Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Christmas Tree

a poem by
KORY WELLS | Software Developer + Poet

This poem juxtaposes the expectations of the holiday season–including joy–against the realities, both positive and negative, that many of us experience. 

Photo by Alisa Anton

IN the store, a Christmas tree
just past the Halloween display.
I want to cry out–

You are the list making,
the shopping, the cookie baking,
the stack cake making, even the spirit
faking. You are the tree
decorating. Your partner
is two strands of outdoor lights.

Among 300 white lights
on the tree, always a few bulbs cold
as the frozen turkey.

The tree
in the neighbor’s picture window,
warm and glowing–
could it be deception?

The tree, presents,
and red velvet cake
are one.
The sausage balls
are the hot and delectable

O, my young children,
do you not know the words
I swear? Do you not see
my feeble wielding
of ax, saw, hammer–
how this fresh cut tree leans?

That first Christmas after
your brother dies, insist
your parents put up a tree.
Accept a two-foot artificial
atop the console TV.

$122.55–your out-of-pocket
for your son’s asthma flare,
that newly discovered
pine tree allergy.

Youngest grandchild
in the room,
you are gob-smacked
by groovy:
aluminum tree,
revolving color wheel,
reflections of rose and violet and loud,
loud relatives,
your grandmother’s laugh
brightest of all.

Sage in sausage balls
will divide a family
like white lights versus colored
on the tree.

Long after the family’s
live tree phase,
the children
drag water hose
from one brittle spruce to the next,
come to understand the word

I don’t know which to prefer,
the creaminess of fudge
or the creaminess of frosting.
The tree surrounded by presents
or just after.

February, the tree long composted. 
In the carpet, pine needles
colorless as glass.



Software Developer + Poet

I’m a reinvention that’s still underway–a former software developer who’s most unexpectedly found herself as the inaugural poet laureate of her city of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I’m also an advocate for democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. I’m a perpetually messy desk and a list-maker to compensate. I’m long nights on the back porch and late afternoon walks in the autumn sun. I’m pathologically friendly. Strangers talk to me often, and I’m always inspired by their stories, their voices, and how much we all have in common. Much of my recent poetry explores how we’re all connected–whether by family tree, DNA, or common experience. 

Follow Kory on Instagram as tnpoet.