No Coming Back by Dzvinia Orlowsky

Like a strong wind, Frank took to knocking nests out of trees. They were always empty, and he was damned if he’d let them forewarn the day he’d find himself living alone. And she was damned if she wasn’t already saying goodbye, always in a long terry robe, her hair coiled and pinned tight on her head like some second chance Amish bride. He wished she’d wear those tight faded jeans and crocheted bikini tops he’d found in a bag, scavenging around the clothes donation bin. She could tell by the way he stared at her as she washed her face that he imagined his hands pulling out those bobby pins, tousling her hair. So damned ungrateful….

One morning, Frank dragged a large, wooden custom built doghouse bought from a feed store down the narrow driveway into the back yard. It was big enough to accommodate two 60-pound dogs. He wanted her close enough to feel her breath on his neck. He would tuck a small sleeping bag against the walls, pin her body against his. What’s this? she asked. Really, you have to ask? he snapped. The surrounding chain link fence—he could lock her in anytime, day or night. He threatened that if she ever left him there would be no coming back.


But she returned to place the divorce papers in the mailbox. Clumps of empty nests cluttered the back yard like hidden missiles among black branches. Above, she could see wisps of shapeless clouds mock her failed marriage. As she stood in the driveway, a few stray pieces of trash tumbled away from her. The tidy small house looked pretty in winter daylight, its flat roof glistening with snow. She had to give him that. She imagined him tucked inside, warm moist air turning to cold, refusing to come out. She’d be damned if he hadn’t overlooked getting a door flap.

NEA and Pushcart Prize winning poet, translator and a founding editor of Four Way Books, Dzvinia Orlowsky has published five poetry collections with Carnegie Mellon University Press, including A Handful of Bees reprinted as a CMUP Classic Contemporary edition in 2008. Orlowsky and Jeff Friedman’s translation of Memorials: A Selection by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Dialogos in 2014.  Her sixth poetry collection titled BAD HARVEST is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon in fall of 2018.

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