Thursday, October 21, 2021

All the Songs I Never Played

I often think of all the songs I never played,
bronze-wound Martin strings silent
in the velvet-lined hard-shell case.
They exist somewhere in the quantum field,

the wave-particle duality
in the synapses of my brain that winks
every second or two between potential
and the notes I hung in a spare moment

on the tree outside my window
or the ears of someone washing dishes
in the next room or on the sunbeam
that was my companion eight days a week,

Walter Mitty playing the venue
twenty thousand strong as the lights went down
and the spot picked me up as I walked
center stage, slinging the strap across my shoulder.

There are days when I wish
I were an old black man,
sitting on a sinking porch.
There would be no regret, no looking back

as I hung notes on invisible clefs,
singing the blues and the sky
and never looking back,
working the strings with bony fingers,

tapping the boards beneath my feet,
making music sultry and sweet
or more often than not
down and out because Mabel done left me,

and that was the end of that.
The neighborhood wives and single mothers
would be my audience as they sauntered by,
brown bags and babies clutched under their arms

as they picked up twelve bars
before reaching the end of the block.
It would be a good life,
and maybe Clapton, Mick, or Keith

would discover my licks and angst.
At least the music would be out there,
drifting on a deep blue afternoon
and making love to the dying day

that had been near and dear,
though we certainly had our spats.
Sparrows on the telephone wire
would take the songs across the block

or the river, and my fame would spread
like the fire of sunset.
Yes, I wish I’d let it fly.
But that’s not what happened.

The world was too much with me,
and I dragged myself out of bed
to teach grammar or a poem,
me—the living cliff notes

standing in front of a sleepy venue
watching the clock
and hoping that my droning
would be put in a velvet-lined coffin,

my lyrics stashed in the string pocket
where they could do no harm.
And yet there were times I found the sweet spot
and played for hours, glorious missing time,

day-tripping through the catalog of a band
or the folkies for whom I was journeyman,
strumming or fingerpicking,
the left hand not knowing what the right was doing,

and yet both dancing in syncopated sync.
But still I wish I had lost more hours
to that soul within that lives on melody.
I wish I had played a thousand more songs,

the movement I needed right there on my shoulder.
I wish I had played them for you.

~William Hammett

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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Along the Meridian Nerve

I saw two lovers kiss
while sitting by the lake
before returning their gaze
to the pewter-gray water.

A fish jumped
and geese took flight.
It was overcast,
but the sun kept moving

in its arc behind the gray pall.
A crow watched the scene as well
on the bare branch of a winter tree
as crows are wont to do.

The lovers looked at each other,
blue eyes connected by unseen wires
like those once imagined
by cavalier metaphysicians,

and then held hands,
leaning shoulder to shoulder
as lovers are wont to do.
They smiled as they turned back to the lake,

silent and content for the moment.
The kiss had traveled
along the meridian nerve
that connects all lovers,

producing a marriage
that is the best that can be hoped for
between the heart and the brain,
pole to pole, body and soul.

For the record, the crows,
having observed the union,
took flight, black on gray,
in search of others plighting their troth.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

April Mayhem

The wind whips white dresses
like sails on oceans of green grass,

and suddenly it is spring
as young ladies from the red wooden schoolhouse

dance and pass between the mountains,
between winter and fall,

and all the mayhem that sun can bring
adorns the falling curls of maidens set free.

Amen to spring that such latitude
can swing wide the door to debtors prison

and free the soul that for a spell
was etched in winter’s glass.

~William Hammett

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Thursday, October 7, 2021

Tall Pine Trees in a Hurricane

I could not tell whether the tall pine trees
were fighting against the hundred-mile-an-hour winds
or engaging in a frenzied, orgiastic dance.
Branches, like the multiple arms of Shiva,
flailed wildly as their bodies whipsawed back and forth
with each new gust, untamed zephyrs
unleashed by Byron or Shelly on a future world
they suspected would need more hedonism.

The five-story pine in the corner of the yard
spiraled like a whirling dervish, orderly by comparison,
but then abandoned its pious spinning
to join the riot of its brothers and sisters,
green needles pointing towards sky and ground,
long fingernails waiting to claw my windows or roof
when the next feeder band swept through.

Or perhaps I have it all wrong.
Maybe they were martyrs or ballerinas
or both caught up in a westerly,
swaying left and right with arms arched
above their heads and bending to the wind
in a life and death choreography of salvation.

“Take me or not,” may have been their chant,
the wild rush and rustling of their limbs
against each other as the spirits,
angelic or demonic, blew in from the Gulf.
“But we will not fight, only bend
to the will of the same Father who determines
when sparrows must eventually fall to the ground.”

Stepping back from the window,
I clicked off my flashlight and listened to their declarations.
I have seldom encountered such surrender
or been as flexible in mind, body, or spirit
as these hamadryads rooted in a deeper well
of theology and soil that had thrust them heavenwards
years before they had been put to the test.

The spinner in the corner fell hard, died,
its nymph escaping into the clouds, I suppose,
and perhaps to a blue heaven and white light
accessed by traveling upwards though the eye,
its life review showing a progression from sapling
to firewood after the chainsaws had bitten
into the rings and concentric layers of soul.

The storm tracked north,
and after the sun reclaimed its ascendancy
and the juice ran through the wires once again,
I looked out the window and thought of life and death,
of going to the grocery store to buy more water.
The remaining trees were quiet
and prayed vespers inaudibly,
which was, I now knew, their regular evening routine.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Listening to the Beatles

It’s the plaintive opening that really gets me,
the wailing harmonica that indeed says love me do,
hopeful but not altogether confident,
like things could go either way.
It might as well say please me—please.

I might be cooking red beans
or driving to the drug store to pick up statins,
but the voices come through the speakers
that I can no longer locate in new cars.
Somehow I get there faster.
Maybe it has something to do with the theory of relativity,
but I suspect the answer is far simpler:
I’m a twelve-bar junkie, a hopeless day tripper,
a dreamer without the tie dye,
and no matter where I’m going,
any road will take me there.

It’s hard to decide which year to focus on
in the ten-year marathon from leather boots
to a lonely hearts club and beyond,
a backbeat that came full circle
to hard core rock and roll,
rolling over Beethoven
while everything still managed
to come together in unexpected ways.

Oh darlin’, I wish we had lasted longer
so that we could have relived it all together.
Remember when I told you
about the harmonica break,
the one you had never noticed?
We could have read the anthology together,
and I could have played through the catalog
on the Martin you saw in Cleveland.
Blackbird could have finished taking flight.
Really, I should have known better.

I still listen,
and the remasters sharpen the ear.
The drums are heavier,
the backing vocals more harmonic,
the acoustic wires cleaner than before—
it’s called bending the strings—
and they did it so well.
It’s 1964, and I’m in love with it
all over again.
It helps me get through the day,
through just about anything.
You said you understood that too.

The old bag of bones,
Grendel dressed in drag,
now long gone and doing God-knows-what,
told me I was a nowhere man.
Isn’t it ironic that years later
I became a paperback writer?

~William Hammett

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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Yearning at the Time of Equinox

my hand traces
the lines of your heart

so many summers
before and after

O that love
could last like a river

sweet bird
will you sing tonight

spring arrives
with old fevers broken

in the shed is a plow
that knows love’s invitation

we come back to play
like the shadow of mountains

the rain is a harvest
and you are my rain

fall gently now
into this yellow season

but be forever unbroken

~William Hammett

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Friday, September 3, 2021

All Afternoon I Have Been Looking

All afternoon I have been looking
for a poem that would hold
the coming stars of evening.

at twilight,
I sense the presence of dreams,
constellations of love
just beginning to rise.

Around the corner
in the next room,
I realize
that you are sleeping,

and already
I wish to kiss
the possibility of full moons
on your horizon.

~William Hammett

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Friday, August 27, 2021

Gemini Rising

If your planet should wander
after long years into some alignment
with the moon as it floats,
lonely as ivory-colored bone,
through a naked winter tree,
a moon that combs your hair with dreams
and whispers that all destinies
are reduced to the single equation “be,”

if you should find the music of the spheres
dancing on some heartstring
in the key of presumed impossibility,
and yet the melody circadian and natural
as slipping into water
or reading the Braille of a lover’s face
before some god commands his light to “be,”

if you should find seven suns
with gravity bold enough
to slide old constellations made new
onto the palette of your life,
those years lost at intersections
where blinking lights said,
“too late, too soon—you can never be,”

would you, in an odd moment
unforeseen by the astrologer
running daily in your veins,
kiss Gemini rising
as the dawn kisses the sea?
Would you fill every cup of desire
with the hope of being captured
in an orbit that circles nothing
but the heart’s eternal “be”?

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Some Things Are Never the Same

Some things are never the same
after we have let our senses
wrap themselves around the ways of this world
with the best of intentions:

a first kiss, a glimpse of Monet’s brushstrokes,
chardonnay on the palate,
a line of Wordsworth uttered
by the tall trees surrounding a lake.

Memories are dusty books
on shelves just out of reach.
We climb the library ladder,
hoping that this time it will be different,

that the sight of the peasant woman
singing vespers in the field
will be as the first time the eye
fell in love with the golden wheat

in which she toils.
Still, I come back to you,
to your rhythms and gait,
the way you arrange place settings

on the table that we share.
You are the exception,
making the world anew
as you rise each day like a resurrection.

(written in 1969)

~William Hammett

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Saturday, August 21, 2021

Gazing at Sirius

Gazing at Sirius,
I reel at a ribbon of light
so precise, so like the laser
of a lover’s lucid eye,
that it can ride the pulse
of my alien vein
years after fusion fired its meter,
the seed of a lonely poem,
into the dark preface
of some cosmic anthology.

And now, this star’s symmetry,
its mystical binary beat,
has given midnight the pulse
of an earthly, circadian sea.
The salt and longing in my blood,
formed in a primordial ocean
that orbited a newborn sun,
has not been forgotten.
It thrums pentameter,
my heart’s pacing,
much like the Dog Star’s
cosmic iambic rhyme.

I am wise with spring,
reborn by star stuff
that now is iron and nickel and dirt
in a field plowed into fertility.
Distant lover and poet,
kindred spirit pouring light years
into the folded lobes of my brain,
I thank you for such aroma and spice.
In your clarity is redemption.
In your distant song never-ending
is the pearl, once hidden,
of great and glorious price.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021


Old woman with one eye cocked sideways to the past,
leather elbows working at the washtub, wringing sheets,
scrubbing dirt from a world nearing its expiration date,

the world that runs up the road to the rusty gate
that hems in your body and a part of your soul,
but maybe no farther,

you visited Chicago in 1942,
when you were young, wearing a yellow dress with red flowers,
and spent the night with a man now forgotten

because of your scrubbing and wringing.
Your husband is in the ground
and your son ran away with a woman from Cincinnati.

I do not have your courage
to separate fact from fiction with such rubbing
of soil from white sheets, of the now from what might have been.

I just let it rain.
For me, memories linger longer than they probably should,
but you do not ask why the sun and moon

trade places as they are wont to do.
You walk to the mailbox daily
looking for a letter from Cincinnati

while your husband makes flowers
from the rich loam of his grave,
a sliver of hope that you save.

~William Hammett

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Saturday, August 14, 2021

I Have Heard Tales

I have heard tales of a comet,
a feeding trough, and astrologers from Persia.
It is rumored they took a road trip,
opting for the scenic route to avoid the Gestapo.

There was a child, or so I was told,
who slid from a camel’s back
and gave his parents the slip
so he could audit a few courses in pre-law.

How strange. Afterwards, he disappeared
into the desert we all face—maybe it was a mirage—
where illusion and reality blur
into an impressionist painting of the human race.

This is the gossip making the rounds, mind you.
Next, his tongue, sharpened by stories
little more than flash fiction,
was muted when he took the stage

in a theater of the round,
his short soliloquies strangely absent.
The professors of pre-law were not amused
this time around. Stranger still.

The widow dressed in black
said that he climbed a tree and wouldn’t come down
until the sun took its curtain call
and the Richter scale caused the drapes to split.

He retired without the gold watch,
hung out the Gone Fishin’ sign,
and fed some sheep on a farm by the lake.
That was apparently the end—all she wrote,

as the saying goes. How strange.
At least, that’s how it was passed down to me,
though my neighbor says it’s a game of Kindergarten,
and the details are mostly degraded.

Still, a lot of people gather at the corner every week
to rehash the story and decide one way or another.
There’s no denying he’s a legend, larger than life,
though not so much in his hometown.

Rumor has it that he said as much himself.
So the story travels behind a comet’s tail
after all is said and done—
travels behind centuries grown younger

as the winter solstice freezes the sky every year.
Some say it’s just wishful thinking or a dream.
I don’t think so, though I must admit
it heals my heart every day before rising.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Meter and Rhyme

I have been told that my poems
don’t have meter and rhyme,
that all verse should have such pillars
to keep the words from falling over.
But I agree with literary billy goats: nay.

I mean, I know how to use them,
but I don’t do so unless my brain
is jumping over regularly-spaced hurdles
on a day when the world is too much with me
and I am constrained to toe the line

at the grocery or the bank
or use the menu options
when calling my internet provider.
I learned how to punish my words
back in the days of graduate school,

when I dissected poems and epics
and studied meter and form,
tetrameter and pentameter,
trochees and dactyls and terza rimas,
back when I used yellow pencils

and leaky ball point pens
and filled spiral notebooks—
three-hole, lined loose leaf
with cursive and cursed abbreviations—
each floppy collection, semester by semester,

becoming the latest manuscript
in a rambling, floppy bible
that was my academic oeuvre.
These days I store them in my cerebral cortex
where they can’t do much harm,

and besides, there’s no one
looking over my shoulder,
no one grading me off the curve
on whether my iambic line
stumbled and suffered a broken foot.

I write the words as they come,
letting them wander where they will
through meadows, back alleys, or
a train bound for Istanbul,
occasionally reprimanding one

or giving another a parole.
The meter these days is mostly intuitive,
there but not really there,
like the flakes in a Christmas snow globe.
I really don’t want to associate

with the old man from Nantucket.
I get published easily enough,
though admittedly The Barracuda Review
isn’t The Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker.
But that’s okay because I’m the judge and jury.

because the waters of Lake Ponchartrain,
tell me that it’s time for another poem.
As for rhyme, well, that’s a different story.
I use it sparingly if at all.
It was good enough for Shakespeare,

though not always—he often opted out—
and also for Homer and Chaucer and Milton
and all those big wigs, authors of the greatest hits,
with whom I palaver in a tavern
in my more interesting lucid dreams.

After all is said and done,
not that it ever really is,
I usually don’t use rhyme,
don’t even bother my brain
with searching for those sound-a-likes
except from time to time.

~William Hammett

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Saturday, August 7, 2021

Main Street

The old man sits in a wooden chair
tilted back against the red bricks of the post office.
I think he may be a fossil,
one with the cement below and the bricks behind.

Or maybe he’s a Pinkerton for this museum
five blocks long and tailing into hardpan at either end.
Someone needs to keep an eye on memories
that blow like wind jangling the metal hasp against the flagpole

next to the grammar school that taught children,
how to be farmers and secretaries
who could name the first three presidents
and the planets when Pluto was still in vogue.

The fossil watches the Fourth of July parade,
ghosts of high school strutters in sequined bathing suits,
all stutter-stepping out of time to the boys,
their lungs not big enough bellows

to produce the holiday oompahs from the tubas
they wrestle with, round, brass bells
twisting and dipping because the band is overwhelmed
while batons soar into the sky end over end

in a failed attempt to escape small town life.
As for the students, who would want to leave
the dry goods store, the five and dime,
or the blinking traffic light, forever amber,

that beats the pulse of the town, pop. 426?
Tumbleweed rolls down the street on cue
from an invisible director shouting through a megaphone
to start the scenes or cut them down to size.

High above, a satellite looks over its shoulder
at the pulsar, forever amber, spinning from the collapse
of all life, the fusion of this Midwestern gem
having lost its fuel a few decades before midnight.

The old man rises from the chair and goes inside.
He is alive after all.
Or maybe he is one of many angels
who guard the blinking graves of Main Streets
strewn throughout the galaxies.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021


If we should see a dead man under a porch,
do we draw conclusions of murder?
Was there an evil spinster in the house with broken glass
and paint missing from the clapboards?

If the old man at the train depot
looks at us with his one good eye and snarls,
does it mean that he wishes to slit our throats
or sell our children for bread?

What if our spouses should grow flirtatious?
Does it mean they have black hearts
and live for the thrill of secrecy
at the restaurant across town?

I ask these questions, you see,
because the morning paper said the spinster’s house on Seventh
was built over a graveyard with exposed bones.
On page two was the grainy photo of a bum

whose lip was turned up as he squinted
to keep glare from his one good eye
while he lay on the bench as the Sunset Limited
carried parents and children to California for a vacation.

Page fifteen of a scandal sheet
showed a man and a woman kissing in a booth
after a fire destroyed their children
on the fifteenth floor above a fancy restaurant.

I have a story too, though an editor said it lacked credible sources.
The truth is best divined in the sky.
Only the moon knows the big picture
as it quietly rises, an omniscient, nonjudgmental eye.

The best we can do is pull ourselves out of bed
and resist rumors spread by the furnace's gossipy hiss.
We wake under the umbrella of fortune
that ignored a dead man, a hobo, and a tragic, fiery kiss.

~William Hammett

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Monday, August 2, 2021


Quantum snow falls
out of the black hole of a night.
I stand before a streetlamp,
evening and morning, the first day.

The shadows of some other universe—
porches, a picket fence, a marble column—
will not flare into existence yet.
They are not in my thoughts at present.

I am a word speaking in Heisenberg’s void,
and nothing exists except in my mind:
White galaxies spin around the lamp

and conform to the currents of my breath.
The night proceeds, the genesis
of lights now in living room windows,
and I see that it is good.

Gathering my fur collar against the cold,
I move through the possibility
of an amniotic street.
There is another lamp up ahead,

more snow falling out of the
multiverse night.
There are beginnings within beginnings,
the fractal nomenclature of creation.

Block by block,
everything hinges on the position
of the observer, snow, and a streetlamp.
In the beginning.

~William Hammett

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Saturday, July 31, 2021


The first cup of coffee opens the blinds
on windows shut by a hypnagogic foray
laced with lavender hymns of jabberwocky.
You might as well have eaten mushrooms.

It cranks out warm air from the furnace of lungs
stoked by neurotransmitters run amok
and setting your brain on fire.
You’re in no hurry to call the EMTs

as long as your pulse takes its morning jog
in sinus rhythm and stays in the high double digits.
I mean, otherwise your blood would freeze
like the trickle of stream that’s the property line out back.

Why ruin a good thing like the legal buzz you have going
since waking is a zero sum game.
Somebody has to win, and if it isn’t a mug of chemicals,
then the hearse might be pulling into the driveway about now.

It opens the stops of a pipe organ,
makes life full-throated, Beethoven’s seventh
rather than a threnody on the triumph of your pajamas.
In fact, it weren’t for dark roast—lattes need not apply—

the word threnody would not have entered this poem.
Suddenly there are ideas.
Perhaps you will write a book or fall in love
or talk to pigeons in the park.

Let’s be honest: everything’s on the table
after two sips, maybe three if you overslept.
And it’s cheaper than therapy, right?
Why not give yourself a good talking to

rather than pour all of your hard-earned words
into the ears of someone with a fifty-minute attention span?
I see you’re finally taking my meaning.
The beans from South America are kicking in,

and your pupils are a bit constricted but focused.
You have had to part with your very last dream,
the racy one about Salome’s many-colored veils
now evaporating into early morning sun-steam.

~William Hammett

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Oak Cabinet

The oak cabinet in the kitchen has been there forever,
faded from the sunlight of fifty years
pouring through the window over the sink,
over the breakfast table.
How many times has it been opened
for glasses, plates, or things that were not there?

Faded and fifty,
how many times have I been opened
and closed for everyday amenities
or things that were not there?
The grain shows more clearly around my eyes,
and I am more wary of the world these days,
but I do not withhold the little I have to give.
That is not my way.

I hang on the wall,
wood for a savior who lives within.
I offer a Band-aid for a bloody knee,
cold water for the girl with the lemonade stand.
Unhinged, I will one day find the junkyard.
When lilies, dressed like Solomon in all his regalia,
have sprouted through my wormholes,
I will fall into the dust of heaven.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

When the World Goes Digital

You shall be in high definition, I suspect,
your beauty a Tibetan crystal,
clear and serene,
and only a thousand chanting monks
will have the saffron power
to make your soul’s third eye resonate.
Still, I hope you shall forgive me, love,

for what I, a farmer in some forgotten field, must do.
When the sun finds facets on your angled face,
I shall kiss the pixels of your eyes and cheeks
before stepping back in time
to a checkered shirt and denim jeans,
my proper time and place.

~William Hammett

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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Vignette Noir

You walked through the steam in a tight black dress
and boarded the Pullman car,

puffs of white steam from the undercarriage
shrouding the train and your last look back.

A shrill European whistle
gave the locomotive its raison d’etre

as it crept into the switching yard,
headed for tracks looping

around mountains where you would apply lipstick
before having drinks with the Romanian.

