Allison Thorpe

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a poor girl’s rockwell:
christmas photo, 1950
Behind us you can seeArtwork by Gene McCormick
The busy flowered wallpaper
Of that cramped upstairs apartment

The tattered chairs and sofa
My mother tried to primp
With bright snowflake doilies

I clinch a blonde baby doll
My father proudly holds up
A tie he will never wear

Auntie scuttles behind her coffee cup
My grandparents wave cautiously
At the alien camera in Uncle’s grip

Mother’s red lips catch surprise
Round eyes worrying
The wrapping and ribbons strewn

A pine scrawny tree
Glitters a dim light on us all
Like hopeful fairy blessings

On a table in the background—
Giving no hint of how life can turn—
A box still to be opened


in the liquor business

My father worked hard Artwork by Gene McCormick
At running up a bar tab.
Always on the job.

See his corner bar stool,
The one without a window
Or sun-starved ivy.

He skipped lunch,
Put in the long hours,
Worked overtime.
Fierce at taking inventory—
Beer, scotch, bourbon—
He stored the liquid assets
Faithfully in his liver.

It was not an occupation
My mother would have chosen.
She worked two jobs to cover
The bills and his corporate
Raids on her purse.

My father resented
The limited partnership,
The family who took no joy
In his staggering success.


A widely published author, Allison Thorpe lives and writes in a stone house in the backwoods of Kentucky where she dreams of becoming an international poker player.