Dzvinia Orlowsky

Stone Cross
February 23, 2017 Orlowsky Dzvinia

Stone Cross

— 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—

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.