Elise Hempel

Home Portrait


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 My Grandparents


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 Poetry.



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