The Body Exquisite: 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.
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).