Poems & Essays

19 Sep

Keeping Score

General/Column 3 Responses

Once again I’ve won the stay-at-home lottery,
less a game of chance than one of careful bargaining.
If you can go to work an hour later then I can call
a sub, drive to school in my sweats at dawn, photocopy
seventy-six copies of an article from the New York Times
for my sophomores to annotate in my absence.

Today, I can do this, and maybe tomorrow,
if you can promise Wednesday, if his fever doesn’t
break, if I am still rocking our son into sleep,
if three a.m. again finds me peeling a vomit-soaked
shirt away from my chest, almost too tired to stand
under the spray, soap falling from my cupped hands.

Stepping out of the shower for the second time
I wonder how you can sleep through it, not just
the coughing, the crying like a broken faucet,
but also the dread that crawls through my body, claws
in deep, sleep held hostage. You lie with your
face turned towards the door but don’t stir
when I throw back the covers again.

These nights find us fitting differently. I can’t
relax into the hollow you hold for me. Your knees
can’t bend into the backs of mine. There are no sleepy
squeezes, no appreciative ass-grabbing or the drowsy
kisses of two people who move comfortably
through the dark together.

I’m a live wire, rigid, barely breathing,
plugged in to the room across the hall
and disconnected from you, the space between us
an empty socket. The baby’s cough startles me
sideways, sends me moving as you slumber on.

In the morning you brew the coffee, pour the cream
the way I like it, and I forget I’m keeping score.



Shari Winslow lives with her family near the shore of Puget Sound. She spends her days trying to make high school students fall in love with the language they so carelessly abuse, and most of the time she loves that pretty fiercely. She never leaves the house without at least one notebook and something to read. You can find her blog at http://prairietides.blogspot.com.

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Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

  1. Susan Goldstein

    September 19, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    What a slice of Life! You perfectly captured the resentment and then acceptance of being the primary caregiver while holding down a FT job.

  2. Tara Borin

    October 18, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Though I don’t work outside the home, I absolutely relate to the score keeping, to that disconnect. I often feel my partner and I are living on different planets. I have no idea how they sleep through all of the night time stuff.

  3. Sharon

    November 5, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Those last two stanzas–wow! What a jolt!

    Great poem.


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