cleaning the house

the smell of bleach
tells him i’m like his mother
he’s been with me
more than two years
and one night he smokes marijuana
smells bleach in the bathroom
gets nauseous
and thinks of his mother
suddenly he understands why he walks
around me like some bomb
activated by movement
the smell of bleach
raging across forty years
telling him his work
isn’t good enough
teaching him to get down on his knees
with a toothbrush
and work those corners
until they shine
and why doesn’t it surprise me
how he lets his toilets
stain brown stinking
into the hallway
like the unrelenting stench of the rapid station
fire hydrant
atavistic male tendency
scent of separation, self-proclamation
sometimes we fight
all day long
comet in the toilet
women screaming
over nothing
a man losing
in the bleach

wendy shaffer


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