Skip to main content
/ Cleaning the Shed

Cleaning the Shed

by Ellen Stone

I want to clean something down to the bones.
Make a closed space open. Bring in air.
Let go of avarice. As if all that I have gathered
now hidden from me or taken. Squirrel nests.
Stack of plastic buckets, holes chewed through.
Fluff filled flowerpots. Even the hammock rope.

Little candle house carried out into light. Sudden
flutter, glinting against thin filigree. Spicebush
swallowtail clings, black gloss wings, small orange-
blue moon-dots on her tail. Hatched in the dark 
spring. The shed’s last and only captive, hesitating
even when she is shown an opening, a way home.

When you wish only for erasure, you disappear.
But to empty a place, you can feel whole again. 
Before anointing the axe handle, appointing bamboo 
stakes to their corners, an inspector – slender milk
snake, body ringed in gold, stretches her length
across the bottom beams, slides up the wall on her 
way out.  Swift flicker. Mouse-hunter. Omen.

Ellen Stone

About Ellen Stone

Ellen Stone (she/her) grew up on the north branch of the Susquehanna River in the Appalachian Mountains of rural Pennsylvania. She advises a poetry club at Community High School and co-hosts a monthly poetry series, Skazat! in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ellen’s poems have appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Great Lakes Review, Rust + Moth and River Mouth Review among other places. She is the author of The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013) and What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020). Ellen’s poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and Best of the Net. Reach her at

Cold Mountain Review is published once a year in the Department of English at Appalachian State University. Support from Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences enables CMR’s learning and publications program. The views and opinions expressed in CMR do not necessarily reflect those of university trustees, administration, faculty, students, or staff.