Shift Work — Lee Chilcote

After the kids go to sleep,
I rinse the dishes,
load them in the dishwasher
and crawl into bed.

Later, you’ll come downstairs
after falling asleep in their beds,
put the dishes away,
pack the bags for school
and curl up beside me.

Sometimes, our paths cross like fireflies
lighting up the darkness.

In the night, we change diapers,
put crying kids back to bed,
tap each other’s shoulders when we’re too tired to get up,

make breakfast, feed the baby.
The clang of another soccer game,
another trip to the grocery store.
The slip-slop rhythm of us.

Then we go out on weekends,
skip the appetizers, skip the desserts, skip the movie.
Walk hand in hand past the twentysomethings

to go home and make love,
voicing gratitude
for clocking in, for showing up,
for cradling each other in the dark,
two bodies at rest
until the baby cries at 3 a.m.


Lee Chilcote is a poet, journalist and nonfiction writer who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. His poems have appeared in Vivarium, Oyez Review and other publications. He completed a master’s degree in creative nonfiction at Cleveland State University, where he was awarded the Leonard Trawick Prize for Creative Writing.