Adam Tavel

                    after Aaron Douglas' painting, 1935

His sweat-slick shirt is buttercup and clings
against his spine. The ordinary haze
of morning warms to wake us to a room
so nondescript and wintergreen its walls
could be a banker's office or some high
and vacant mansion's loft consigned to dust.
What matters is the window-washer's stoop
to unlatch and raise another dingy pane.
Soon he'll rag it glistening with the towel
across his shoulder like a sling, his arm
extended like a swimmer's breaking air
each time it stabs a stroke. His left palm cups
the sash like an infant's chin. He'll feed it light
and swirl the murky rivers from its skin.

Adam Tavel's third poetry collection, Catafalque, won the Richard Wilbur Award (University of Evansville Press, 2018). You can find him online at and on Twitter at @fawnabyss.

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