Margaret D. Stetz

Bird Brain

I knew his type
handsome and loud
taking possession
the moment he hit those bars
(the rusting grillwork of “security”
framing my urban window)
his small pouting mate in tow
the mourning dove couple
on this too-narrow platform
he would build
ferrying twigs half-rotted leaves
shredded detritus
in his determined beak
a small stack of comfort
on the thin iron ledge
that slid
to the ground
every time
he started again
as nearby she perched
awaiting shelter
(expectantly? impatiently? anxiously?
I’d been through all those emotions)
through the pane
I felt
the force of his vision
undiminished enthusiasm
the radiant waves of his confidence
for six days that spring
an impressive construction each morning
a pile of garden rubbish
below at night
when at last he left
his mate fluttering behind
I wondered
(not for the first time)
where I’d gone wrong and
though I’d reached at last
a place of safety
I had made for myself
no nest


Cherry Bomb

Green in girl scout dress
green and
walking alone
street of little brick-box houses
a pack of boys
watches her progress
reaching the curb
the silver lamppost
she sees nothing
hears nothing
then lit and waiting
on the metal base
like a thunderstorm
next to her hand
flash and roar
fire and ash
her palm her flesh
splits open
red pouring onto green.
(are they still grinning?
they are gone
brick boxes silent).

Age seventeen
another town
hitching a ride to class
she sees
those grins again
but only after
she enters the car
when one in the back
crouching behind
leans toward her
to say,
“You’re a lucky girl today”


Margaret D. Stetz is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware. She still finds it hard to reconcile the academic world with her working-class childhood in Queens, New York. Many of her poems reflect this class-based tension and disjunction, along with issues such as domestic violence and sexual abuse. Recently, her poetry has appeared in A Plate of Pandemic, C*nsorship Magazine, Kerning, Mono, Review Americana, Rushing Thru the Dark, West Trestle Review, Existere, Azure, Literary Cocktail Magazine, and other journals, as well as in the Washington Post.