Thursday, December 28, 2023

The Kite

It is a ghost on a string, paper skin or plastic
sewn onto the most brittle of bones
that perhaps were never born or have already died.

The frail body dips and screams.
It cannot believe that it has been surrendered
to an uncertain fate in an arena where it is rumored

that angels conspire to synchronize the affairs of men.
And yet, when its sails are in full furl,
it dances like a child who has finally learned to walk

without the gravity of knowing, the philosophy of when.
Or so it seems. There is a doubletake,
and one sees that it is a solitary prayer

that must be released to have any chance
of being found let alone returned with interest.
It moves skyward, and yet beyond the sky,

into the depths of a larger beating heart
than that of swift rivers or rising seas.
It must find the eternal rhythms, the many mantras,

that govern the expanding whole and the infinitesimal part.
I saw it sail over a golden meadow and a grove of trees,
its tail swinging like the rosary beads of a noonday nun.

And then, before it disappeared, it was whipping wild,
like a Buddhist prayer flag torn by ecstasy,
its holy tongue-wagging just begun.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

The Woods at Yuletide

It is indeed the darkest evening of the year,
the sun’s brief arc hiding behind clouds, a thicket, and snow.
I exhale archangels and seraphim into the gray air,
my boots planted deep in white winter frost.

There is stillness in all directions, the coming silent night
already bearing down with noiseless labor pain
that calculates what is gained and what is lost,
astrology having served its final purpose for the kings.

The wagon ruts of a poet who paused to think of miles
runs to the veiled village east of here and the woods,
an incarnation of the should that in the snowfall sings.
There will be the usual death despite the sap beneath

already contemplating its impossible rise.
A sudden keen wind causes my mind to sift memories
of what has transpired since I was a sapling dreaming of years,
of a long road that has led me to this evening prime.

In the village, a single bell tolls Christmas time,
Such is love.
Such is the meaning of a gift, many decades old,
that is again unwrapped by the fire when the day is cold.

It is time to move on from this cathedral of dusk,
for a new dusting has filled the sky with the heavenly host.
The evening has been my scripture, chapter and verse.
At home I will light a candle in this dark but expanding universe.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Bird on a Post

I saw a sparrow sitting on a post,
a bit of fence dividing green from green,
here from there, field from solitary road.

He was quiet and serene,
composed as a monk who has finished
his evening prayer, his final circadian vow.

At last he spoke.
He did not have a home, did not own a nest.
His lone vocation was traveling,

for this, he said, was the only true calling
for any creature with a heart that beats,
with lungs that fill with air, with chi.

When I asked him if his life ever grew tedious,
this lacking of hearth and home,
he spread his wings and for a time flew circles

over pastures before returning to his temporary wood.
“We are always leaving and arriving,” he explained.
“Rivers do not stop flowing,

grass does not stop growing
though the ocean and the land may pause for a while.
You see, the Earth is Noah’s Ark.”

Bowing his head, he took to the skies again,
heading south to a land where consciousness was king.
I continued walking down my lonely road.

I had a destination once, or so I thought,
but now my steps themselves are home,
which is what my feathered guru taught.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Outcast

The young man is skinny and crooked,
his teeth angled like a broken fence
and as yellow as piano keys unconnected to wire.
One ear sticks out, the other folded flat
against his head like the broken wing of a plane,
his buck teeth curving his mouth into a perpetual smile.
Released from the carnival, he walks through a field
in late afternoon until he stumbles because of a lazy eye,
his gait drifting ever left, ever left.
On the fresh spring earth, he inhales the new grass,
marvels at its bright green color, its odor of birth
and the promise of a day when salvation will sing.

The world turns by a few degrees of arc
so that starlight from diamonds strikes his retina,
illuminating his brain and teaching his body,
crumpled like yesterday’s newspaper,
the ways of God, the humility born of pain.
He looks at the precious gifts of sky and earth
that so few others are ever able to attain.
Slowly he kneels, then stands on the untroubled sod.
He knows that the next stutter, inevitable as the sun and the rain,
will bring him even closer to the mind of God.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Friday, November 17, 2023


Down along the avenue of jazz, of jam and jive
cooking in Paris, the Bohemian Montmartre,
the manage-a-trois finds its rhythm by fits and starts,

a piano, stand-up bass, and drums taking turns in the sack,
the strings, wires, and skins lurching forward, hanging back.
The melody, wearing a disguise for tempo’s espionage,

swings Kepler’s planetary orbs into elliptical downbeats,
syncopated sighs, the wail of a comet’s tail
cutting a nebula of cigarette smoke

above a sea of berets, turtlenecks, and beards.
It is all harmony and vibration, string theory,
dimension folded into dreaming dimension,

half notes riding a collapsing stave of jazz stutter,
angels ascending and descending Jacob’s ladder.
Such glorious confusion. Jove dances the jitterbug.

