Expressing the last Helen Sargeant
Expressing the last, Digital Photograph, 2014, Helen Sargeant ©

The porridge pot is not magic.

It feeds but leaves a glutinous mess, 

which is hard to shift, 

It sticks, 

It holds, 


You sit in front of your bowl, 

not wishing to wake.

You spoon more and more, 

honey into the bowl.

It slides and runs, 

you stir.

You stir me up.

You demand more sugar, 

Please comply, 

Please eat, 

More sugar you demand, 

Sugar and spice and all things nice thats what little boys are made of. 


And what are mums made of ?

Slugs and snails and laundry piles, 

Red of lipstick running across lips, 

smudging front teeth, 

A squirt of perfume



Pants tucked up in skirt, 

Tangled hair,  

Half brushed mind, 

A soup.

A list of promises to others,  

Then yourself.


I am no madonna, 

I am no whore,  

I am not wholesome and good, 

I am milk on the turn, 

I am a failure, 




I am an entry point, 

I am a door, 

I am not selfless, 

I have found no balance, 


See those sexy shoes I want to wear them.

We live together in a photograph of time

I tell you that I love you as I leave you in the classroom, 

You show me your painting of an astronaut smiling, 


I know that you can’t always tell me, 

I know that you need to hate me, 

I am left to pick up the pants the stories to sweep the crumbs from the table, 

I must not become a cliche, I am not that mother, 


I feel your fear, 

I feel your anger, 

I feel your frustration, 

I feel your sadness, 

I feel your rejection, 

I feel your vulnerability,  


I can not contain it all.


I am two eyes watching you, 

Two breasts that have fed you, 

A womb that has grown you, 

A mind that opens and denies you, 

A voice to read you a story, 

A warm body to cling to at night, 


A person to shout at when you are upset, 

and you did.

You roared so loud in my ear that I shuddered with fear. 


I sometimes welcome your interruptions, 

I sometimes love you holding the ends of my dress,  


I sometimes hate this, and want to be alone, 

I want you to let go, 


I am wanting to be some of what I was before, 

I hoover up the dust, 

I bake a lemon cake, 

all yellow, the fat melts in the bowl as I add the juice.

All bitter and sweet.

It rises well in the oven.


The cake cries as I cut it up and dish it out on fancy plates, 

That cheer my heart, 

I feed it to the family, 

I don’t want to play mother, 

I eat,  

I sip tea, 


I polish your shoes, 

You enjoy the shine, 

I catch myself in a mirror, 

That’s me, 


How can anything be different ?

How can it be changed ?


Sometimes there is nothing but the light from the sun.

My feet treading the earth.


Past the sure start nursery.

Past the playgroup in the park where I supped super strong coffee to shake me awake, cut toast and fruit and filled plastic beakers with juice to feed the many small ones, shared stories and muddled through weeks of caring.


Pramless and without your hand in mine,


Last week you said “boo boo” as you woke,  

If I squeeze my nipples hard a little bit of milk still forms,  

a small tear. 


There is the waiting.

I am waiting for the snow, the winter and the cold but it does not arrive.

The snow drops have pushed up through the earth and the crocuses are following.

Even blossom.


Sometimes there is nothing.

I sit back, I watch, I wait,

I wash your clothes, I lift you from your sleep and place clothes around your body, I make you food, I encourage you to eat, I run your bath, blow bubbles, get annoyed when you will not brush your teeth, read you stories in bed from books and our imaginations, I place my arm around your body.

I stare up at the moonlight, open my heart, dream, 

In the early morning I hear you breath and feel your warmth next to me.




About Helen Sargeant

I am a visual artist, mother of two children aged 12 and 4, and co-founder of the MeWe arts collective. I intend to use this site to explore how my personal experiences as a mother informs my arts practice. To reflect upon the maternal in relationship to memory, loss, and mental health in particu…Read more


More posts by Helen Sargeant

5 Responses to “The porridge pot is not magic”

  1. Jasmine Gauthier

    I so loved reading this. The momentum as I kept on going, the ups, the downs, the fractured nature of it, the way different thoughts come in, then disappear just as quick.

    There’s a sense of ache for something other than now, of the past and yet for the future. There’s also a string of happiness and duty tangled together, where chores, observations and daydreams combine together.

    I also (naturally ;)) love the part where you’re baking a cake and then serve it up to your family as almost an act of horror, an act of serving yourself up on a plate, giving your all to your family, nurturing them but with a pang of pain as a part of you is taken somehow by that very act. I thought quite a lot about this in my dissertation, about this story of lemon cake where a girl bites into this cake her mother makes and tastes her mother’s disappointment, her despair and hollow ache as her dreams are lost in some type of science fiction horror moment.

  2. Helen Sargeant

    Good to hear that the words capture something of the fractured sense of thoughts and ideas that play out as I care for my children. I struggle with how dislocated and detached they sometimes seem, how present I can be with my children yet how the mind wonders. It fixes onto something. For example when I am reading a book to my children at night, one that I am not that keen on, my voice reads out the words but my mind travels elsewhere. The most joyous moments with my children are when I am very much together with them in the present, enjoying what they see of the world. Over the christmas holidays I spent a morning making play dough with Naoise shaping and moulding it with our hands. We pressed our upper bodies into the dough that was placed on the table. Naoise dough formed around his small torso and you could see his ribs in the dough. I squashed my breasts against the table top. We laughed together at the results, even Patrick reluctantly played out our game. I took images with the intention of posting them here, I will dig them out. Looking at your work makes me want to reinvestigate my dust bread ( performance, I think I move on too quickly from one idea to the next. Sometimes its best to fix on one thing and fully investigate its potential, push it to the limit. I would love to make a video of me making the dust bread, a subversive take on a Nigella Lawson television baking episode. Not sure how I would get around the finger licking but maybe gloves would help. It makes me gag thinking of the possibility of licking dust dough off my fingers. Last time I performed dust bread my hands really suffered afterwards. The dirt got into my skin and it became red and sore.

  3. Frances Earnshaw

    A perfume called Suddenly, I love that line. Sometimes when I look at this website, I am dreaming and reading at the same time, and at the same time I am imagining and creating. We are a circle, dipping our fingers into each other’s minds.

  4. Helen Sargeant

    I love “Suddenly” it is a perfume from Lidls, not only that it has a ridiculous name (one that suggests constant surprise) and it smells just like Chanel. Glamour on the cheap Frances, its a winner. x

  5. Ellie

    Thank you Helen for a poignant and eloquent expression of the push me / pull you emotions and actions of motherhood. I especially connect with your relationship with Naoise, tearing away at school, finding the home so quiet, then revelling in the peace, building excitement to see them after school, then resentment of peace shattered, train of thought derailed and then drawn into their world again… And on it goes. I am so enjoying your blog – a really great project.


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