I remember reading this week’s poem – “Special Orders” by Edward Hirsch – in a Borders back in 2008 when his book (of the same name) came out. Reading through the book, I marveled at Hirsch’s ability to navigate rich emotional territory through an engaging line. His ability to stack various worlds (work, memory, the heart) so that they live side by side left an impression on me that didn’t fully manifest itself until years later when I found myself working on the poems of my first chapbook, The Wall.
What moves me most revisiting the poem now is how this short lyric is able to charge its core word, “contain,” so that it holds so much when it comes up at the end.
Special Orders – Edward Hirsch
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 don’t 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.
Some news: I have just started as Assistant Editor at The Cincinnati Review and, as part of my duties, am beginning a column of sorts entitled “What’s Poetry Got to Do with It?” on the CR blog. Check out my first entry here.