Moment, with Notes of Chlorine Bleach

With a whole cupful of bleach and an old
kitchen towel, I scrubbed mold from the top-

most tiles of the shower stall. Millions of homes
across America use cleaning solutions infused

with sodium hypochlorite—meaning, mostly women,
who make up 70% of all household labor; or 3.4 million

cleaning workers, of which women comprise nearly
88.6%. And of this number, 73% percent are people

of color: immigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean,
China, Africa, the Philippines, and more—like the woman

whose cleaning trolley I heard every morning outside
my room at university hall when I was in Hawai'i

for a conference. We passed each other, me going off
to a reading or workshop, she going into each room on that

floor to lay out fresh sheets and towels, scrape soap scum
off tile, arrange little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion

on the sink. The fumes from chlorine bleach can make you
dizzy, can make your head hurt, your eyes and lungs burn;

could even cause reproductive harm. On my second
to last day, I asked Manang to help me with the zipper

stuck in the back of my dress. In the space of working it
loose from the bottom to close the fabric at the top,

she'd managed to tell me a little of her life story:
the town she was from, the language we discovered

we shared, as chlorinated smells braided with humid
air and the call of gray francolin in the trees.

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