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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