Friday, May 26, 2023

Anchored in Port

The ambassador of my mind has brokered temporary peace.
Up and down, left and right, nature-nurture

will have to step away from the negotiation table.
Sinews and joints have stored winter’s gear

in accordance to the cold season’s lease.
I have polished the handrails and mended the sails

for voyages to be made when the sea invites me
with the gravity of tides from moons yet to rise.

The grass is cut and the palsied sprinkler is ready to rain.
Spring flowers are blooming in reckless array.

Silence holds sway as noon rolls quietly by
like a lollygag wheel with no theorem to try.

My skin is laid in repose on the couch,
arms crossed, a pharaoh who’s down for the count.

I fall into this well-tailored suit with no seams.
For the next hour, or maybe for two,

I will live inside myself and banish all dreams.
Let Ishmael go down to the sea in a ship

to measure his seasonal soul with adventurous tales.
The best way to level the playing field

or settle the score is to chase an afternoon nod, not whales.
Let there be only when, not why or how.
I’ll live in my skin and do nothing for now.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Lucid Dream

The ringneck loon gets a running start on the water,
translucence falling from his landing gear
as he cranes his neck forward, hope reborn,

and pierces the violet and the orange.
White diamonds reflected in the silver lake
evaporate as the sky turns blue and a lone fish

breaks the silent sheen, arches its body,
and dives again into the clear ether below
which it alone can breathe as I turn in my sleep.

I rise from the porch, painted blue
and sagging in all the right places
before climbing into the wooden skiff.

As I pull on the oars with unnatural ease,
the water makes its familiar swallowing sounds.
I arrive at the far shore in a matter of seconds,

but I know that I know that I know.
I’m invested in the synaptic throes’ of mystical lucid light.
I hike the forested hill, conifer rich,

that I created before the stage went dark,
branches and leaves painted morning green.
Farther up and farther in, farther up and farther in.

With each passing night, each passing dawn,
I discover new dimensions running perpendicular
to the parallax, viewpoints I auditioned and hired

to play out the wonders of the undiscovered country
to which all men, dreaming or not,
are, in the fullness of time, inexorably drawn.

~William Hammett

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Friday, May 5, 2023

Yoga Hippie Chick

She sways like six feet of twine spiraling in the breeze,
a long-haired wisp of tie-dyed wind.
Flat on the mat, her torso rises to a sun-ascending arch

before twisting like a cobra pardoned from a flea market basket.
She is all hips pumping like sex pistons,
her clothing-optional brain high on green tea and wine.

She is the nemesis of tight-ass jeans and Calvin Klein,
but this Greenpeace warrior long ago retreated
into throw pillows and a solarium in the burbs.

She mixes essential oils so that she may slip through birch trees
by the stream where skinny-dipping is Holistic 101.
When night unshutters the coffeehouse and poet’s mouth,

she tokes a little this, a little that before winding home
so that she may ground herself before evaporating into mantras
that flow naturally from the mushrooms in her stash.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

New Orleans, April 2023

My childhood home is planted in a garden within a garden.
The streetcar two blocks away still rumbles in and out of Doppler shift.
The fertile crescent of St. Charles Avenue, Mesopotamia reborn,

curves gently between the rhythm of a river and a lapping lake.
Everything blossoms, azaleas and crepe myrtles and King Solomon’s fields.
The colors flash friendly beneath the impossibly-blue sky

as I ride by Sacre Coeur, where koi and nuns still swim in veiled prayer.
Cafes and gentrified shotguns are camouflaged by curling green tendrils
that bind Magazine to Prytania faster than power lines and matchstick poles.

I see my ghost on every corner, from childhood to the man,
Wordsworth writing verse while perched in the elbow of a hundred-year oak.
The riverbend slingshots me onto Carrolton Avenue, a straight shot

to Bayou St. John, still waters where I am baptized with memories
of early-morning commutes to open stacks and seminars.
The levees and pines watch Pontchartrain kiss the stone steps of the seawall,

and Mardi Gras Fountain holds the center of gravity for wind and sun and grass.
I wear my ghost like a windbreaker as I watch sails pitch and yaw
on the rolling tide of afternoon, late in the day, late in life.

