Elise Hempel

The Factory Side

I lasted just one day
on the factory side
of my father’s company,
though eight hours I tried

to work that huge machine
and breathe that dustiness,
to be the only teen
stamping the plant’s address

on every valve, pile after pile,
to stand that ceaseless screech,
that long line of faces, smile
stamped right off of each.

Secretary’s Death

As though you’ve just left for lunch, the night,
your dimmed computer and darkened desk-light,

stained mug waiting beside the keyboard, 
sprawled pages of someone’s scribbled words

still to be typed, as always plastered
with yellow sticky-notes yet to be answered.

Kelly Girl

One afternoon the boss asked me to stay
at Global Something, to consider my choices,
because of how well I stapled invoices,
how swiftly I slid them into my out-tray.

I gazed to the fluorescent firmament,
then around at all the desks in their rows
and felt in those heels my squeezed toes, 
imagined my position permanent –

to lean to those bills all day, no release,
to hear the same ca-chunk, ca-chunk,
to take my company vows like a monk,
my pleasant smile that could never cease –

and apologized the next morning at nine,
soon left that dead place with its windowless air,
its itemized lists, no poetry there
but the clunking iambic of that old black Swingline.

Elise Hempel’s poems have appeared in many journals over the years, as well as in Verse Daily, Poetry Daily, and American Life in Poetry.  Her goal for the last 15 years has been to write formal, rhyming poetry in a more natural voice. Her next book will be published by Pine Row Press in the Spring of 2022.