Pattie McCarthy

Pattie McCarthy is the author of six books of poetry, including the forthcoming ‘nulls’ (Horse Less Press) and ‘Quiet Book’, from which the poems in this issue of N/A are excerpted (Apogee Press). She is also the author of the recently published chapbook ‘scenes from the lives of my parents’ (Bloof Books). A 2011 Pew Fellow in the Arts, she teaches at Temple University in Philadelphia.

the good mother does not say ‘my child do you want?’


we are warmer     before & after
my hair thick with worry
a sidelong waterview shush
             gestures exist      shift      I'm making so much
noise you can't look me in the eye behavior is
communication            it gets in everything
two people seated    two people cooking      two people
reading              two people interior            two people
sound    with no object            see listen
see also Jan Steen's Mother & Child in which
the distinction between hausfrau
            & virgin disappears
virgin & baby-led weaning
that apple            looks like it's had a fall from a table
a bruise    a dent                          open wide
when someone offers you pap or else
later you will receive nothing netherlandish
virgin with spoon
             there are many variations
             extant intended
             for private devotion with milk soup



*Gerard David, Virgin & Child with the Milk Soup [four versions], c. 1510-20

the good mother does not say ‘my child do you want?’


the nursing child is a passive rückenfigur
by contrast         & view into another room or
windowscape      in which her gesture is unintelligible
in which sometimes a pacifier is just a pacifier
figures take up or define space    sometimes a dog
             our lady of the mush
             virgin & child with rosary as chewelry
& wooden spoon & wooden spoon & cherry branch
             (he is about to eat a leaf    holy face
                                                      cut from a book
long ago) book open domestic hours
he married a miniaturist               his wife was a miniaturist
rest on the flight into egret      [sic] [stet]     rest rest
a market-tested secular representation      indeed     a bestseller
connect-the-dots            & there was never an original



*Gerard David, Virgin & Child with the Milk Soup [four versions], c. 1510-20

the good mother does not say ‘my child do you want?’


while I was distracted his shift slipped
off & nothing else changed & no one noticed
without the use of X-radiograph his shift
dress disappears & we can reasonably assume
this was not the first in an intended series
milk soup thick with worry          I add too much
milk goodnight mush
             I like how her hands never change some
             things women do with them his legs
             kick squirm the same way a pattern
             followed             hold this spoon while
I put this other spoon in your mouth distract
you with spoons with a branch of cherries with singing
the lonely goatherd         subsequent copies with fewer
flowers & a basket holding correspondence before
& after genres exist shift              a book tells me
cherries bread & knife are domestic symbols of the good life
                                        (none where none)
two interior people          choose a moment & mark it



*Gerard David, Virgin & Child with the Milk Soup [four versions], c. 1510-20

Advertisements