who is dying
and the woman
who is blind
not to notice
each other's shame
The resulting acid spill:
Maybe I’m a terrible person, but I couldn’t help laughing during and after reading “Kitchen Linoleum,” by Audre Lorde. It’s just so terribly morbid, and that’s why I find it hilarious. It’s such a short poem, but it raises a thousand questions in my mind. It’s interesting how the cockroach and blind woman “agree not to notice each other’s shame” even though the woman can’t see the cockroach. So how do they make this agreement? Do they speak a common language? Do cockroaches make some sort of noise when they die? Is the dying cockroach in the woman’s home? Does the woman have a home? Maybe the woman sat down on a park bench and accidentally placed her hand over the upturned body of a writhing cockroach, and thanks to her heightened senses, knew its death was imminent. Not wanting to touch a dying cockroach, nor any cockroach for that matter, she quickly removes her hand and agrees to pretend that didn’t just happen. And perhaps the cockroach is ashamed of dying on public display and agrees to pretend no one has noticed it. Maybe cockroaches are very emotional and self-conscious creatures.
What I really wondered is why the blind woman is shameful. Is it because she can’t see, or is it because of her interaction with the cockroach? Maybe the woman is starving and decides to eat the cockroach for some much needed protein. I suppose if eating cockroaches is new to her, then eating her first cockroach might be a bit shameful. Perhaps she is a seasoned cockroach huntress who prefers the thrill of the chase but hasn’t had a kill in a few days and out of necessity has taken advantage of the dying cockroach who has no chance of escape.
I will say, if the dying creature had been something more lovable, which includes pretty much anything non-insect or serpent related, this poem would have made me feel quite sad. Say if it was the blind woman agreeing not to notice the shame of her very sick, vomit-spewing but faithful canine companion who loved her before she went blind. That poem might even bring tears to my eyes. But I’d be hard pressed to locate a cockroach enthusiast (well maybe not at ESF), but the fact that they are so difficult to kill makes cockroach death seem like a more joyous occurrence and a victory for the human race.
You know how when you’re with a group of people and one of them farts but everyone silently agrees not to bring it up or point fingers? Everyone just endures the stench and waits for it to pass in that tense half minute of silent whodunit. That’s the sort of emotion this poem conjures for me. It’s awkward and embarrassing but also strangely amusing.