Qui tollis peccata mundi,
the cleaning lady whispers,
reciting the sacred text of Sunday Mass
as if to illuminate the darkening hour outside
the windows of the 82nd floor conference room.
There, above the clotted city air and woolen lows
of the clouds, she goes about her solitary job.
As she works towards the 83rd floor, she moves
ever closer, she likes to think, to the stars and
to the glittering sparks of the spirits.
Proceeding quickly, cleaning away the oily finger
prints of the portfolio managers, her cart of cloths,
mops and supplies out in front of her, she inches
forward, ascending on a magical dream
to where the nocturnal sky is less confining.
As the night deepens, Agnus Dei comes to her
and she begins to see a constellation of a lamb,
the one which takes away the sins of the world.
Miserere nobis plays as though one could vacuum
the adjusted numbers and secret deals away.
Would that each chair confess
the transactions it was privy to. And pigeons read lips.
Agnus Dei, she repeats, as if the lamb could cure
the debts of the world and pigeons transmute
into doves and the peregrine falcon become a prince.
But her supplications go unheeded. She is talking
to herself. Cum sancto Spiritu, she hears herself say
to the ghost of whatever deity had left for the day and
to the office towers and empty suites across the street.
She wonders if halos can be turned on like fluorescent
lamps and if some night the city might soak up
the darkness outside leaving nothing but
faint glitter of distant galaxies. Benedictus qui venit
she says, spray bottle of Pledge in hand. And suddenly,
there are only two offices to go and then the subway
home, the sparsely filled car quietly lurching. Soon
matins, and soon the executives back at their desks.
Qui tollis peccata mundi: Who takes away the sins of the world
Miserere nobis: Have mercy on us
Agnus Dei: Lamb of God
Cum sancto Spiritu: With the Holy Spirit
Benedictus qui venit: Blessed who comes
Photograph: unsplash / Vladimir Kudinov