Elise Hempel

From a Battlefield, 1862

My inkwell made to travel, how it hides
in this box of wood, sealed from freeze and spill,
while yours upon our desk at home abides,
waiting, yearning for your gentle quill
to answer words my sturdy pen of bone
writes to you from camp to camp. How strange
for you to pace our rooms now, so alone,
our voices in this dipped and scratched exchange.
Dear Wife, I send a thousand kisses, I
vow my pen and will to never break.
Let words from your soft feather swiftly fly.
Let us each day, in soundless distance, speak.
Tell little Sarah to be good, keep hope.
As always, please send paper, candies, soap.

Your Husband as ever,



Elise Hempel’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals over the years, as well as in Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Her full-length collections of poems are Second Rain (Able Muse Press, 2016) and Building Chevys (Pine Row Press, 2022). She lives in central Illinois.

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