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.