The Dark of Sheds, by Adam Penna

When I went out into the shed to find the shears

my father had sent me to find, I also found the dark

of sheds, a more significant shear, and stepped into it

 

the way you might wade into a pool at night, not afraid

entirely but cautious unless you step on something sharp,

a roofing nail jarred from its box, the tine from a pitchfork

 

lying where it shouldn’t be, propped up by a rock.

The spades, the square-nosed shovel, the lawnmower blades,

and the moldy smell of cardboard rotting. I understood

 

one thing: to get out with my life I’d have to hold my breath.

It feels like drowning to be fetching from confusion

something sure, specific, sharp, inherited like fate,

 

passed down from father to son, in the genes, unavoidable.

I think of Emerson and his definition of temperament,

which means literally well-mixed like darkness and light,

 

when the door has been chocked open by a heel kicked back

and a bright trapezoid cuts the night into identifiable shapes.

They aren’t geometrical. They’re something greater, suggesting

 

with a gesture how close the stars are to us really

and how, like us, they are traveling as far away from birth

as possible. In the dreams I would dream later, older,

 

I brought those shears to him and smiled, but we all know

how unsatisfying the occasion is, which brings us from the dark

with only what we went searching there to find.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 2.

Adam Penna’s first full-length collection, Little Songs & Lyrics to Genji, was published in 2010 by S4N Books. His poems have appeared in magazines like Albatross, Cimarron Review, Basilica Review, Nimrod, The Same and others. A sonnet published in the Cider Press Review was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010, and an earlier poem appeared on the site Verse Daily in 2004.

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