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a multimedia salon


Unwrapping a Bar of Soap

Kate Kingston

Literary: Poetry

During the pandemic my poetry focuses on personal responses to social-distancing, quarantine, masks, disinfecting, handwashing, and the subtle nuances that are changing our behavior and interaction. The poem “Changing Tires” is a response to the necessity of moving ahead with practical demands, balancing new social restraints, as well as coping with the loss of my brother. “Unwrapping a Bar of Soap” is a tribute to his memory. “Gun Smoke and Jack-o-Lanterns,” just published by Sugar House Review, reaches back to the sixties, the day Kennedy was shot, to remind us we’ve been through turmoil before and pulled through.

Unwrapping a Bar of Soap

             For John

The soap smells like turquoise water,

fresh water, spring water. The soap smells

like Silver Lake, its deep cold springs

in July. It smells like my brother and me,

lake-water up to our knees, as we lean

over the beach towel weighted

by sand beneath the surface, each of us

clutching two corners. We wait, frozen

as still as ice sculptures in January,


and the minnows come.


Like little slivers of sunlight, they pool

in schools above blue terrycloth. My brother

yells, Now! We jerk upright clutching

the corners, our split-second motion

synchronized as we each support half

the weight, hold steady as water sieves

through cloth until there’s nothing left

but minnows, their glinting twisted bodies

like iridescent commas without sentences.


We haul them to the beach, scoop

them with our hands into a tin pail.

I memorize their squirm in my palm,

hold their untarnished silver up to my nose,

inhale their spring water scent.

I dance as their twisted, flipping energy

runs up my arm, keeps me hopping

one foot to the next, keeps me spinning,


laughing as they tick, tick, tickle my palm.


I let the soap slip through my fingers,

like slippery fins into the shallow dish,

think of other fish smells I’ve learned:

the salty, pungent odor of sardines,

the seaweed-scent of fresh-caught perch,

the fresh, crisp rainbow dew of trout,

and for breakfast, the bluegills, pan-size,

sizzling in creamery butter next to the eggs.

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