Tuesday, July 26, 2022


The carny pulls moon-eyed gawkers into his weathered canvas tent,
his gravel voice scraped raw by a million cigarettes,
his lusty call the shepherd’s crook of a midway devil combing sawdust

for meandering curiosity that would lose its soul for a nickel,
people looking for salvation in a bearded, fire-breathing fiend
or Siamese twins sitting in a double double-breasted suit,

hair slicked back with snake oil and glossolalia born of hell.
The hawker’s skin is brown leather born of merciless summer sun,
camouflaged by calliope notes wheezing sharp and flat

and a smile poured from the pint of liquor in his purple vest.
At night he sleeps on the raw mattress ticking in a bunk
sagging in a trailer park of muscle men and whores.

The tattoos on his arms and chest come alive—“Marvels one and all!”
and slide across his body like slippery serpents with an eye on Eden,
freaks and geeks already rehearsing tomorrow’s deadly show.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Comet

Dancing with the Oort Cloud on the edge of reality,
frozen ballerinas in white dresses of snow
flirting with the stranger from so many miles below,

the comet turns slowly to behold the belly of fire
that eons ago created its nickel-iron soul.
He has been a nomad with a heart of stone

for seventy years and change, a prodigal
who leans inward to a half-forgotten love.
His elliptical dive spins memories in retrograde

as solar winds sweep dust and ice like a valet
into tails of a white tuxedo billowing in the void.
Transformed from old man to dancer come late to the ball,

he sheds skin like a snake, his youthful brain on fire
with hope that gravity will gyre and break his fall.
Surely Lazarus felt this magnetic pull of life

as he stuttered from the cold, dark tomb,
white burial shrouds trailing in the wind
as bright yellow light streamed across his born again face.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022


The robin clings tenaciously to his branch
and his testimony in the shaded witness dock
to verify that the man stopped
on the darkest evening of the year

and that the horse did indeed
give his harness bells a shake.
There was a moment deeper than silence
as the man inhaled the breath of solstice,

as he watched the woods fill with winter snow
in the absence of a farmhouse or human eye
that could penetrate the haze of downy flake
and watch temptation form an ugly shape.

“Yes,” the robin states, sole witness to the scene.
“The woods were lovely and seemed to speak,
but the man chose to live, not die.
There were too many loose ends

hanging like autumn leaves
still in love with their tree,
too many promises in the snow, ankle deep.”
I put the transcript on the nightstand,

the sound of easy wind outside the door.
Too many have fallen in winters of discontent.
I close my eyes, but still they see. They see
the miles that I must tread before I sleep.

~William Hammett

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Shotgun House

It’s five in the afternoon, and the old black man
plays his twenty-seven-dollar guitar on the front porch
that sags a little deeper as he makes the lyrics ache.

The shotgun house is loaded with memories
of a gravel voice, majors and sharps and flat-out Cs.
As axemen are fond of saying, he can really bend the strings.

The air smells like the muddy Mississippi five blocks away,
and the calliope on the steamboat pipes circus music
to a cirrus cloud that looks like a bow tie floating

above a Mardi Gras ball where Comus and Rex swap wives.
Mudfoot, as he is known, has a recording contract
with his neighbors, who wear wifebeaters and fix their own cars.

He played backup for Chuck Berry in nineteen-fifty-six
and cut a demo at Sun records called “Two Below in Tupelo.”
The sky grows a deeper blue as a buxom black woman

balancing fruit on her head like Carmen Miranda calls out
“Blackberries! Watermelons! Fruit on the vine!”
The old man goes inside to eat a plate of red beans and rice.

On Saturday it will be crawfish and a bottle of beer.
He shares a bed with the ghost of his wife Mabel,
who still whispers sweet nothings in his ear

as he turns in his sagging hall of fame
and dreams of how he and Chuck set the crowd on fire
with a little mojo and a taste of the twelve bar blues.

He grins and says, “I’m the happiest man this side of Sunday,
and when I die, I ain’t even gonna make the six o’clock news.”

~William Hammett

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