Special Feature: Altars of Writers & Artists: Elizabeth Krajeck

Joshua’s Altar, Image by John Whalen

IR: How did you begin the practice of creating an altar or spiritual space in your home? What does the process of tending to the space entail for you? What is at least one valuable thing you have learned from your practice of creating a sacred space.

EK: To begin, my mother (d. 2002) and her friends – other mothers – launched a second-hand store to raise money for children with disabilities, children similar to those of her eleventh child. My poems document everything second-hand, family history, and habits, including the long poem “The American Tough Girls” the title by one of my sisters and “I Keep My Brown Coat as a Pet.”

As a member of a large family, we saved everything. When I became a mother, both my children saved coupons as well as magazines, clothing, books – everything. While a child, Joshua buried the smallest items in the garden. After his death, I continue to find his treasures. I save his dirt and sand-filled tiny cars and trucks on my porch. It is his altar.

Joshua’s Altar, b.1971 – d.2017

Through Gravel and Grass

He buried toys.

We had a little house,

Joshua’s Altar, Image by John Whalen

In Walt Whitman’s tradition, Joshua’s treasures ask 

What is the sand? After Joshua’s untimely death, I find in the garden small sand-filled cars and 

trucks. I save them on my porch. It is his altar. 

Joshua’s Altar, Image by John Whalen

What did Joshua 

know asking Santa for bandages?

Child anthropologists 


“with full hands.”

The Shrine

The Krajeck family coat and corresponding poem were first shown as part of an installation “Half of What We Are Is Broken” in a shrine built by the artist Steve Hubert. The coat and shrine were later shown at the Big Car Gallery, Indianapolis.

I Keep My Brown Coat as My Pet

Discovered alive — my brown coat,

like the red farm house, woods and snow,

 hides from satellites, rockets and drones

 while I walk around drifts, inspecting the earth and its melting.

I count with the bears the “V’s” in survive, “S’s” in emissions,

and how many grizzlies? The lure in the air is the time

to walk among millions of words, some considered weapons

or verse, others debris. Discovered alive—

my mouth tries new words, ballistic, radar, laser

and from memory, short easy words,

fur, tree, brain, and from water, my first word, fish.

—Elizabeth Krajeck 

Archival Image

Wood is Calm – 

I treat our bungalow as an altar. Crown molding overhead and on each side of the fireplace, single casement windows frame the clouds. 

Inspired by turn of the century wood ironing boards, I form a small business called “Permanent Press.” 

Working with Partners in Housing to increase the number of small rooms downtown, I nourished the connection linking each additional room and bed with the shoe box holding toys. The smallest cups, spoons, and animals fill our altars.  

While combing my daughter’s beautiful hair, I discover cursive and am writing.

Permanent Press

Image by John Whalen

Elizabeth Krajeck. My first toys were words.  Author of two chapbooks and projects inspired by the visual arts including “Restoration Poetry,” based on interviews in the Blue Triangle Residence Hall; “Half of What We Are Is Broken,” an installation at IUPUI’s Cultural Arts Center; urban retail postcard poems; the paint chip poems; and “Poetry in Free Motion” with the Quilt Connection Guild. The community liaison for Butler’s Center for Citizenship and Community, Krajeck started Permanent Press, Writers and Editors — a bungalow-centered opportunity for writers. Recent work includes publication in So it Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library; summer guest reader at the James Whitcomb Riley Museum and participant in 2017 Indy Writers Resist, the Indianapolis Review, 2020; Scoundrel Time, 2021; The Indianapolis Anthology, 2021; and the Etheridge Knight Advisory Committee, 2022 .ekrajeck@gmail.com

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