We’re still The Twins in
this photo they’ve arranged,
both of us bright-eyed, smiling in unison
beneath our double pixie-cuts, bangs
a ruler made, one straight and even line
connecting our level heads. We’re still sealed
in those scallop-collared dresses Mom sewed, each
with three white buttons down our chest, still held
together by our blended hems, our matched
patent-leather shoes just past the frame.
For now, on this draped stage Dad crafted, we sit
shoulder to shoulder, hands folded the same
way in our laps, still equal, a neatly boxed set.
Two years until our dresses part, bangs fray;
ten for my smile to drift its separate way.
A Picture of
Just the two of them, the 1920s,
standing in a blowing field somewhere.
It’s summer, or maybe fall, a cloudless day
before they were married, a few years before
my father will be born.
Such a surprise
to see them thin, her with loose dark hair
dipping across her face as she shields her eyes
from the afternoon sun with one hand, the other there
around his belted waist, grabbing his white
shirt so casually, one of his relaxing
against his hip, the other, unseen, that might
rest gently at her back as she leans into him.
To find them smiling together, in effortless touch,
before they staked
their places: kitchen, porch.
Elise Hempel’s poems have appeared in many places over the
years, including Able Muse, Measure, Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review,
The Midwest Quarterly, and Ted Kooser’s American
Life in Poetry. Her chapbook Only Child was published by Finishing
Line Press in 2014. She is the winner of
the 2015 Able Muse Write Prize in