Elise Hempel


Every meal out, he was last in
his old beige Cadillac when we were done,

still in the restaurant, inspecting our plates,
stuffing crackers into the pockets

of his zip-up jacket, wrapping in napkins
good scraps, the left buns he’d paid for, slipping

into his wallet from under a coffee cup
the bills my father had taken for tip.

The passenger door open, motor on idle,
we’d sit, my father at the wheel,

pulled up to the entrance so we could get him
back to his room before the home’s

curfew, craning and squinting to see
his progress around the table he

reclaimed while we waited, taking his
own sweet time, through the tinted glass

at Nancy’s or Oscar’s, the busboy’s patient
outline behind him—circling, bent.

Elise Hempel

won the 2015 Able Muse Write Prize in poetry, and her first collection is forthcoming from Able Muse Press. She has contributed to Poetry, Measure, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Midwest Quarterly, and other journals. Two of her poems have appeared in Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry, and her chapbook, Only Child, was published by Finishing Line Press. She lives in central Illinois.