Skip to main content

Cleaning Out the Shed, a poem by Tom Probasco

Cleaning Out the Shed

It was made of wood and held the coal

that warmed the thick-walled brick building there

beside it on those grounds,

the one-room school

eventually changed

into an oil-heated house.

We came when I was fifteen months,

from Dayton out to the country,

east of Xenia on Hoop Road.

Moving as many were and would,

away from advancing colored,

a word most white

polites used then.

The shed was dark, housing

for lawn mowers, tiller,

tools and pools and cats

and mice and sometimes rats

when the felines were fewer and tamer

and fed from a can.

The shed was dark, even

with the bulb above the bench

turned on for seeing

good enough in the shed.

The shed was dark and usually not so

you could play in there and not have it show

on hands and pants.

A good place to hide,

make a haunted house,

hear rain and put the balls and bats

and my Flexible Flyer.

And sometimes still certain beams of light,

in certain places on certain days,

bring me back to when we cleaned the shed.

When my father unclasped the door

above the floor on the side that faced the garden,

on some bright early afternoon,

and swung it open and the front door too,

and the shaft of sunshine—what a sight

to see such light in the shed.

We’d haul stuff out and hose down the walls,

flush webby refuse across the floor

in a flooding that finally ran away clean.

We’d sweep and let it all dry a bit,

discard some stuff then haul stuff back,

let more light and air flow through,

then after a while my dad would close

that smaller door that made that difference

in how things looked inside.

(When first the light entered, the bikes and jars

and such looked naked,

maybe pale or surprised.)

Think how dark it must have been

with nothing but coal within.

By dusk we had closed the door in front,

on items neatly arranged and waiting

for the usual way we kept things there . . .

for the coatings of dust . . .

in the darkness there.

Tom Probasco has published poems in INPRINT (Indianapolis Free University Writers’ Center), the first volume of Indiannual (Writers’ Center of Indianapolis), and the Northwest Indiana Literary Journal. He is a resident of Indianapolis and plays harmonica in the Indianapolis band True North.