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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Wednesday, July 14, 2021


It is not the same magic
as when doves line the vest pocket
or conjoined metal rings are divorced.

It is more like a cloud
finding a place to bleed beauty
on the horizon at sunset.

It is where you hold words
that I have not yet spoken
in the palm of your hand.

~William Hammett

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Do you remember that day in the barn,
light falling through slats like gold across hay,

and how your hand slipped, my fingers curling around your wrist
like rope cinched tightly around the saddle below?

You simply laughed as you dangled and twisted,
suspended above the long fingernails of the rusted baler,

laughed and arched your back like a ballerina,
your free hand extended in grace, fingers splayed with joy.

I, lips pursed, pulled you into the loft, our true home,
you settling like a scarecrow into the deep straw,

and we looked out at the many years in the distance
and promised to carve them like mountains into the waiting sky.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Sacrifice of Isaac

I wonder if he struggled, strained at the cord,
stared disbelievingly at the gathered branches,
knew his father’s mind at all.
Did he see the angel through the panic in his eyes,
hear its voice above the clamor of his pulse?
And after falling from the stones,
the sacrifice stumbling and clouded with rage,
did he kneel before the burning ram?

Breathless, I bolt at the howling of a dog,
my arms straining at cord made tighter by waking.
The wings unfurled in a dream close and disappear
into shadows scratching on the wall,
branches gathered at the windowpane.
I stumble out of bed to pull the shade,
curse the howling of a dog,
and wonder if I know my Father’s mind at all?

~William Hammett

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Monday, July 12, 2021


Rusted railroad tracks
buckle beneath the water tower.

The town has been abandoned
since the factory closed in ’45

and the assembly line of gears and sprockets
stopped rolling the sun through tedious hours.

The hard yellow sun
pulls dandelions from the rotting grade,

and I recall that you left on the last train
with a salesman in a seersucker suit.

I had nothing to give you
except the nickel-bright Midwestern moon

that watched us exchange vows by the lake
and slip inside each other’s skin.

Breath is shallow, short,
arteries twisted away from ties that bind.

I stutter-step through gravel,
recalling your last journey from my heart.

~William Hammett

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Circles in the Dirt

The boy with the stick
draws a circle in the dirt,
puts a fine point on the matter,
closes creation in its circumference
and knows that it is good.

The man draws circles
in the dirt with his finger,
his mind making a quick calculation
before looking up to free the adulteress
who has come full circle to herself.

Stones are dropped by passers-by,
a fine point having been put on the matter,
and the woman, now centered
in the circumference of her soul,
knows that it is good.

~William Hammett

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The Rag Collector

The old man wheels a metal shopping basket,
squeaking, filled with fabric
cast off, split,
shapeless and shaped,
dirty rainbows rounded up,
retained for a royal robe
stitched from the back alleys
where glory is always born
since humility came to town.

~William Hammett

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Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Porch

Everything was preamble
to watching sunbeams
cut through hills in the distance,
ten-thousand days yellowed like a calendar
and sitting in the cortex gathering dust,
or what passes for dust in the blood.

How many highways did we hitch
in our imaginations?
How many streams did we silver
with the sheen of our skin,
clothes hanging on the oak branches of youth?
I do not know.
I do not know.

The porch sags.
Our footsteps have worn the grain
with anger and joy,
with the promise of love
or a longing to sleep
after the day has beaten us both
into bones that were crutches
for skin weighted with years.

They have been good,
and now we sit, not divided
like hills carved by the sun.
Crickets clamor some forgotten chorus
in a pitch our throats lost long ago,
when friends died
and blew away like sand.
We lean into each other,
bone to shoulder,
shoulder to bone,
needing no words.
We recite the ten thousand days
with a cadence of quiet inhalations.
Memories dovetail, and we smile.

We are the porch, my love.
We are the wood.
The seasons have watched us for many years,
and will watch us for many more.
It is not time yet
to surrender ourselves to sand.
Visitors will mistake us for museum pieces,
but we will simply smile.
As the air fades to blue,
the dust in our blood turns to iron.
Inside, our bones will dovetail
as I divide your hills like a sunbeam,
your hair falling across the pillow
and spreading out like a sail.

~William Hammett

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Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Need to Move On

The graduates have learned to split atoms
and whisk paint brushes over fossilized bones

or maybe analyze why Napoleon was so paranoid and short.
Careers aside, the know they must cross the stage

as if walking the plank or crossing an ocean or bridge
that may or may not be the one too far.

The girlfriend has moved out of a shared apartment
to be with the minimalist who owns a loft in Soho.

The boyfriend isn’t surprised because she was always partial
to menstrual moons and the Utne Reader.

The artist paints in squiggles and makes love tepidly,
but she feels the need to load the freight elevator with IKEA,

and after all, Mercury is in retrograde,
or so says her astrologer, who claims the sky is always moving on.

The empty nest is just straw and a limp Star Wars poster,
so parents make a sewing room, a music room, an anything room

because the kids can flop on the couch over Thanksgiving
when they visit looking like stunt doubles from a Seth Rogen film.

And who knew what a bifurcated divorce was,
or the modern hieroglyphics of custody and alimony?

But the downtown suits, the sharks with serrated diplomas
insist that the heart cannot endure entropy,

that the fifth decade is usually when these things
tend to go down and suburban lawns are rolled into rugs.

And yet the couple setting their golden anniversary on fire
with panache has decided that they must buy a yacht

and sail for the cape down south after the cabinet below decks
has been loaded with liquor and a copy of the Kama Sutra.

Have you heard that Henry’s daughter has enrolled her father
in assisted living with yoga, origami, and speed dating?

Henry was the exception to the rule, was a paperweight of sorts,
but his daughter just cut her hair short because she turned thirty.

She told the afternoon wine and bridge club that the decades
won’t tolerate the possibility of loneliness or a broken hip.

“It’s a stepping stone,” she said, “and there’s no time like the present
to get our ducks in a row before they get crazy and fly,

or worse yet, get ambushed by the reaper in the blind.”
And so it goes, and then it goes some more.

It is afternoon, and I look at my leather skin and bones
in a mirror that has never witnessed yoga or origami

in its all-seeing eye of glass above the mahogany bureau.
I’m pretty satisfied. I’ve survived the trend to find trends

but know that before too long I will have to be seated,
unbutton my skin, remove and fold it, place it in a pine box,

and make peace with the sun falling over the horizon,
a hint rendered in whispers of the need to move on.

~William Hammett

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