Special Orders NPR coverage of Special Orders: Poems by Edward Hirsch. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.
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Special Orders


by Edward Hirsch

Hardcover, 64 pages, Random House Inc, List Price: $25 |


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Special Orders
Edward Hirsch

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Book Summary

A new, deeply personal anthology of poetry by the award-winning author of Wild Gratitude and Earthly Measures provides a profound, often painful, self-examination in such works as "Self-Portrait," "The Sweetness," and "I Wish I Could Paint You."

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Special Orders

Branch Library

I wish I could find that skinny, long-beaked boy
who perched in the branches of the old branch library.

He spent the Sabbath flying between the wobbly stacks
and the flimsy wooden tables on the second floor,

pecking at nuts, nesting in broken spines, scratching
notes under his own corner patch of sky.

I'd give anything to find that birdy boy again
bursting out into the dusky blue afternoon

with his satchel of scrawls and scribbles,
radiating heat, singing with joy.

A Few Encounters With My Face

Who is that moonlit stranger staring at me
through the fog of a bathroom mirror

Wrinkles form a parenthesis around the eyes
dry wells of sadness at three a.m.

The forehead furrows in a scowl
a question mark puzzled since childhood

Faint scrawl of chickenpox and measles
broken asthma nights breathing steam

Hair thinning like his grandfather’s
all those bald ancestral thoughts

The nose a ram’s horn a scroll
as long and bumpy as the centuries

Greed of a Latvian horse thief
surprised by the lights

Primitive double chin divided in two
a mother and father divorcing

Deep red pouches and black bags
a life given to sleeplessness

Earnest grooves ironic blotches secret scars
memories medallions of middle age

It would take a Cubist to paint
this dark face splitting in three directions

Identify these features with rapture and despair
one part hilarity two parts grief


We waited on two sides of the subway tracks:
you were riding uptown and I was heading downtown
to a different apartment, after all these years.

We were almost paralyzed, as anxious
travelers surged around us in waves,
and then you started to pantomime.

First, you touched your right eye.
Then you palmed your left knee.
Finally, you pointed at me.

I made of a sign of understanding
back to you but the train suddenly roared
into the station and you disappeared.