Home > Poetry > Infusion
Published: Sat Jul 1 2006
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

Two clowns step off the elevator
with crowded, static-angry

balloons tied to their wrists
just as the hospital cafeteria

shuts down. You redirect them
to the children’s floor.

But the children don’t want them either.
They have suffered enough good cheer—

as have the well-meaning clowns,
trying for just one laugh

with their large plastic combs
and bungle-stuffed catchall satchels.

After all, you’re the one with the sad face.
Somehow, despite the cool reception,

they stick around
secretly glad not to be you.

They tell you hair comes back,
pointing to the screaming red

flames just above their ears.
You may as well love a pet rat,

the way it worries in morning light
and in the afternoon,

how it nightly attempts to decipher
with practiced hands

a clump of dirt
before taking it into its mouth.

Let it circle your neck,
run its tail across your open mouth.

Laughter, isn’t it the best medicine?
Yes, keep laughing.

It’s dragged its tail
through much worse.

Pushcart Prize poet, translator, a founding editor of Four Way Books, Dzvinia Orlowsky is the author of six poetry collections published by Carnegie Mellon University Press including her most recent, Bad Harvest, a 2019 Massachusetts Book Awards “Must Read” in Poetry. She is a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Poetry Grant, a Sheila Motton Book Award, a co-recipient of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, and her first collection, A Handful of Bees, was reprinted as part of the Carnegie Mellon University Press Classic Contemporary Series. Her translation from Ukrainian of Alexander Dovzhenko’s novella The Enchanted Desna was published by House Between Water in 2006. In 2014, her co-translation with Jeff Friedman of Memorials by Polish poet Mieczyslaw Jastrun was published by Dialogos. Her poem sequence “The (Dis)enchanted Desna” was a winner of the 2019 New England Poetry Club Samuel Washington Allen Prize, selected by Robert Pinsky. More recently, her co-translations with Ali Kinsella from the Ukrainian of Natalka Bilotserkivets’ selected poems, Eccentric Days of Hope and Sorrow, (Lost Horse Press, 2021), was a finalist for the 2022 Griffin International Poetry Prize, the  2022 Derek Walcott Poetry Prize, the ALTA 2022 National Translation Award and was winner of the 2022 AAUS Translation Prize.   A book of her co-translations with Ali Kinsella from the Ukrainian of Halyna Kruk’s poetry is forthcoming from Lost Horse Press in 2024. Dzvinia is a contributing poetry editor to AGNISolstice Literary Magazine, and she is a Writer-in-Residence at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program. (updated 11/2022)

Orlowsky’s collection A Handful of Bees was reviewed in AGNI 42 by Mary Maxwell.

Orlowsky’s collection Edge of House was reviewed in AGNI 50 by Miriam O’Neal.

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