Into dark Atlantic waters,
Zofi dropped her name and watched it sink—
A bundle of embroidered cloths,
their cheerful patterns stitched by calloused hands,
shawls and kerchiefs spreading menstrual blood among the fish.
There were no rags to stem the tide of womanhood within her,
flooding thickly out of her, at age sixteen,
only this cargo of maternal signatures:
a peasant’s legacy—Ukrainian, Galician—
of a woman who had died,
after dyeing fabric with her finger-prickings, left in seams.
All sent to the bottom of an alien sea, with salt tears of farewell.
Boarding the ship a girl, leaving raw and stained, a woman,
to reach an Island and be “Sophie,” someone’s bride,
veiled in new letters she would never learn to write,
and forced to bargain with an urban river
that refused her passage home.
Margaret D. Stetz is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware.