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Updated: Jul 13, 2023

a father’s rule

a brother’s will

the needs of pigs

that must be slopped

until the farm divided

bought her passage

to the New World’s

airless rooms

tin tub baths

against the stove

stale bread

soaked in milk

days spent scrubbing

walls and windows


on rusted fire escapes

gaslit lampposts

sweaty nights

in marriage

called by the priest

her cross to bear

a cross that laid its weight

on her at night

forcing her

into bedsprings

pushing babies


her dropped womb

crushing her voice

before it left her throat...

when the ladder

was kicked out

under her

when the first blows

landed in her belly

where the next child curled

the only witness

was a five-year-old

who could not

change this story

but swore someday

to be

the shield

that would enforce


by Margaret D. Stetz

Margaret D. Stetz is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Delaware, as well as the granddaughter of Ukrainian immigrants and the daughter of a New York City Transit Police Officer.

woman female immigrant Ukraine


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