from the collection The Indifferent World
This is where I held
a stand of red pine,
needles and snowdust
scribed about my boot,
resisting a swollen
This is where a buck
held its breath—
amid the mast,
a single line
of berry drool
spiking the fur
of his white and
Each day brings the wedding closer.
Clapboard and trim painters.
Window washers, florists, a house
I were a Breughel peasant
far away, under a sky pricked and paled
by August sun.
Scythes whistle. Sweat-soaked muslin
kisses our backs. Kerchiefed
maidens swing in rhythm, while a rick
wagon with wheat-strained ribs
waits in back. Swaddling its shade.
Its cool, corked jugs.
Let us stop here
and rest, limbs splayed
with the sweetness
of fatigue. Let us drink this wine.
Open these wicker baskets.
Find the airy white hearts
of crust-cased loaves with our thumbs.
Each morning he rises and bows
before me—parable of humility,
maw yawning, paws splaying.
The hollow rattle of dry meal
raining on his aluminum bowl
pops his ears. Every day,
novelty in the ritual of repetition;
every day, the Pavlovian ear perk.
Like heartbeats and bad breath,
autonomous tail and tongue.
Waiting for me
to move, he approaches the orb
demurely, noses in, crunches the bland
and the brown. That lovable greed.
Those stained, pacifist teeth.
He feeds, license and rabies tag
keeping time at bowl’s edge. And always,
in the end, one dry kibble
is left in a bowl cirrus-streaked
with spit: his offering
to the food gods, his prayer
answered each miraculous day.
After years of meditation, the Buddha found
my problem—I cling to life,
I cannot release, I am no sooner dead
than crawling back, hours or days later,
as apparent man, woman,
fire ant, tiger, pelican, newt, box turtle,
hemlock tree, narwhal, salmon, roadside
weed. Clinging to a new womb, sac, egg, seed.
Thirsty for more warmth, mothers, suns. Crying
for the feel of water, food, breath.
Again and again, the barb of my beetle leg’s clinch,
the proboscis of my mosquito want, the bristle
of my moth antennae’s search. I crave. I need.
I suck from the marrow of my prison. I cannot
recall the womb that recalls me.
Clem buttresses that old house
with bales of hay against the foundation,
rivets metal roofing over buckled
tar paper, and feeds his splitter, revealing
the striated blond bellies of halved maple
logs and spewing the fine dust of sweet
wood into his khaki-confettied hair.
As if he sat at Job’s knee as a child,
that old man stacks his wood into a cord,
builds a square meal for his winter stove,
and doesn’t glance up once at the leaden
bottoms of November’s indifferent clouds.
Three is the loneliest number on a clock
when the night can’t save you.
No doubt it is the constellated tug,
a conspiracy of stars, the silent, primal
voice that whispers the uselessness,
that grinds greater gears,
that mocks the hubris of careful plans,
set alarms. Every blanketed life around you
sleeps safe and happy and secure
like nothing can touch them, like change
has made its exception, named it you,
and passed finally over the frosted roof.
Ken Craft is a writer living west of Boston. His work has appeared in The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, Plainsongs, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Off the Coast, Spillway, Slant, The MacGuffin, and numerous other journals and e-zines.
His new poetry collection, Lost Sherpa of Happiness, has just been released by Kelsay Books to high acclaim. His first collection, The Indifferent World, was published by Future Cycle Press in 2016. He can be reached at email@example.com.