2011 Barrett Winner

2nd Place Justin Rogers

I don’t want to leave my shower today.
It’s cold out there; time to use the screwdriver
To jimmy the heater up to 75
And hope it’s low enough to maintain that bill
On top of this water bill that I’m already wasting
But I don’t want to leave my shower today.

It’s breaking out there; crumbling plaster
Snowing over our beds and shattered china over arguments
Trying to pin our shortcomings on each other.
Civil war is a common solution in this home;
In this emotionally unstable heap of cracking boards
And plastic covered windows. Words fly like bare feet

During my reoccurring nightmares. I awake to warm towels
Against my cold sweat
And my daughter hushing my unconscious muttering.
“It’s okay, Mommy. I’m sorry. I’ll be good today.
Go take a shower.” She is nine.
She runs my shower and lays out my clothes
And even takes the blows from her three brothers
And agitated father while I attempt to enjoy my shower.

I don’t want to leave it today to witness the scars
That they have left each other this morning.
How do I avoid protective services?
How do you protect aggravation from displacement?

We never knew any better
Than to vent frustration through violence
And make ridged ends connect by all means possible,
Whether that meant deep pocketing half-gallon cartons
In store aisles to wet our mouths
Or exposing these breasts to help pay for this house.
We have to get by.
I have to provide.
I have to leave this shower.