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
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.