A Few Poems from Lost Sherpa of Happiness

Below is a sampling of poems from my new book. You can find 59 more poems here if you like what you read.


When Babcia Caught Her Breath
by Ken Craft

The first summer we owned the camp,
we brought my grandmother,
who wore the same one-piece floral bathing suit
each day. I said no, but she took the broom
outside, swatted webs
from the clapboards, tried to reach the eaves.
“Babcia, please! Come by the water,”
but she bent near the foundation blocks and posts,
pinching and pulling weed heads between rough
peasant fingers, the strong lake breeze
blowing her white hairs, mad dance
of dandelion fluff holding on.
Unbending herself slowly, she swore
in Polish, shuffled to the wood’s edge, tossed
ripped roots on Canada Mayflower,
Indian pipe, a Pink Lady’s Slipper.
“Come, now,” I said. She finally sat in the Adirondack
beside me, her tanned, bony chest
rising and falling, the sweetness of breath.
Silent, she stared at this lake before her. And me, I inhaled
its strange newness in her name: The waves
against rip-rap. The wild mint smell. The nuthatches
scribing arcs about pine-bark.
And, on the water, whitecaps drunk with the passing.
She took this in and more,
then said, simply, “I can’t believe
it’s almost over.”

— Published in The Roanoke Review


Some Hard Talk About Death
by Ken Craft

Such hard-hatted construction workers we are,
mixing abstractions
in that great spinning drum,
pouring concrete talk of our deaths onto the rebar of words,
into the wooden frame of sentences,
aggregate discussion finally giving shape
to the inevitability of our remains.
Yes, decisions are supposed to set and grow hard,
but maybe the temperature or humidity is wrong today.

We agree on fire, at least—the impossible Fahrenheits,
the Christian moksha of ash and bone chip,
but you want us on a hill,
in your hometown, beside your parents.
Knowing I’ll go first, my inner fire begins to flutter,
begins to feel the thinning oxygen of emigrants strewn across distant ranges
far from the smell of rain and sea,
far from the comfort of soft-bubbling tidal flats.

This is just soot in a box, we’re talking, you remind me, returning
the conversation to the set and cure
of a world without our points of view.
But I’m already in a box of cremains, feeling the pinch of its crevices,
hearing the hollow thumps—the cold weight of Connecticut dirt
dropping from spade-cast skies as I inhale the panic.

No, I say. Better you brace yourself on a ledge of rock nosing the Sound,
shoes bound by barnacles, wind at your bereft back. Better you heave me
into a brief black vortex of spinning regret,
my ashes heady with one last westerly, spinning their sweet lies,
settling like gray plankton on the breast of the Atlantic.

Then I can glint like salt confetti beneath the sun.
I can listen as the gulls’ calls break up and diffuse. I can release
myself to the cold frontier of wet liberation
while, back on the receding shore, the bright world opens up
like a Winslow Homer: You in a cheerful blue. The whistling box.
Your windblown hair like Shakers in rapture.

— Published in The Roanoke Review


It’s the Fourth of July

and he’s listening to Oh Say Can You See in a sea of runners and an awakening 8 a.m. heat. The blue smell of Ben-Gay on the mentholated old guys & Axe on the sun-venerating young guys & armpit on the just-rolled-out-of-bed lazy guys & no one’s run a New Balance step yet. The ellipsis after the song’s last line is always a chant of USA! USA! USA! from the fun-run campers who must not read (at least footnotes) because they never feel the wet hand of irony in that disunited “U” running down their body-painted backs.

Jesus, but he bolts when the pistol goes, heat or no. On the course, though, he is passed by sausage-heavy middle-aged men & oxy-huffing retired men & stick-legged kids & women of all stars & stripes. Begrudge not, says the Bible, so he celebrates their speed or their youth, their fat or their fair sex—whatever hare-bodied thing there is to celebrate.

That night, after the picnic-table splinters & charred cheeseburgers, after the fries & bottles of we’re-out-of-ketchup, the fireworks mushroom into night clouds & umbrellas rain down hiss & heat sparkle, made-in-China reds, whites & blues. He cranes his neck, the skies soured with smoke & sulfur, holding tight the hand of his sweetheart.

Then it’s blessed be bed, after the grande finds its finale, only he is wakened by more (USA!) fireworks up the street (USA!) at 11:30 p.m. Still the holiday, after all, ignited by the undoubtedly drunk, after all, because booze is God-Bless-America’s drug of choice, after all. The outdoors explodes until midnight & he’s had about all he can stand lying down & cursed be Thomas Jefferson anyway, with his noble agrarian society & its whiskey rebellions & its pursuits of happiness & its God-given rights & its who-the-hell-are-you-to-tell-me, question comma rhetorical.

You know how this ends: It’s insomnia again. In the shallow, post-patriotic hours of the Fifth of July. Come cock-crow morning, on his walk, Fido sniffs the empty nips & plastic fifths along the sandy shoulder of sleepy roads. There’s even a patriotic Bud box, hollowed-be-its-name, white stars emblazoned on the blue of its crumpled carcass.

God bless America, he tells it.

— copyright Ken Craft; published by Unbroken Journal



The Judas Door
by Ken Craft

After two days, the taproot of absence spears
this house, but nowhere more than the closet
where your perfume and my fear cling
to the fur-lined collar of your coat
against the soft breath of hours.

I fill the hollow inside the kitchen
by cooking and eating summer squash and dill
you planted in the garden last May. I drown
the clock’s maddening by sanding and staining new
life into your grandmother’s mahogany vanity.

The dog follows me as I move from room to room
and, when I stop, rests but does not sleep,
one cloudy eye half-open and wary.
He’s watching that I do not get swallowed,
too. By a door that may not open again.

— Published by PoetsArtists



Night of the Dying Frogs
by Ken Craft

Raining. Restlessness.
Wet streets and the wan smell
of drowning earthworms.
The deluge-drummed hood
on the drive to work before dawn.

Ahead, halogen slivers of silver
pin effervescent puddles
in sibilant streets.
Sound of water-hosed wheel wells.
Smell of amphibian air creeping the car’s
phosphorescent cave as headlights
pith the darkness.

Then, to Biblical beat, the rain-bloated
bullfrogs in the road. Their heavy, emigrant leaps.
Crossing. Fleeing.
Right to left.
Pond to perdition.

I swerve between slicks of them,
jumping sacks
of green saturation, golden-eyed
with apocalypse as if pursued
by an Aesopian Stork God
stilting about the woods or a French chef
sheathed in the bog & whetstone of night.

My tires speak the quality of mercy,
slurring soliloquys beneath wet brakes
as these dark croaks of life, yellow & green, live
& die with only the briefest of benedictions,
only the reddest of blessings
in tail-lit exhaust.

— Published by The High Window