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I am invited but refuse
Marie Antoinette’s bright guillotine,
eschewing half-julienned radishes and pearly spuds.
I have a need of fingers and thumbs.

This was someone’s wedding gift,
a menace to the ring finger, bobbing incarnadine
(a twitch of gold in a soapy basin).

And how could she hold Love’s hand, all innocent,
when no longer as Love made her.

My Versailles is introspect and silk garden.
Bad guest that I am,
I withdraw to mild candle lighting,
flustered even when wind snuffs out blue sparks.

Let me pleat, then, the linen napkins
under the pergola creamed in a lilac breeze.

Sweet Marie kept cunning mandolines throughout her rooms,
brushing rumor’s shattered glass under royal tapis—
blood thirst I have none.

The player of the mandoline sweeps a finger
along the incline plane to strum a plaintive note.

No proof that Monsieur J.-A. Guillotin
brainstormed a miniature replica.
Spurious as vegetal babies, mon petit chou?

Kitchen instrument, I do fear thee.


Elise Hempel grew up in suburban Chicago and has worked as an editor, proofreader, copywriter and university English instructor. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, Measure, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, and The Midwest Quarterly, as well as in Poetry Daily and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. She is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award and the winner of the 2015 Able Muse Write Prize in Poetry, the 2016 String Poet Prize, and the 2017 No Chair Press Chapbook Contest. Her full-length collection of poems, Second Rain, was published by Able Muse Press in 2016. She lives in central Illinois. 

© 2019, Elise Hempel

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