Cleveland Poems: A Suite (2 of 3)
Mr. Bob’s office was the half-lit basement
where the boiler thrummed and clicked
and he drank coffee from a dented thermos,
a bucket of cedar-scented sawdust nearby.
Mr. Bob was shy in the hallway upstairs,
but he greeted us with a quiet smile
when we arrived – one child, alone –
with chalk-dusty erasers to be cleaned.
We would, of course, no longer send a child
alone to the basement with a stranger
but Mr. Bob’s was kind, aggressive only
when greasing the downspouts in the fall.
He greased the downspouts so nimble boys
could not play Halloween tricks and shinny
to the roof, impressing less-agile friends
or the girl they set their cap for on that day.
The downspouts drained to the basketball court
where in winter we laid heavy coats aside
before launching two-handed set-shots
and shooting underhand free throws.
I don’t remember if cleaning erasers
was punishment or reward, but I remember
our basketball was the same red-dimpled ball
so perfect for kickball in the spring.
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Joseph Neely, all rights reserved