Saturday, May 7, 2011

Poem: Window Washer

If this poem isn't a study in strong verbs, I don't know what is. It appeared in Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry: Column 318:

I love poems that take pains to observe people at their tasks, and here’s a fine one by Christopher Todd Matthews, who lives in Virginia.

Window Washer 

One hand slops suds on, one
hustles them down like a blind.
Brusque noon glare, filtered thus,
loosens and glows. For five or
six minutes he owns the place,
dismal coffee bar, and us, its
huddled underemployed. A blade,
black line against the topmost glass,
begins, slices off the outer lather,
flings it away, works inward,
corrals the frothy middle, and carves,
with quick cuts, the stuff down,
not looking for anything, beneath
or inside. Homes to the last,
cleans its edges, grooms it for
the end, then shaves it off

and flings it away. Which is
splendid, and merciless. And all
in the wrist. Then, he looks at us.
We makers of filth, we splashers
and spitters. We sitters and watchers.
Who like to see him work.
Who love it when he leaves
and gives it back: our grim hideout,
half spoiled by clarity.

Can you add your own verbs describing movements of the hand?


  1. I especially liked the last part of this poem- I loved the entire thing- but kept reading the last bit over and over. What a great poem!

  2. Love the poem. And timely, too. I'm working on a novel translation where strong verbs are a must in English to avoid the verbiage of Spanish.

    In this chapter I have hands that snatch, clamp and smack.