Elise Hempel


for the death of my daughter’s father

If only she could hear it now in your
real voice again, instead of in the same
old message she keeps pressing to her ear,
keeps playing on her cell-phone – that sweet name
you’d call her by, repeat in every call.
If only she could hear it as she did
when it was still a tossed-off term, a small
Urdu word you’d slip into your English
between your quick hello, your rushed goodbye.
If only she could hear it when it meant
nothing more than “child,” when it would slide
so lightly from your Pakistani accent.
When it was just two consonants, two vowels,
before it had to hold your bones, your soul.



Elise Hempel‘s poems have appeared in numerous journals over years, as well as in Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and American Life in Poetry. Her full-length collections of poems are Second Rain (Able Muse Press, 2016) and Building Chevys (Pine Row Press, 2022).