Five Poems from Lost Sherpa of Happiness

Here are five poems from my latest book. You can read 58 more in Lost Sherpa of Happiness ($17.00/book; sorry, no e-book available) by visiting Signed editions are available by contacting me directly (

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


Reading James Wright
by Ken Craft

I have been wandering with Wright
These two hours, under trees
Shadowy with women and dance. Soon it is dusk.
Somewhere horses
Move. The flint of hooves. The stone masking soft
He doesn’t know I am here, mistakes
Me for loneliness on a sturdy branch.
I leave him to his
Beautiful dark,
The dampness of give beneath my feet.

— Published in The MacGuffin


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


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


Another Calling
by Ken Craft

A moth, heavy
with water-
wings, fluttering
on the lake
as if the surface
were hot.

It sends
circular sonar,
saintly halos
of life
to the distant
bass of its

© Ken Craft, Lost Sherpa of Happiness, 2018 Kelsay Books