Dzvinia Orlowsky

Firing My Father’s Mossberg
March 13, 2012 Orlowsky Dzvinia

Firing My Father’s Mossberg



At the shooting range,

my elbow raised, safety

unlocked, squeezing the trigger

I block out surrounding shots, whisper breathe

as if to my father,

a rebuttal to my sister’s

You’re scared of these things

Scarlet leaves of sumac ambush

the periphery of an otherwise cleared path

over which the bullet could be fired.



It was a loaded lie: the buck

hanging from our backyard tree

just sleeping in a frozen body,

its wide open eye, a mirror,

in which my hair split

and tied high into two pigtails

brushed the fur

collar of my short down jacket,

curled into blond parenthesis

around my face.



Father kept his Mossberg’s

little brother, BB, hidden

behind sample prescription drugs

crammed and forgotten

in the bedroom oak cabinet.

He kept it to protect us

from the Hell’s Angels

who revved their motorcycles,

swarmed like bees

onto a rotting pear,

circling the parking lot

of the restaurant next door.

Windows rattled, my bedroom

stained glass hexagons

of roses fell,

broke on the floor.



Father liked to point out

the tiny hole in the BB’s slide—

in case it was ever stolen.

It had the capability, he said, to shoot

the shooter with the spent casing.

It had sense of humor, he said,

for a gun.



Aluminum pie pans spin wildly

from branches of our cherry tree.

Crows flap their wings

shitting in terror.

We couldn’t eat the cherries fast enough.

They softened on a plate,

exposed rancid gaping wounds,

black oozing bruises our tongues

learned quickly to avoid.



Each time the target sheets

shudder then sway

loosely on the pulleys.

Distant pinpricks of December light

move and stay—

scattered bits of black feather

and sumac berries in winter…

And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul

Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple

…not exactly angels or simple

or the buck reawakened.

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.