Poem of the Week | October 02, 2012

This week we’ve dug up a gem by Edward Hirsch, which we first published back in 1985 (issue 8.3). This poem appears in his award-winning ’86 collection Wild Gratitude and was featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac in 1996. As one of America’s premiere poets, Hirsch needs no introduction here. His poems stand out for their effortless power and deep feeling. We highly recommend his recent book The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (Knopf 2010), which includes “The Skokie Theatre”.

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.