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 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.