The city is as I remember it save for cosmetic surgery and Tulane coeds,
all of whom carry small block monoliths so they may speak with Hal.
I backtrack. The cemetery, St. Louis Number Three, is whitewashed

so that skulls and bones no longer frighten me. I sit on a park bench
and hear the freighter’s horn that will carry us all away,
but not yet. I open a book of poems, the lines holding me in place for now.

~William Hammett

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Friday, April 14, 2023


Winter’s bony branch is scratching at the moon again,
and another etches with purpose ancient glyphs

in frost heavy on the second-story windowpane,
reminders of inevitable ruin and decay,

of ice cream’s fabled emperor that always carries the day.
I prefer springtime trees laden with lust and semen-sap

and their unfurling palette of glorious green.
These beginnings and endings, so deliberate and lean,

are a mystery to the middle-aged hand that opens the door
or executes scallions after mopping the floor,

to the brain enamored of rocking routine.
By necessity, our love affair with the spectrum of now
is an interlude at best, a breaking wave on the shore.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, April 4, 2023


It is metaphysical mojo, an invisible stock-in-trade,
part and parcel of everything’s that’s ostensibly made.
It is everywhere and nowhere, enigmatic embryo

dividing into a million puzzles within the brain.
April unwinds steady metrical feet of lilting showers,
but as far as owning the poem or becoming its author,

that is not something that is yours or mine or ours.
Love is touched and untouched, palpable and yet glowing,
photons’ wave-particle ensemble on the highest stage and lowest.

For these matters I confess a decided affinity,
for I love the mystery that only ends in sequel
that may or may not be written in Hadron script

by Heisenberg’s traveling subatomic players.
I love the space-time continuum that surely had a prequel--
singularity, duality, and the complex syntax of trinity.

I live inside my skin and bones, content to hammer a threepenny nail
into a wooden post to fix my place in the here and now,
to assure that I, a walk-on player at best, retain my destiny.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Man Who Carried Water

His ghost sits on the tombstone in the churchyard,
the one tilted like a crooked tooth full of decay.
He believes his trips to the river three hundred years ago,

his plodding steps to the river fifty yards away,
were miles and miles tread in vain, in obscurity.
For thirty years he carried water in wooden pails

to the great scaffolding of wood and holy bones,
his humble contribution to the cathedral’s cartilage,
to the cement mortar so that polished beatific blocks

of gray stone from the quarry could rise to the heaven
painted in yellow noonday heat or the blue matin rain.
His joints ached and sang psalms of penitential pain.

Today, tour buses glide along the boulevard,
the cumulus cloud above stitched by the contrails of a jet.
Sunbeams carom from stained glass to the pale eyes above the grave.

His face, his signature, is everywhere reflected from the great walls,
and he knows now that he was an artist, not a slave.
The ghost ascends, cleansed and joyous and saved.

~William Hammett

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Thursday, March 9, 2023


Rank amateur or undiscovered prodigy,
he jangles strings, chords bouncing off tiles
of the gritty subway station a few levels above hell.
The guitar case is open, and at the end of the day
thirty pieces of silver and a few dollar bills
land on its soft green lining like leaves from an invisible tree.
Even Judas likes to listen to a little rhythm and blues
or a rock and roll riff and the tapping of Goodwill shoes.

Sometimes he parries and thrusts his own compositions,
an undiscovered poet who thinks that if Dylan could do it,
then, well, there ya go. It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why.
Other times he rolls with the peeling set list—
Little Susie woke up in the house of the rising sun—
taped to the waist of a guitar as cheap as Mona Lisa wine.
He can pander Pure Prairie League or the Rolling Stones.
Hell, he can do it all even if thumbs have worn away the buffalo nickel shine.

Every fifteen minutes, a silver bullet with gang graffiti takes his music
uptown or downtown, where a studio exec might say,
“Ya know, I heard this guy busking out novenas today,
and maybe something lies beneath the dirty jeans and mop-top shock of hay.
The busker closes shop, climbs the steps from Purgatorio,
and shuffles through a melody in his head, notes littering the street
to the applause of sparrows in a purple twilight tree.
Somewhere during the night in the throes of an electric dream

still pulsing from the twelve-bar subway line,
an angel dressed in white lightning and downlow leather lands the jump.
“Here, write this down, you crazy son of a bitch.”
Love ain’t love until you’ve thrown it all away.
“Been there, right?
Your penance is to play for the moonstruck mix shouting for Barabbas,
for ticket holders, turnstiles, and cave paintings at New Lascaux,
to busk from dawn to dusk, to play and play and play.”

~William Hammett

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Friday, March 3, 2023

Night on the Ocean

It is night on the ocean, and the deep water is calm,
black liquid glass extending in all directions.
I sit in the back of the sloop
and wonder who wears the face of the constellations.
I am the only poem drifting on this sacred sea.
Perhaps I have written these intimate lines,
but it is more likely that a different author has written me.
His face is all around on the placid surface of the watery night,
and I think of the untold depth behind the myriad stars above.
I am only a man lost in lingering thought,
but apparently that is the theme of the poem.

~William Hammett

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Friday, February 24, 2023


He’s a session musician and part of the backup band,
always standing in the penumbra of light to the left of the mic,
never all out, never all in.
He lays down the guide track in the studio,
polishes the rhythm, kickstarts the beat
while raising the entire pulse of a song up a fourth,
fingers sliding up the fretboard of his axe
when a new verse wheels about like a cotillion line.
He’s the backbone of the band, whose epitaph
is always buried six feet under the liner notes.

The old woman pushes a broom and beats a rug
before planting turnips in a three-by-six plot of earth
that will will one day accept the humility of brittle bones
for their long journey into ashes and dust.
She’s little more than window dressing for the neighborhood,
never all out, never all in.
She’s the backbone of the universe,
and only the blackbird on her mailbox
knows how she holds everything together
for a band that plays music so loudly
that it is unheard by the ordinary shuffle and shoe,
unnoticed by the commoner’s vulgar ear
but so close to the journeyman’s soul, and so new.

~William Hammett

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Friday, February 17, 2023


We are all descendants from the mountain behind us,
our children the grass and wildflowers
strewn to the left and right of a path

that cuts through pastures leading to the sea.
And then it all begins again.
We are drops that merge with water over the deep

and become a mirror for the stars
until we are those distant pinpoints hovering in the night air
above the mountaintop from which we came.

~William Hammett

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Friday, February 10, 2023

What If

What if I told you that the wind writes haiku
or that the moon sweeps leaves across the grass at night?
And what if I told you that rain sings an octave higher than Monet
or that the mountain in the distance is lord of the sea?
Would you know what I mean?
What if a white crane, a Zen master standing on one leg,
looked at you and said, “You know. You certainly know”?
What if I told you that all of my poems are really one poem,
the lines mere leaves, like Whitman’s, combing the grass?
Would colors start to appear on the palette of your soul?
And what if I were a crane standing on one leg
and asked you “What if?”
A pebble falls into the pond, and ripples begin to spread.
You know the answer. You most certainly know.

~William Hammett

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Friday, February 3, 2023


Robins and sparrows perched on the evening wire
long before electric lines were strung on the maestro's clef,
freeform birds ready to sprout half note wings
to fly into notation’s migrant melodies

and, like the Aeolian breeze, shake the lilting limbs of trees
or be conducted into a tessellation of eternities.
The concertos were jive and jazz long before rambling brass
could make strings and woodwinds pregnant with shouts and screams.

Rivers and streams braided clear liquid rhapsodies
as they made long lavish love while taking the scenic route
to crescendo’d seas. Such is Mozart’s legacy,
these blackbird notes, a smooth hand across a bare shoulder

or the rhythmic, rhymed conception of fertile egg and seed.
The glory of these flights, of course, is still heard and seen,
but I’m preaching to the choir perhaps, for I think that souls
attuned to the music of the spheres know exactly what I mean.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, January 25, 2023


Black silhouettes sit in the silver bullet carving the evening,
their clandestine mission to decode Babel over for the day.

Commuters glide into the country past trees and water towers,
mere silhouettes as well against a purple canvas

which is the dying of another day of saints and sins.
Ten miles away, the city is a bar graph silhouette,

silent since tongues have wagged enough about the latest turn of events.
The grade upon which the silver rails are laid is far above my own,

nor can I read flat midnight shadows on my bedroom wall.
A thousand miles away, the silhouette of Earth spins the elliptical,

a commuter returning home after four billion years of days,
and where it came from or where it is going is unknown.

Its home lies far beyond the switching yard at the end of the line,
where three dimensions draw the soul and no longer hide or align. 

~William Hammett

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Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Wink

It’s hard to believe how fast her sun rose and set,
the sultry wink and affirmative nod,

a flower that blooms once in a generation and dies.
Her portrait hangs on a tree in a yard that is forever autumn,

death in passion that flames so quickly and fades
because we are blind and know not what we do.

The hour of my visitation was no longer
than the space between the coming and going of a breath.

Comet West, a harbinger, winked with its cold fire
and tried to trace my path in the stars,

but I wasn’t a wise man in that year of our Lord.
Always surrender your heart for good

when the universe winks and the flirtation grows long
lest a desert of scrub cactus unroll at your feet,

the only garden that is tilled being the one
that blossoms in the memory from time to bygone time.


~William Hammett

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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Tomorrow I Will Be in Paris

Tomorrow I will sit outside a café in Paris
and drink coffee and read the paper
and watch stick figures in their haute couture.

That is what I am expected to do.
I will wander through the mostly empty rooms
of a museum and stare at brazen brushstrokes

dead for a hundred years or more
while pretending that I have great insight into color and form.
That is what I am expected to do.

I will sleep with a mysterious stranger named Collette,
the sun pouring through the open window
to wash our bodies clean of the encounter

before we rise and take to the street
to move the clock forward an hour or two,
for that is what we are expected to do.

After a glass of wine and a baguette,
I shall take a long nap in the sagging bed
in the top room of the house of yellow stucco

while bicycles in the street below ring their bells.
That is what I am expected to do.
In the evening I will rise from my body

and float down streets into the bouquet of lights
that is Paris when romance and leisure summon the night,
for that is what I am expected to do.

When I awaken in the morning from this cockeyed dream,
I will call you Collette and buy two tickets to France,
for I am certain that this is what you expect me to do.

~William Hammett

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Friday, December 30, 2022


The bishop slaps my cheek and moves two squares
to stand beneath the queen of copious tears
before asking the other pawns their saintly names.

He lays a leprous hand upon their heads,
his gambit a diagonal move to capture them all.
I walk down the aisle past the stained light

and a man, arm outstretched, sinking beneath the waves.
They say that gravity and darkness claimed his brain.
The arches of the castle open to the wide and wicked world.

Years later I return to the stone rookery
to see if the apostolic font is still the old Roman twelve
or, better yet, Corinthians thirteen.

The stained-glass windows are broken,
and a pigeon occasionally lands on the marble head of the king.
The silence is confirmed: I sit and stare and wait,

but there is no tintinnabulation or waft of holy smoke.
For now there is a stalemate, though perhaps on some distant day
the bells, now rusted and still, may have awoken.

~William Hammett

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Monday, December 19, 2022


I pass through the silver moon and a woman’s heart,
through the narrow waist of the hourglass
and along the knife’s edge of syntax separating subject from verb,
between thought and action, through the eye of the needle
that stitches reality from Eden to omega
and binds the pages of the epic poem of then and now.
I slip through the parted lips of a lover
and the panting contractions of long labor
that issues the milk of Hera at galaxy’s core
and the commerce of dimes at the dying corner grocery store.
It is all woven into the tapestry on my wall,
fabric on loan from the owner of a gallery
who, it is rumored, only exhibits his own work.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, December 6, 2022


Most of the stations are no longer marked,
their faded wooden signs hanging at an angle by a single nail.
The tracks cross meadows and run a narrow course

through dense green forests before disappearing
into transient time itself, the earth spinning backwards
while the sun retraces its sidereal steps.

I am young again when the train stops
next to a silver-tipped stream,
its waters again flowing to the sea, not away from it.

Calendar pages disappear in accordance with rule,
and you are sitting, as always, on the edge of a dream
that always ends abruptly for this crazy old fool.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Wine Country

Row after row of green vines cling to wooden posts,
spiraling through twisted wire, left and right, left and right
so they may become drunk with the sun and fat with child.

The purple fruit, heads lolling like revelers after a bacchanal,
cannot resist the gravity of soil and the inevitability of rain.
Their liquid dreams are soon pressed and stored in dark cellars,

illusion and pleasure aging before being transfused
into a palate yearning for the purpose of paradise.
But to taste a vintage with the perfect swell of sweetness,

beatifically pure and beyond the pale of inebriation
is perhaps to taste the wine at Cana, water free-flowing,
the cellar never empty, the vine always growing.

