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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 16: 1 Jan. 2023
Poem: 226 words
By Richard Allen Taylor

Little Girl Blue

—After a photograph by Shepard Sherbell, cover art for Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter by Randy L. Schmidt *
Famous for her toothy grin, for once she does not smile 
for the camera, but stands stone-faced beside her brother 
Richard, outdoors on a cold day. Her thin, taut lips 
can’t hold my attention for long. My eyes, drawn to hers, 
find more pain there than I ever found in her songs. 

I stare at her picture. Her mellow alto pours 
from the Bluetooth. The melody—“Little Girl Blue,” 
performed by many before her—Satchmo, Sinatra, 
Joplin, Garland—seems filtered through her own sieve 
of sadness, hidden from the public for most of her life. 

Is it Karen, or the character she voices, who croons 
about sitting, counting her fingers? In that gesture 
of desperation, foreshadowing tragedy, the two 
seem to merge, mask melded to face. 

Were we tricked, led to believe that none 
of the heartbreak, the sorrow she sang, was hers, 
but the baggage of writers, fictional burdens 
lifted on the wings of her voice? 

Dressed too warmly for L.A.—it’s winter in Paris—
she wears a thick-ribbed turtleneck and stylish wool coat 
with buttons everywhere—pockets, plackets, cuffs. 
Hands crossed in front, the gloved left protrudes 
from its sleeve. 

Standing there, she could count her fingers. 



* Publisher’s Notes:

1. An enlarged view of the photograph of Karen Carpenter by Shepard Sherbell (1971) is available via Google’s preview of the book:

See also “Sorrow in her Voice,” the book review by James Gavin in The New York Times (6 August 2010):

2. Karen Carpenter (1950–1983) sings “Little Girl Blue” on the ABC-TV special Space Encounters (17 May 1978):

Links above were retrieved on 18 December 2022.

Richard Allen Taylor
Issue 16 (1 January 2023)

(Myrtle Beach, SC) is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Armed and Luminous (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2016). Taylor’s poems, articles, and reviews have appeared in Rattle, Comstock Review, The Pedestal, Iodine Poetry Journal, Running with Water, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Litmosphere, Gyroscope Review, and South Carolina Review, among others. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Taylor formerly served as review editor for The Main Street Rag and co-editor of Kakalak. After retiring from his business career, he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte in 2015.

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