The Poems of Edward Hirsch

I work at a public library. From time to time, when checking in books, I’ll find interesting artifacts stuffed between the pages — a family photograph, handwritten notes (“dear tooth fairy, thanks for the candy but please bring money next time”), old bills, among others. Once I found a mortgage payment check made out to the bank for $530.00. When I called her, the woman was shocked — she hadn’t even known it was missing. Another classic find: a Christmas card featuring a photograph of the female sender with Tiger Woods, signed, “Season’s Greetings from Mistress #14!” That one is still pinned to the bulletin board in the staff break room.

Recently, my friend accidentally left tickets to her younger brother’s graduation ceremony from the Air Force Academy nestled within the pages of a novel she had returned to her local branch. President Obama was slated to speak at their graduation this year; thankfully, she had returned the book post-graduation ceremony and not pre-. Would’ve been rough to have flown out to Colorado only to have been denied admittance because the tickets held a brief stint working as a bookmark.

One of my favorite book-drop ‘stumbledupons’ is a copy of an Edward Hirsch poem. I found it folded and pressed between the pages of a massive cookbook:

Early Sunday Morning
I used to mock my father and his chums
for getting up early on Sunday morning
and drinking coffee at a local spot
but now I’m one of those chumps.

No one cares about my old humiliations
but they go on dragging through my sleep
like a string of empty tin cans rattling
behind an abandoned car.

It’s like this: just when you think
you have forgotten that red-haired girl
who left you stranded in a parking lot
forty years ago, you wake up

early enough to see her disappearing
and the corner of your dream
on someone’s one else’s motorcycle
roaring onto the highway at sunrise.

And so now I’m sitting in a dimly lit
cafe full of early morning risers
where the windows are covered with soot
and the coffee is warm and bitter

This poem prompted me to immediately peruse the shelves for more of Hirsch’s work. Fortunately, Special Orders (2008) was sitting on the shelf. I’ve read and re-read that collection, and both my readings and re-readings confirmed it: Edward Hirsch’s poetry is so hot right now. I’ve been reading a few before bed each night. It’s good for my digestion.

And my mind and soul, among other things.