Poetry: When You Kiss Me Your Hands Smell Like Bleach by Marisa Lainson

In “When You Kiss Me Your Hands Smell Like Bleach,” a mundane scene of spring cleaning turns into a declaration of true passion. In a whimsical tone, the speaker praises love and beauty of the everyday, like Neruda’s odes before her.


When You Kiss Me Your Hands Smell Like Bleach

For you, I kneel on the black tile grout

in the kitchen, scraping plump, white, wet

moth larvae from the shelf pegs of the pantry

with a toothpick. Last week, you cradled

my face with hands dusted with bread flour

and cinnamon. Now we trash every sack,

every jar, every essential staple strewn

with sticky threads of new, unwanted life.

Our home will stink of bleach for days.

As you soak noxious chemicals into

their nests, their young, each crevice

and hole, I watch your striped T-shirt

creased low on your back, your fingers

curled around the trigger. I think of being

twelve, when I slipped and crushed

a baby lizard with my elbow. My best

friend held the funeral in her palm,

staring at the broken belly, the alien

insides like a purple-red candy rope.

She told me, plainly, You’re a killer.

And I suppose I haven’t proved her wrong.

I have culled so many mortal things

with steady hands: spiders in the shower,

the plus on the pregnancy test, the soft

pieces of myself that believed

in an afterlife. Together, you and I

scour the dim spaces of the cabinets, trading

weapons and dark jokes, until you press

me firm against the countertop, frame

my face with hands that smell like

the instruments of death. I hum, pulling

your thumb into my mouth. For you,

I blossom like a carrion flower.


Marisa Lainson

Marisa Lainson is a poet and educator based in Southern California. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of California, Irvine, where she reads for Faultline Journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Frontier Poetry, Foothill Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.

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