from x y z & &
whirling their skirts about until they stand
out flat— they play at mass & house & scourge
('not a safe game') & knucklebones & rock
paper scissors they play at trucks & farm.
when the three children play Harry Potter
the girl gets to be Harry that's brother-love.
hexenmilch (milch pleez she says) this body.
they play at school they play at basehit they
play wug test. two months weaned she still turns her
body as if to nurse when sleepy she
still jams her hand down my shirt because nursing
wasn't physically intimate enough
she'd hook a finger in my ear & pull
my face down to hers girl can be a verb
the blue of larkspur the blur of larkspur
like wet wool like a rain soaked wool kilt drying
slowly over the course of the day by
occupying desks near warm radiators
until sixth or seventh period
(trigonometry? bio two?) a kind
of animal smell the damp hair
sticks to the back of her neck the fever
breaks & makes this snow smell like this smell not
unpleasant but not conventionally
pleasant like puppy breath it must have
an evolutionary purpose
like I love your morning breath I'll take
care of you forever hold her unutterable
I believe in neither superman nor
virgin birth but I believe in you, Elżbieta
Jabłońska. & though I spent over
four of the last six years nursing someone,
there are no photos of me doing so
except this one awkward selfie when she
was around eighteen months old & in it
she's got the corner of her eye on the iphone.
maybe in some weird corner I do believe
in the virgin birth the way an older
kid believes in santa just to be safe.
alas, I could never be a good
Quaker. self-immolation is a big
girl word but everyone's wearing it.
XXVIII. 1 - 2. William Carlos Williams, "Children's Games" from Pictures from Brueghel.
XXIX. 1. T.S. Eliot, "Ash-Wednesday."
14. Rachel Blau DuPlessis, "Draft 2: SHE."
XXX. 13 - 14. Laura Spagnoli, "Letters to My Niece," My Dazzledent Days.
Pattie McCarthy is the author of four books from Apogee Press: Marybones, Table Alphabetical of Hard Words, Verso, and bk of (h)rs. Her chapbook L&O was recently published by Little Red Leaves, and she has a chapbook forthcoming from Bloof Books this year. A former Pew Fellow in the Arts, she teaches at Temple University and lives outside Philadelphia with her family.
the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan