Sunday, November 28, 2021

Visiting St. Joseph Abbey

It is a place where I retreat for a day or two
when the world is too much with me,
when I am the bull pinned at the edge of the ring
with four banderillas tearing shoulder blade from soul.

It is quiet except for when the five bells
tumble wildly through the bell tower—
high, low, loud, soft—
marking the hours of the day

and the passing of the Bogue Falaya
that catches petitions like Buddhist prayer flags,
running them into the lake
and whatever lies beyond the scope of water.

I walk down dirt roads and fire lanes,
thinking of the morning shadows I cast
when I was seventeen
and full of fire and heavenly hope,

unconcerned with roads not taken.
Life was, after all, low-hanging fruit.
The pines still whisper lauds and vigils,
vespers and compline, praying in tongues

according to the consecration of their tap roots,
never impaling so much as a white cloud
with their green satin needles.
They have their vocation as I have mine.

I shall return years from now
to the dirt and bells and the stream.
In the back is an acre of land
where crosses cast long shadows before sundown.

~William Hammett

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Monday, November 22, 2021

Sunset over Lake Pontchartrain

The waves are florentined with gold,
small crests catching yellow fire
miles into the horizon
where the world rolls into the unknown.

But this death is not yet complete,
not established beyond hope, though thin,
that still expects time to stretch,
to elongate the crimson and orange
and whatever ministrations comprised the day.

All is not lost of the heroic,
of digging in gardens or dusting the bookcase
and all acts falling far short of the siege of Troy
since our battles are with the circadian clock
that sets itself according to the holiness of the ordinary.

Twilight has no real definition.
The day is clearly not over,
and yet death, by all accounts,
is close at hand.
What to believe?

I watch the sun roll into Pontchartrain
in my state of mystical suspension.
For a few beats of the heart
I can have it both ways,
and so I choose to breathe in deeply
and savor the primordial palette
while balancing resignation
in that lobe of the brain rooted in reality.
The left hand knows what the right is doing.

The tall pine trees behind me are silent,
and a few waves wash against the seawall.
My home towns are before me and behind me.
Red beans and a cold beer await.

This small ocean contains so much of my life,
and I realize I could live nowhere else
as I melt and become particle and wave,
darkness and light, cerulean blue and dying crimson.

I can see heaven,
though the water speaks clearly:
it is not my time to set sail
into those deeper colors
that roll the soul into a glorified copy of itself.

~William Hammett

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Thursday, November 18, 2021

Upon Awaking

I do not wish my eyelids to be rolled up
like an old window shade pulled hard,
to be jarred by red numerals
and a digital buzz or reports of congested morning traffic.
It is asking for trouble.

Better to have the angel in my final dream,
or perhaps nymphs who were dancing through dew,
whisper that I should swing my legs over the bow
and slide into the ocean and its gentle current.

And please, no television,
no high-energy talking heads
reading words from teleprompters,
no pitches about aluminum siding,
gutters, or a bathtub that fits over a bathtub.

In the silence is infinite participial potential,
the glory of the garden outside my window
which has my brain, pulse, and visions
of lilies, daisies, creeping jenny, and knock-out roses
taking over the continent,
wildflowers run amok but that do not toil or spin.

There is a day to be lived,
but let it begin with a few simple words
brooding over the abyss that was sleep,
syllables that call forth the is and shall be.

Let each morning begin
with the kiss of Carrickfergus and waters wide.
Let each begin with hope against hope
and the quiet explosion of creation.

~William Hammett

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Sunday, November 14, 2021


I have never considered writing about herons
or egrets or long-legged fowl
that philosophize and ponder shallows

while standing on one leg or two,
poised, quiet, alert, or maybe dreaming
of sedge and daybreak and a variety of sun-slants

on the calm waters pricked by reeds,
small islands of grass rising like the back
of a sleeping sea serpent above the bayou.

I did not feel the need to investigate
the life of herons, who are still lifes
hanging in doctors’ offices,

muted birds who have little to say
and are content to blend in with the nature of things,
characters to swell a scene

but who have no dialogue
and are listed in the dramatis personae
as “birds” and nothing more.

No one sees them. Not really.
Perhaps the wildlife photographer
or theater-goes with season tickets.

The homeless woman sits motionless
next to the concrete bridge pilings
or leans against the dumpster in the alley.

The veteran sits in the front seat
of his ’92 Dodge and stares straight ahead.
It is his bedroom, kitchen, and den.

They are as invisible as the colorful graffiti
that people have passed multiple times
and does not seem to have a them

because the colors are tangled,
the words foreign, the faces distorted
on a brick backdrop that is as mute as a bayou.

I shall write of herons more,
the backwaters of the invisible,
the still life that once breathed

and was so in love with the sky
that it dared to turn its head
and say, “I am here.”

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, November 9, 2021


I have never consulted the Zodiac
or had Madame Zostra read my tea leaves,
never stayed home because the moon
was in the fourth house of seven.

I do not care if Mercury is in retrograde.
We rule the stars.
They do not rule us
unless we hopscotch across sidewalk cracks

or throw thyme across our left shoulder
to avoid the Melocchio. Tosh.
But I believe in the unseen hand,
detached from constellations,

that beckons, guides, cajoles:
a deeper heart, a better mind,
the Spiritus Mundi that stitches atoms
to mountain rivers and the mind of God,

the loaded dice of synchronicity,
the quantum flip of a silver coin,
the outcome of which
is determined by observers

seen and unseen.
I am forced to make concessions,
for there is Providence in the fall of a sparrow,
and who am I to debate that sacred wind

that blows where it will though I cannot divine
where it comes from or where it goes?
Once upon a time,
a man lived in the deep woods

and could not escape,
could not see the scorpion’s tail
in the glorious star-speckled sky
that pointed to a clearing off the beaten path

though he briefly glimpsed
the constellation rise in splendor
when the branches parted,
when he surfed a quantum wave.

A brother grim, a lost tale
that had not a jot to do with the astrologer’s chart
but with the hour of his visitation and the spirit’s art.
The jewels of the night

are meant to guide, not predict,
and so they do
when a wise man gazes into the sky
so that his pupils may dilate,

so that wonder may enter his eye.
In November, when Scorpius rises,
is it not, set by the Jeweler’s hand,
as beautiful as any sign shining above the land?

~William Hammett

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Friday, November 5, 2021

A Simple Poem

These lines do not seek to elucidate great truths,
nor do they speak of empires or a paradise lost.

To my great surprise, they have appeared,
letter by letter, to speak of water and leaves

that write history anonymously
as they fall or flow into a sunrise or sunset

that may or may not be noticed
by a camera shutter or the persistent scratch

of a pencil in a journal.
Commentary is in short supply these days.

These lines exist to speak of the moment,
a placeholder so that people fallen in time

might catch up to the elusive present,
though it is probable that only a few will arrive.

The words are as quiet as an epitaph,
as unpretentious as a suit off the rack.

They watch but are not seen
except by those who ask, seek, knock.

They are as elusive as a shadow
slipping into the death of high noon,

and yet they could hold the sun falling into the sea
if anyone demanded such a feat of humility.

In silence is power.
In a word there is always epiphany.

In the beginning was a word,
and these are the children of God.

~William Hammett

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