~William Hammett

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Monday, November 21, 2022


Magnetic lines of force arc from pole to equator,
equator to pole so that the calendar sticks to the fridge.
In the junkyard, a giant crane lifts iron

with the ease of a white-gloved magician.
The salmon and the whale fantail the ocean’s foam
so as to mate where the metal dart hits the map

with impossible precision, like finding the pearl
of great price in the chaos of a Byzantine bazaar.
Such is the magic and mystery of the meant-to-be

I do not know the substrate of why or the collusion of when,
only that a woman in a white lace gown serves tea.
The ritual simply exists, and the teacups are Zen.

The tea was harvested in a far-off land by two lovers
who were drawn together by the simple song of a wren,
by magnetic lines of force where destiny always hovers.

~William Hammett

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Friday, November 11, 2022


He works with weathered hand, spins a mandala
to fashion wet clay into a vase, a teacup,
a mountain molded by the pure artistic matter
of sinew and muscle and manifest mind.
His work is miniscule yet vauntingly vast,
glazed with caramel coats of conscience
pondering the reality of the true maker of memes.
He wears jeans or robes or nothing at all
if it suits his craft to remove what clouds the eye.
He is a xylophone of beneficent bones
or the inspiration of Promethean fire.
He is the claims adjuster who sets things right
with a bit of leather strap or a length of copper wire.

~William Hammett

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Friday, November 4, 2022


When I was four, ten thousand birds would fly
over uptown New Orleans on variegated fall afternoons,
the sky closing down faster in its pantomime of purple.

Cool October evenings know when it is time to surrender.
I wanted only to float into this chevron migration
and beat my wings in iambic pentameter to swell a scene or two.

Wise in the ways of equinox, they knew that Ecclesiastes
had nothing to say about this time between times.
A different October canopy spreads above me now,

but I do not seek the escape of a childhood sparrow rhyme.
I sit on a bench and roll into brush strokes on the horizon,
marveling at the broad parameters of dusk.

And yet it is not time to surrender to the cool change
tapping on my bones or seeking closure for my brain.
There are many skies to travel yet, many hills to climb.

~William Hammett

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Friday, October 28, 2022


The future astronomers gesticulate and talk
about supernovas and questions swallowed by black holes
while lit majors try to unravel the Gordian Knot

that is the streaming prose of Joyce and Proust.
Two lovers speak of biology, their arms encircled
around each other’s waists like a double helix

as they silently rehearse the spiraling pleasure
they will take when the clock tower chimes two.
The dusty chalkboard behind me is littered

with numbers and Greek letters I do not understand.
I move to the sash window, paint flakes on the floor,
and look again at the brilliant white sidewalks

crisscrossing the quad as if it were a Union Jack.
Everyone below is an equation trying to solve an equation.
I study the branches of a salacious sycamore

a few feet from the pane of glass, the veins
of each green leaf a roadmap to creation’s cause.
In an old wooden desk, I sit and break the spine

of an analog textbook to read a line from Wordsworth.
There is really no pressing mystery to be solved
on this day dyed in deep shades of spring.

My mind wanders lonely as a cloud
in a room where idleness, no longer quadratic, is allowed.
For me, the world is a sum that has been reconciled—

the numbers and Greek letters now align—
to the right of some cosmic equals sign.

~William Hammett

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Friday, October 21, 2022

The Old Man and the Cart

He pulls his wooden cart through the alleys of a city.
He is old and gray, and yet his arms are long and limber,
rotating like bicycle pedals as he gleans treasure
from lives cast off helter-skelter on backwater stone:

a pair of shoes, a crooked table, pulleys and chain,
a self-portrait by an artist who had little self-esteem.
There is no such thing as junk to this connoisseur of nuts and bolts,
of chicken wire or wooden spindles that clattered in looms

and machines that hummed and turned into inventors’ dreams,
bric-a-brac becoming threads that weave the tapestry of a king
on a castle wall or a hovel where the embroidered feathers
of a peacock may spread wide in diversity and sing.

The man brings the day’s bounty to a barn at the edge of town.
Come sundown, the people of the city will, like mice
running in the dark, pick clean this multiplicative museum
in order to add to their own collections of the world reborn:

a toy, a milking stool, or a tattered virgin’s gown.
Such are the acts of God as he collects chapter and verse
when piecing together star stuff into nickel-iron orbs,
when every now and then he tidies up, or invents, a universe.

~William Hammett

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