The Mark of the Hand on New York: A Writer Wednesday Post

The hand is the subject of one of my earliest essays as a child. It still remains one of the things that makes me deeply Glad To Be Human. Speaking of which, I’m told that within a week, the e-version of my essay Glad To Be Human will be available wherever ebooks are sold.

Fading somewhat, but we are still able to see the mark of the hand on New York. In the pause between a building coming down and the next arising, sometimes we find these old poems on windowless faces of brick.

Even ads can turn to poems when hands made them.  A weathered thing, an earnest hope, a painted record of desire. Pause. Hear the long-dead designer conversing with all three proprietors. “Use the same colors. It’ll cost less. I’ll make ‘em different.”

The eye worked out this stack of signs, but hands dipped brushes into buckets and applied it dripping to the wall. Blue-handed painters scrub their cracking palms with turpentine, and when the last rag‘s cast, and their laddered truck has rattled away, feel the gentlemanly handclasps of congratulations, smell the cigars and the whiskey toasts, sense the vest-popping pride in the bright yellow round and the elegant arrow encircling the upper sign, showing the way to the showrooms, to sunny success.

We feel hope in the work of the hand.

The modern thrill of metal furniture, the tingle of electrical appliances catching for years the upcast city eye, the upcast imagination. The allure of Smart Gifts. Hope in the shopper as well.

Yet culture and fashion, vogue and design are but grist in the turning stones of New York, feeding new appetites.  The passage of time itself is the poem, but the hand is what sets it before us.


A walk in Murray Hill this week inspired this post. If you find such signs as evocative as I do, you might want read about the Mack Sign Company here or more about the signs themselves here.

Do you see the mark of the hand where you live?


Scroll to Top