Published on Academy of American Poets (

a woman peeling apples, with a small child

straight off the blade she hands 

it over her small hand the long peel for divination
the long peel hissing like a boa constrictor         how long 
it must take to dress the daughter in all of her
gathers & kirtles & caps 

her pinafore pockets full of oyster shells yes

what she can't see     what hurts her eyes          & like a genre painting I'll include

the image of another             painting or         a mirror
or a dog           
                  how Vermeer preferred women working alone
                                        how this also      uses natural light in an otherwise unlit interior

when the old woman peels apples she's surrounded 

by circles & keeps         her book in good light             & when 
she is young it's a rich   brocade              steady hands 

a hairband & a little jut of thought in her jaw                           (see also dutch        quiet   )


Copyright © 2014 by Pattie McCarthy. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 13, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

"This poem is from 'genre scenes,' which is a series of ekphrastic poems responding to paintings of interiors and/or paintings of women working in the home. I started the series to learn more about the 17th century Dutch genre scene—including how its historical reception has reflected cultural response to the domestic."
—Pattie McCarthy


Pattie McCarthy

Pattie McCarthy is the author of five books of poetry: Marybones (Apogee Press, 2012), L&O (Little Red Leaves Press, 2011), Table Alphabetical of Hard Words (Apogee Press, 2010), Verso (Apogee Press, 2004), and bk of h(rs) (Apogee Press, 2002). She received her MA in creative writing from Temple University in Philadelphia and has taught at Loyola University, Queens College of the City University of New York, and Towson University. A 2011 Pew Fellow in the Arts, she currently teaches literature and creative writing at Temple University and lives just outside Philadelphia.

Date Published: 2014-03-26

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