Work Like This by Theresa Allen

Work Like This

Work Like This

by Theresa Allen

    my grandmother served you filet mignon
        my mother rang up your gin
            my sister washed your dirty sheets

Rising early in the darkness
    she served bacon and eggs to her husband
        wiped rice cereal and milk from the baby’s face
            pushed angry teenagers out the door to school

wearing her yellow uniform
    white apron and sensible shoes
        name embroidered on her chest
            so you wouldn’t forget it

or she stuffed envelopes for pennies while her toddler slept
    mended shirts, raised hems, tailored suits in the evenings
        shilled Tupperware to friends or Avon in the work cafeteria

    these women invented the side hustle

and each night, she nearly passed out
    from the physical exhaustion of work
        unable to dig out from
            the landlord’s rent or
                the vig she owed the bookie

Work like this casts a long shadow,

    and I still see

        my grandmother soldering your motherboard
            my mother giving you a ride to the airport
                my sister selling you cheap perfume


A native of New England, Theresa Allen’s fiction is steeped in the rich literary and cultural history of the region. For more than 25 years, she was a writer in the nonprofit sector and taught writing and literature at the University of New Hampshire and Rivier University. Theresa and her husband, David, have emptied their nest and moved to the beautiful foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

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