Stephen Ackerman

Happiness on Earth
June 24, 2024 Ackerman Stephen

Happiness on Earth


Especially if you were waking
On clean sheets
Especially if it were a morning
In summer
Only if you were a child
Especially if the sun
The rays of the sun –
Dowsers of dreams,
Doulas of dawn –
Traveled through the slats of the shutters
Like travelers on a trade route
Bringing spices on the Silk Roads
Especially if the window were cracked
Open and a cool current flowed over the sill
Like a freshet
Across your face, your arms, your legs
Especially if you were stretching
Your arms, your legs
Especially if it had rained
During the night and the rain –
Still beading in the branches of a pine,
Still clinging to the silk roads of a spider web –
Carried the scent of the pine trees
Into the room
Like a traveler on a trade route
Bringing cinnamon, cardamon and pine
Especially if the house were quiet
Only if you hadn’t dreamed
That the kings and queens
In a deck of cards
Did not add up


Only if you were a child
And you woke with no memory
Only the clean, only the cool
And slowly the dark, slowly the air
Slowly the quiet, slowly the sun
Slowly the scent of the pine trees
Slowly summer

Stephen Ackerman‘s debut poetry collection, Late Life, won the 2020 Gerald Cable Book Award and was published by Silverfish Review Press in 2022. More information about Late Life can be found at His manuscript-in-progress, A Rain Oration, includes three poems originally published in Plume (“Happiness on Earth”; “I Was Reading the Sunlight, I Was Planting the Words on this Page”; and “While Another Dove Nude into the Breakers”). His poem “If I Had as Many Hands as Vishnu” was set to music by Max Raimi, a composer and violist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The piece is scheduled to be performed in March 2025 as part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series. His poems have appeared in many print and online publications, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets 2010, Boulevard, Harper’s Magazine, The Manhattan Review, Mudfish, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, Salamander and Verse Daily.