The Body Exquisite: Edward Hirsch

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Edward Hirsch

The Skokie Theatre

 

Twelve years old and lovesick, bumbling

and terrified for the first time in my life,

but strangely hopeful, too, and stunned,

definitely stunned—I wanted to cry,

I almost started to sob when Chris Klein

actually touched me—oh God—below the belt

in the back row of the Skokie Theatre.

Our knees bumped helplessly, our mouths

were glued together like flypaper, our lips

were grinding in a hysterical grimace

while the most handsome man in the world

twitched his hips on the flickering screen

and the girls began to scream in the dark.

I didn’t know one thing about the body yet,

about the deep foam filling my bones,

but I wanted to cry out in desolation

when she touched me again, when the lights

flooded on in the crowded theatre

and the other kids started to file

into the narrow aisles, into a lobby

of faded purple splendor, into the last

Saturday in August before she moved away.

I never wanted to move again, but suddenly

we were being lifted toward the sidewalk

in a crush of bodies, blinking, shy,

unprepared for the ringing familiar voices

and the harsh glare of sunlight, the brightness

of an afternoon that left us gripping

each other’s hands, trembling and changed.

The Skokie TheatreEdward Hirsch
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Edward Hirsch, a MacArthur Fellow, has published ten books of poems, most recently, Gabriel: A Poem (2014) and Stranger by Night (2020). He has also published five prose books, among them How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (1999), a national bestseller. “The Skokie Theatre” is from Edward Hirsch’s Wild Gratitude (1982).