Aaron Poochigian

The Drop

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There is a pine plank forty stories up,
a chair with no legs larking in the farness,
and Don is on it, rocking in his harness
as crosswinds blow. His gloved left hand is gripping
a hook that tapers toward a suction cup
slapped onto glass. His right hand, after dipping      
a squeegee in the bucket hung from him,             
bounces it three times off the plastic rim,             
and with a swish a stippled dust-Rorschach—
a mushroom, maybe, or a lion’s mane—
runs trickling into the weatherstripping.          

His fingers find the sheave and flick the lock.
The paid line crackles, and the rising pane                  
mirrors into his mirrored frames a blushing
fuchsia dawn in no rush over Flushing
where, pillow-frizzed, his girlfriend is perhaps
padding across the tile to serve their daughter
peach yogurt and a bowl of Nutri Crisp.                     
He duly dunks the blade in soapy water        
but stiffens when he hears, above the lisp
of distant traffic, three insistent taps. 

What is that streak of luminescence there
against a mat of bottled ships on shelves?

Half of a grinning face half-creamed for shaving;
rosé paste zoning off a shock of hair;        
the infamous equipment’s eager flare.
A flurry-fingered palm is raised and waving.

He’d heard they do this; they can’t help themselves—
the window-washer flashers.
                                                         Eyes averted,               
Don squeegees quick and makes a disconcerted           
drop to the next pane: safely veiled in shade. 
A good shrug puts him right back in the zone.
He whistles freely, loves he works alone.
A ledge dove heckles him from overhead       
then takes off, whirring, toward a sudden goal.
Don keeps on scrubbing with unruffled verve
and making music, then his Oakleys meet
surprise transparence. He can see a bed:

a Blue Great Dane is cradling a petite
and fetal woman in a camisole.
His reaching right leg guards her calves; her curve
snugs perfectly beneath his burst of chest;
his muzzle, built for wild boar, is at rest             
atop her pixie cut. 
                                     It’s like the whole
of intimacy, mutual repose,  
has stashed its nest inside that glass preserve.

The blade squawks during Don’s finale hook.                                   
The long head rises, and a droopy look 
assesses him, disdains him, and the doze
goes on.                    
                   Released from that serene seduction,
Don goes on polishing the stories, goes
on sticking and unsticking handled suction
and flicking liquid guck. If backache grows
out of his rachetings, he takes a break
only to daub some sunscreen on his nose.
The panes keep stepping toward the sky, opaque
because their timer-tilted blinds are drawn.

He works divided from the lives indoors
through rush hour. Then, among the lower floors,       
abrupt translucence opens: he beholds     
a beehived teacher waving a baton.
A colony of five- or six-year olds
(the boys in dress pants and the girls in skirts)
is facing four slates, each with different text:                

The first says, Frère Jacques, and the next
says, Dormez-vous? The hurried third asserts,
urgently, that the morning bells are ringing.
The fourth tolls out how powerful they are.
Though few French songs are in Don’s repertoire,    
this one’s a classic. He remembers singing
bells that at daybreak hushed the graveyard crows,
bells after church vows, bells that roused the Dow.  
All kids, he knows, marked “P” and in their rows,
turn truant when they drift away pretending       
they each have joined their brother Jacques in France,                
and it is time for him to wake up now.
Don hears again the four warm ways those blending    
vowels, reiterated in a round,
crocheted a vast elsewhere of grade school trance.     
Hand to the window, he can feel the sound.
He never thought his work would touch on such an                   
                  Done beyond the lip that copes             
a surface coarse with sculpture and engravement, 
he stops to buff the paunch of an escutcheon
then slides toward sideways living on the pavement.
Eyes that have wandered off into commanding                              
views of the flick and slither of his ropes
widen in windows of the coffee shop:
a messenger awash in city-top
mystique is stumbling toward the art of standing.             
And rubberneckers, locked like telescopes,                
will go on squinnying to watch Don cleanse                     
eclipsed high-rise apartments, 
                                                             and the tenants     
will find with fresh eyes through a spotless lens
the spritz of jetskis, gargoyles, wind-tipped pennants  
and Central Park’s cosmos of greenery,
and all who look will share in the endeavor: 
taking in sights with glitz, grit, rpm
and being taken in and changed by them
a moment or a season or forever,
here where there is so very much to see.

Aaron Poochigian earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. His latest poetry collection, American Divine, the winner of the Richard Wilbur Award, came out in 2021. He has published numerous translations with Penguin Classics and W.W. Norton. His work has appeared in such publications as Best American Poetry, The Paris Review and Poetry.

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