Elise Hempel

The Call

I think about it still, that night soon after
my grandmother died, the late ring, my grandfather calling
from his dimmed house in the city, for the first time alone
in his own kitchen, confused, his voice I’d never
heard before on the phone or speaking more
than a few brief practical words, a weekend greeting,
trembling now with uncertainty, asking how long
to leave the pizza in, what temperature.

And how it must have seemed to him as strange
to find and dial my number, hear himself
not doling some advice, some simple adage,
but asking me what to do and if by chance
I’d come and eat with him, no facts, just his frail
questions through the receiver, thirty years of distance.

Elise Hempel is the author of one full length collection of poems, Second Rain (Able Muse Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, Measure, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, and The Midwest Quarterly, as well as in Poetry Daily and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Her awards include an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, the 2015 Able Muse Write Prize in Poetry, the 2016 String Poet Prize, and the 2017 No Chair Press Chapbook Contest. She grew up in suburban Chicago and has worked as an editor, proofreader, copywriter and university English instructor. She lives in central Illinois.



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