Joan Xie

Veteran Poet - 1,751 Points (Shanghai, China)

Window Washer - Poem by Joan Xie

"856, " they called.
De doesn't know that's his new name,
head bows to his front chest,
as if an out-of-season stalk hugging all his seeds,
dreary and sleepy as De is.
Someone taps his shoulder
and pushes him
into a worn chair in front of a bald Judge
whose pale, sharp index nail scratches courtroom air.
De's Interpreter nods and nods several times,
then finally turns to De,
"You can go now, Mr. De,
next hearing date will be in three years,
and the actual date will be set and sent to you in the mail."

At once
out of the court.
With hundred dollar bills and sweet n' sour odor
unfolded, De asks interpreter timidly,
"It's a long wait.
When can I finish my hearing?
What about my children back home? "
Interpreter gives him a sharp look, says,
"What about them? NO ONE asks you here. Mr. De."
Grabbing money out of De's hands,
he walks away.

Well, De has a job to do.
He changes into bright yellow trousers and an orange helmet.
A lift carries him to all eighty-five floors,
one after another.
De splashes soapy water onto the window.
The past is raining down,
rumbling like the river behind his village,
desolate and muddy, always.
Tired face rubs against the unwashed window,
Skinny-legged mosquitoes smash into the unseen window,
How much De hates those uncleanable windows!

He stops on the thirteenth floor.
To his surprise
his Judge is sitting behind the desk
with chopsticks in his hands
and General Tso's chicken in his teeth.
De exchanges a glance with Judge
but the man took off his black-framed glasses
and swirled away.

De says to himself,
"How come he didn't see me?
Maybe the window is too dirty."
He moistens the window with his hot breath
mops again, and again
like a passing cloud
behind an uncleaned window.

Topic(s) of this poem: alienation, identity, immigrant, loneliness, reality

Form: Narrative

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 29, 2019

Poem Edited: Thursday, May 30, 2019

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