Jersey City


The projector’s charm is Cary Grant’s
tan. Although James says Hitchcock
was a little weird with colors.
Grant wears an antiseptic suit
in cobalt (weird) that shouts:
This is the fifties, we are mannered,
my waist is trim and strong.
Dust and smoke filter the light.
I resolve to be cleaner;
a goal of dignity as studied poise.

Not one superfluous word.
It is afternoon in Grant’s Manhattan.
Did he check his watch?
Does he know his hair is grey?
Cary Grant speaks like an actor.
James smokes a cigar.
But when he talks—

Emerging from the Path Train,
a man with no world at all (if I could be sure)–
avatar of the same god or irrelevant–
left expansive cologne, grease from his cheek
on the handset of the public phone.



On Grove St. a stranger bums a cigarette
and before I say: but I don’t smoke!
he hands me a hammer.
What I really want, he says. Is $1.75.
I’ll trade you this hammer for $1.75.

I recognize the hammer, I know
the ribbon on its handle, the ribbon
that accompanied young Werther,
now crisp with age. I read those letters:
My pockets are not to be emptied.
This pale pink ribbon which you wore at your breast
when I saw you for the first time among the children

This ribbon shall be buried with me.
You gave it to me on my birthday

This is my hammer, I protest.
I had it in the hat box on my dresser.
The hammer is mine, the ribbon is mine.
(The same thing happens with my story).

Emily O. Wittman lives in South Philadelphia and teaches literature and humanities at Villanova University.

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