Edward Hirsch has published seven books of poems, including Wild Gratitude (1986), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Special Orders (March, 2008). He has also published four prose books, among them How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (1999), a national bestseller, and Poet's Choice (2006). He is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Special Orders
from Knopf

Three poems by Edward Hirsch

Cotton Candy

We walked on the bridge over the Chicago River
for what turned out to be the last time,
and I ate cotton candy, that sugary air,
that sweet blue light spun out of nothingness.
It was just a moment really, nothing more,
but I remember marveling at the sturdy cables
of the bridge that held us up
and threading my fingers through the long
and slender fingers of my grandfather,
an old man from the Old World
who long ago disappeared into the nether regions.
And I remember that eight-year-old boy
who had tasted the sweetness of air,
which still clings to my mouth
and disappears when I breathe.

I Wish I Could Paint You

I wish I could paint you—
your lanky body, lithe, coltish, direct.
I need a brush for your hard angles
and ferocious blues and reds.
I need to stretch a fresh canvas
to catch you stretched across the bed.

I wish I could paint you
from the waist up—your gangling arms
and flat chest, your long neck
(it would take Modigliani to capture it)
that has caused you so much pain
holding up your proud head.

I wish I could paint you
from the waist down—your cheeky
ass, your cunt like the steely eye
of a warrior queen, your tall
thoroughbred legs—headlong, furious—
that have ridden me to victory.

I watch you sleeping next to me
in a patch of light, or stepping out
of the shower in the early morning,
your smile as wide as the sea
and your eyes that are deeper blue.
I wish I could paint you.

Special Orders

Give me back my father walking the halls
    of Wertheimer Box and Paper Company
         with sawdust clinging to his shoes.

Give me back his tape measure and his keys,
    his drafting pencil and his order forms;
         give me his daydreams on lined paper.

I donít understand this uncontainable grief.
    Whatever you had that never fit,
         whatever else you needed, believe me,

my father, who wanted your business,
    would squat down at your side
         and sketch you a container for it.