A rabbi, a minister, and a priest were watching
the movie Our Hitler. “What do you mean our?”
the rabbi asked. The minister said, “Maybe
you should say her.” The priest, summoned on the phone,
wondered who she was. “Saved by the bell,”
I thought, sneaking out the back, escaping into the city.
I’d grown up near here but could barely recognize the city.
I moved furtively, knowing everyone was watching.
I looked for familiar landmarks, a cracked Liberty Bell,
the gravestone of an American president. It was the hour
between dusk and nightfall. Not a phone
booth in sight. Was I lost? Maybe,
but too proud to ask for directions. “There may be
trouble ahead,” I hummed, turning the city
into a newspaper office. My old job! “Rilke’s on the phone,”
the boss said, looking quizzical. When he wasn’t watching,
a dozen sonnets had landed on his desk. “Just our
luck,” he sighed. "Now there won’t be room for the Bell
and Howell scandal." He seemed close to tears. (Lunch at Hell
and Bowel, the local slop joint, hadn’t helped.) Oh, baby. Maybe
their spin doctors were winning the propaganda war while our
vaunted investigative team sits on its hands at the city
desk. Heartburn. His staff stood around idly watching
the old fart let off steam. It was then that the phone
rang a second time, making everyone jump. “Hold the phone.
Did anyone here order take-out from Taco Bell?”
“I did,” a girl said, “while he was watching
Our Hitler in the movies.” People gasped. “This may be
the recognition scene I had escaped into the city
to avoid,” I thought. But the lateness of the hour
meant that it would never arrive, and I, feeling dour,
figured why not and picked up the phone
to call the dead man one last time. “O City, city,”
the dumbbell moaned. You could hear the funeral bell
toll in the little village where he grew up. "Maybe
I should have stayed in the movie house, watching
our soldiers fight theirs, while the world was watching
with one eye closed." Right. And maybe help was a phone call away.
In my mind, bells rang in New York City.