Dueling Site

Standing in front of a statue of some head- of state-
oh wait,
let me start again.
Standing in front of a bust of Burr, or was it Hamilton?

We came upon this promenade
on the most glorious of days.
Clear crisp cloudless sky with nary a hint of haze.
Panoramic cityscape in Weehawken
(a Lenape word interpreted several ways,
one of which is rocks, that look like rows of trees)

She walked over and said What a beautiful day!
but that wasn’t really what she wanted to say.
She wanted a witness-
wanted someone to know that she did indeed exist.

So we stood on the promenade mostly still for most of an hour, looking across at the newly built and never forgotten towers,
while she strolled down memory lane alone with us.
I graduated high school here long ago,
but I can’t say the year though,
don’t even try to go there. A lady doesn’t tell. (
wink) But it was in ninety-fifty-somethin’.

She was smartly drawn in straight lines of linen,
and framed by soft edges of cashmere.
I complimented her walking shoes by calling them a poem
about people in a room coming and going,
and white walls covered in art.
They were iconic. Icon, she said.
These shoes have been all over the world. And I mean every part.
She had four other pairs inspired by other artists like Klimt. You know, The Kiss.

When I was young my mother married someone very famous.
Do you know the Johns Manville company of asbestos fame?
Well, she married Tommy Manville. Do you know that name?

How I wish I had known his name upon mention,
so I could’ve asked her all the right questions,
wish she would’ve continued that conversation.
(I googled him later, with much fascination)

None of those buildings were down there below the rocks,
There was nothing there at all,
sweeping arm motion, just docks.
The men would line up in the morning and wait for work all day.
If they didn’t get picked, they went back home without pay.
Nothing but docks, and of course, the ferry.

How I enjoyed the ferry. Once I walked right up to the captain’s quarters and knocked on the door,
the night was so glorious I wanted to ride some more,
How could he refuse my young face? He said ‘Sure’.
I road back and forth for hours and hours.

She pointed south, My family started out
in Newark at a rag factory in the Ironbound.
Back when trucks used to drive around the town.
peddling things door to door, like produce and meat.
Back when you could make money selling rags on the street.
Can you imagine?

She pointed across the river. See that building right over there?
My husband went there with a friend,
who was closing on an apartment on the west end,
He bought the most unfortunate one, if I may say,

with a view overlooking nothing but West Side Highway.
By chance someone else wanted to sell, because his life had become a personal hell up on the 45th floor,
After 9/11 he didn’t want to be so high any more.
So my husband bought it, right away, that very day.
Oh, what lovely views.

We no longer own it. It’s not the same anyhow.
It was… well… it used to be…
but they took his name off of all the buildings now.
I don’t know where you stand politically (shrug)

…she trailed off and looked up at the bust.

Hamilton’s son was shot and killed in a duel right here too.
A lot of people don’t know that. Did you?
In 1801, three years before
his father was killed in 1804.
You think he might’ve learned,
but I guess it was what he had to do, because that was the only way,
back in the day,
to settle a score.

After a time she said I should let you two get walking.
I’ve kept you too long with all of my talking.
Thank you for indulging me today.
I think I will be on my way.
I have a long drive ahead of me. But this was lovely.

We’d never seen her before and wouldn’t see her again,
but we said our goodbyes like we were dear old friends.
Later, as we headed back to our car
we spotted her in the street not too far from us, driving off in a copper colored Mercedes Benz,
into another poem about people coming, and people going.

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