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 griefCharades
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.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Special Orders by Edward Hirsch. Copyright © 2008 by Edward Hirsch. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.