Outside the station,
a streetlamp made slanting lines of rain visible

as far as the covered newsstand.
Headlines talked of wars and rumors of wars,

no nuance of why in the broad black ink.
Tightening my trench coat, I haled a cab,

opening the back door of the ’47 Packard
before the fin-like curb-splash

washed over the gray sidewalk
and the black wingtips you claimed

made me look like a diplomat.
At the apartment, I drank scotch

and listened to Mahler’s last symphony
before sleeping in the mattress

on which we had both created
the sag not deep enough to hold you.

~William Hammett

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Friday, July 23, 2021

A Husband Speaks to His Wife

Years from now,
when the calendar has ceased its idle gossip
and epic speeches, its trivial comments
on how you and I, alone but not alone,
caressed the days or ignored them,
stitched them together with the sinewy gut and bone
of routine and more routine,

when the sidereal procession
on the back of the kitchen door
reminds us of when we ignored the moon
and the chance to ride thigh on thigh,
or when we squandered afternoons
hanging on the hook in the hallway
by not kissing each other with the sound of streams,

when all days have grown quiet
and we do not hear the inflection of time and tide,
will you still believe that I,
like the late blossom twined on the back fence,
did all I could to open my eyes
and love you for what you were?

Will you still believe, after long winters
have tried to denigrate the soul
and mock its caring ether,
in the value of that flower on the fence?
Will you still believe in love
and the first time I saw you
clothed only in innocence?

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Fishing by the Cutbank

I saw in the water,
not more than sun-deep,
the speckled trout

fantail against the insistent current,
mesmerized perhaps
by the silver spinner,

and removed the line
before pulling for home.
I had done no differently,

having fantailed for years
and by sheer dumb luck
avoided the hook of the universe,

mesmerized perhaps
by awakening to silver dawns
that defied the spinning of insistent routines.

~William Hammett

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Monday, July 19, 2021

Deeper Music

The train singing
in the distance
scatters miles
like seed.

The house creaks,
settles like a deal
cut with gravity
and grows old.

The calico prowling
on ivory will not remember
his delicate moon song
in the morning.

The woman speaking
in a dream turns, tosses a word
on the tip of her tongue
into the darkness and sleeps.

The knowledge
of this deeper music
is cut away
by the razor light of dawn,

and yet I remember
sitting on a levee
with a lost love
who sang lyrics that always rhymed,

which is to say
that some melodies stay the course
and echo in the long tunnel
that is the fullness of time.

~William Hammett

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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Midwest Carnival

When four years old, I was struck dumb
by the neon and tinsel fairway,
the hawker’s gravel-throated crook
pulling people into tents.
The curious were swallowed by dirty canvas flaps
and, I thought, the demonic fire eaters within.

The whirligigs threw people to the moon.
Afterwards, they stumbled two by two
from the red rocket cars,
possessed, eyes glazed,
howling with lunatic laughter.

~William Hammett

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Friday, July 16, 2021


The riptide seizes my melancholy frame of mind,
bent on a refractory gaze
and lost in waves repeating their signature
on a dotted line of shore.
I am captive of the moon’s possessive marriage
with the tides.

A wave breaks,
rolls itself into defeat,
splinters my matrix of bone
and its attendant marrow of memory.
Beads of cut-glass sun
fold into the white, rounded realm of surf
and shatter my parallax view of life.

In this dissolution,
I am a whalebone soul
spewed from Ahab’s gullet,
obsession with mundane circumstance
broken into a thousand liberties
carved by the sailor’s slipknot heart
that fashions scrimshaw with dexterity.

A thousand bones of beauty
lie on the beach, all of them pale points
and lines, shaved into this idle art of the sea:
a pipe a horn, a whale,
figures molded into eternity.

I am broken by the tides,
but in the sea’s exaltation, free.
The scrimshaw is me.

~William Hammett

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Thursday, July 15, 2021


She is digging
for potatoes
with the slight, slanting winter
sun on a brown field,
wearing her peasant dress,

and her young face is so lovely
and so quiet
in the task of gathering
not quite enough
to fill her white apron

that I think
I would like
to kiss her cheek
several times, but mostly
her plain lips,

which if they spoke
could not explain
how scarcity over many years
will expand hips and breasts
into a wide brown field.

~William Hammett

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