Little Bride Blue

Poetry by Margaret D Stetz

Clutching armfuls of white netting 
to avoid the toilet’s flush
a narrow bathroom stall
packed with tulle and lace
I lift 
the bridal dress above her waist
sweating she clings
to metal walls
broken foot encased in plaster
struggling to keep her balance
pee dripping yellow 
on the seat

I watch 
her limping down the aisle
to the groom 
she’d tried to kick
(not their first round of violence)
no one is smiling
she is seventeen

at the reception
the band plays 
something slow and loud
led by her father
she drags her cast 
across the floor

I sit 
by the champagne fountain centerpiece
with bubbles rising at the start 
that flatten as the liquid
and swirls back 
in the bowl

I am too young to drink
I’m drinking

driving me 
(his father’s new car)
the groom’s best friend
smokes a joint 
goes fast
radio volume 
turned up all the way
the same voice 
that’s been playing in my head:
Janis Joplin
wrung out shredded—
Little Girl Blue
he laughs
I don’t

I lie awake 
my mouth feels 
full of tulle and netting
I gag on its white dryness
and in the silence 
hear all night
Little Girl
count your fingers

’cause there’s nothing else to do

Published 21st April, 2023.

Margaret D. Stetz is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Delaware. Although she has spent her life in academia, she grew up in working-class Queens, New York, the granddaughter of immigrants who lived in poverty on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the daughter of a police officer. Her poems reflect her background, as well as her sense that sometimes nothing--not words and not will--can prevent tragic outcomes.

. H O L D E R . R E W A R D S .