Friday, March 25, 2022

Like a Wheel Rolling

The unrelenting rain falls on rooftops
and poems and stories and gray gutters,
where it flows to the street and washes

the concrete clean of miles traveled
by lifetimes that were hung juries,
housewives and hobos and the ellipsis

that is mankind’s journey,
millions of steps made by thousands
unless one is a believer in stories

out of print and preserved by memory
against the falling of the rain.
It is a tale as old as cave paintings

and fire and a wheel rolling,
this snatching of narrative from the void,
the road that was grassy and wanted wear.

There are so many stories
I wished to write when the blood
was quicker in the vein,

and one that I did, two fingers typing
a plot arc fashioned from the steps
of my life and gaining momentum,

like a wheel rolling in my heart,
a short story that is out of print
but archived against the falling of the rain.

~William Hammett

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Saturday, March 19, 2022

Playing the Guitar

I caress the smooth neck over and over
and wrap my arm around the contours of the body,

the curves cradled as in a passionate scene from a movie.
My fingers sensuously dance up and down the wires—

press, hold, release, spread, reach.
My right hand strums or picks—

thumb, then index and middle fingers
doing a slow waltz or a spicy tarantella.

Occasionally my left moves to the twelfth fret
to chime the high steel into cathedral bells

on the far side of a distant mountain
or a single note from the music of the spheres,

the touch lighter than the beat of a butterfly’s wing.
Do not worry, m’lady.

I will explore the full range of your melodies,
though I must cajole and charm since you are mute

when you take to your soft, casket-like bed.
I finish with a downstroke—an arpeggio, a flourish—

and listen to the choir fade
or simply mute the strings with my left hand,

my right floating away with silent reverence.
The guitar has yielded all it had to give,

and so have I.
I turn out the light and then sleep,

dreaming of the music in a voice,
the curves of a body folded into mine.

Playing is very much like making love,
or so a distant memory tells me.

~William Hammett

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Monday, March 14, 2022

Paradise Lost

There was a time when I saw myself
washing over you
and you washing over me

like a stream polishing smooth stones
in a bed of silt
beneath a latticework of leaves,

and the rain only swelled
the process of our two rivers
flowing into a common sea

until an apple fell from a tree,
and the hiss of a fat snake

collapsed paradise into a black sleep
without any dreams.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Corner Bar

It is an island universe for astronomers
at the end of their sidereal shifts
and possibly the end of their wits
when they cannot comprehend
the beatitude of rising constellations

and the quiet, empty serenity
hanging between the stars.
They seek the comfort of coordinates,
the declination and right ascension
onto bar stools lining the mahogany altar.

The background noise of the universe
is “Stand by Your Man” or “Free Ride”
and emanates from the cluster
of neon beer signs, red giants and white dwarfs
and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

These night watchmen drink what’s on tap
and wonder why their wives, at light speed,
gave them an unheavenly heave.
No stand by your man. No free ride.
Dark matter indeed.

After last call they will develop
glass photographic plates in their dreams
to better understand the mystery
of the coming dawn’s wide canvas
that is kissed by a leafy tree, a shock of hair,

brushes that dab the spectrum
oozing on the painter’s palette
and thereby create the future perfect tense
that is the rising of the cities
and savannahs of the world.

~William Hammett

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Wednesday, March 2, 2022


Just the right amount is poured
into the long-stemmed glass
so that the cabernet sauvignon

can breathe, the bouquet preserved.
My mind is on the palate
after the first sip of black cherry,

the green pepper and vanilla spice.
The grape has fulfilled its promise
from vineyard vine to custodial cask.

After the second sip my eye wanders
to the Degas mounted on the wall,
and I decide that it represents clarity and truth

despite the dizzy white brushstrokes
that created the spinning ballet class.
It is after the third sip that the arteries dilate

and my heart begins to reliably relax
into a philosopher’s quest for whatever
philosophers seek to extrapolate

from postulates about chickens and eggs
and angels jitterbugging on a pin.
I decide to investigate.

In another painting, lovers kissing
in the foreground are almost an afterthought.
Telephone lines 
and streets

converge to a vanishing point,
a focal slide of perspective,
a vintage vortex and invitation

minus the cursive and vellum.
But my mind, try as it might,
cannot penetrate the infinitude

of this black hole hanging
on the far side of the oak-paneled room.
So I tilt my head back

and think of this one unalterable truth
that cannot be deduced from theorems
or dialectics or even the rattle

of a shaman’s beads around a midnight fire:
some kisses are indeed sweeter than wine.

~William Hammett

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