derek Walcott Poetry Prize, ALTA’s National Translation Book Award in Poetry, and winner of the 2020-2021 AAUS Translation Prize.  Her and Ali’s co-translations from the Ukrainian of Halyna Kruk’s selected poems, Lost in Living, is forthcoming from Lost Horse Press in spring, 2024.  Dzvinia’s new poetry collection, Those Absences Now Closest, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press in fall, 2024.