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What is the theme of this poem by Edward Hirsch below: "A Photograph Ripped in Half"...

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user100400 | (Level 2) Honors

Posted April 20, 2013 at 4:15 AM via web

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What is the theme of this poem by Edward Hirsch below:

"A Photograph Ripped in Half"

 I don't know what it means

to see us in the half-tones

Of a photograph ripped in two,

our bodies--

Which had once been joined--split

Into separate black-and-white frames,

The ragged edges of a border

that somehow widened

Into an impassable gulf between us.

It's been too long since I've seen you.

I don't know what it means

to spend my days walking around

Like a widower

with a mourner's Kaddish on his lips

And the mirrors sheeted in his house

In honor of the dead

and respect for the living

Who can't stand to see their own reflections.

All day today I thought of your body

Scorched into my memory

like a radiant prophecy

That I once believed

had already come true--

Wheels and chariots, magnificent war horses

Rising out of the sea's foam,

swords flashing,

Golden shields emblazoned by the blinding sun . . .

I can't bear to remember the light

or dark half-tones

Of our torn photograph, what happened between us,

Your body in sunspots,

your body in shadows.

Today, at sunset, the sky hung down

like a frayed sheet

About to be split apart by the lightning.

Rain blurred the windows all night long.

1 Answer | Add Yours

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Michael Ugulini | (Level 2) Educator

Posted May 8, 2013 at 8:26 PM (Answer #1)

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The primary theme of the poem "A Photograph Ripped in Half" by Edward Hirsch is "Love Lost". The narrator of this poem talks about…


     a photograph ripped in two,

our bodies--

In other words, the ripped photograph is symbolic of the couple's severed relationship. This is the aforementioned "love lost". The ripped photograph symbolizes the destruction of their loving relationship. This is eating away at him and possibly the woman as well.


The narrator mentions that they were once joined but now they've been split "Into separate black-and-white frames,". The narrator of this poem further indicates that there relationship is irreconcilable.


The man feels as if there's been a death, that he is a widower. This conveys to the reader the intense feeling of loss the man is feeling, as if he's almost numb. In fact, a part of his life, a part of himself, has been torn asunder, maybe never to be repaired just like the photograph that's ripped.


The narrator is also thinking of the woman's body, which represents his memories of intense physical love with the woman. He was part of her life, emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually, and now this is all gone. Therefore, this loss of love is the major theme of the poem, all exemplified simply by the torn photo.


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