It is all an electron in a grander scheme,
and below it falls the forever of collaborating seams.
So many universes, and I have yet to take the Grand Tour.

The high-hat and snare kiss the bass line and keys
while Sartre and Camus are taken to the woodshed.
One day I shall dance the harmonics,

strip away what seems, shall bend time and space
in a loft where the trio flickers like a neon sign
and get to the bottom, or perhaps the top, of the neverending shine.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Multiplication of Verbs and Fishes

The moon writes poetry across twilight.
It has no meter or rhyme, only the scansion of its rising.

The eagle, quills riding an updraft, clears the mountain
while the fish reads the bottom of the sea,

pages marked by the epic bones of Ulysses.
Taoists work this carnival of wandering words,

the pregnant void, the cloud of unknowing, the Akashic record.
Five loaves and two fish multiply into a grand story

from a blank page, an empty basket, a rolled-up scroll.
The readers are amazed and well-fed and walk away with hope.

I do not know where syllables come from
or the sentient syntax of the soul.

We are vehicles for the long novel that never was but always is.
I tend my garden, a consonant seeking to be part of the whole.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Monday, October 30, 2023

Tibetan Slow Dance

Golden wheat and the heavy harvest moon—
an October calendar page from any given year.

Plentiful crops—the barley brew and feast—are always good,
the fullness of a breast, the ripe earth waiting to be kissed

before the long, long sleep as the sun dips low.
Let the good times roll with crawfish and beer,

the Zydeco swing, the accordion bellowing the Cajun two-step.
Let laughter linger for a night of measured misrule.

It is pirogue heaven to eat and drink,
but as night rolls into inevitable dawn,

let there be the reaping of cloistered silence.
The time for carnival under incandescent bulbs

passes with the whisper of a broom—vows taken—
sweeping away the carnal chaff.

Let the pebble drop into the pond but leave no ripples.
Let sparrows at dawn observe the monastic rule,

the heart beating with a rhythm heard only by the mute.
If there is a time for everything under heaven,

let silence hold lease as the mind withdraws.
Have we forgotten that the moon and wheat made no noise

as they spun gold on the canvas of deepening dusk
in order to become wise and, in the fullness of time, grow old?

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Riding the Saint Charles Streetcar

I climb aboard the steel and wooden crate
and rock my way into Shiva’s slow serenity,
into the easy sway of warp and woof, of yin and yang,

of the particle-wave ticket to ride.
Mansions and three-hundred-year-old oaks drift by,
streaks of color in the increasing time dilation

compressing my life into the present moment
of mindful meditation. I have been here before,
riding silver tracks in a tesseract of then and now,

tracing the crescent moon that is New Orleans.
Every swing and spiral shake is another mantra,
another turn of the prayer wheel, another rosary bead.

I am a schoolboy hobo riding the rails—
I am an old man with a wooden cross and iron nails.
It doesn’t really matter. It’s all good.

I left crucifixion and the empty tomb so many years ago.
trading pain for a gin fizz, slow.
I arrive at my stop and disembark,

stepping into Andromeda, for I have traveled light years.
I do not live in time and space, but they in me.
Let the Red Sea part, for I am walking across the universe.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Thursday, October 5, 2023


The lapidary polishes his gemstones,
smooth, all-seeing eyes worn on fingers or around the neck,
as if in a Picasso portrait where features are angled and odd.

He frowns, disturbed by the way perfection is crudely displayed.
He holds the facets and curves—a plane, a circle, an ellipse—
to the grinding wheel, looking for the flaws of nature’s compression.

Removing his jeweler’s loupe, a surgeon putting down his ten blade,
he steps back from the magic on his bench
and proclaims on the seventh day that it’s good—all good.

I wake in the morning and drag titanium across my cheek
until there is no stubble left on the long, angular field.
I bathe to wash away the grit from fevered dreams and misfires,

bruises where I stumbled despite the well-worn path of the known.
I wipe steam from the mirror before I leave—polish, and polish again—
obsessively overruling evaporation’s natural law.

I move with the sun, wash the car and mow the lawn,
put on a white shirt and tie until my life is manicured and clipped
and hemmed in on all sides by a zoning ordinance of the mind.

Later, when the sun has burnt the freshness of flowers
and pulled down the inevitable shade of night,
I throw my suit into a humbled heap in the corner.

I look through old books, the spines cracked,
pages yellow, dogeared, torn,
and read poems I haven’t seen since Milton was my greatest care.

It is there I discover the rough edges of my youth,
when I studied the art of studying for the sake of nothing but art.
Life overflowed from Arthur’s chalice in uneven silver streams

that needed no order, no riverbank to contain spontaneous joy.
I have polished my life only to uncover flawed facets
that were the vainglorious order of a day that was angled and odd.

I step back from the desk and behold my salad days,
intuition guiding me into overgrown, untrodden ways,
and know at this eleventh hour that it was all so very wild and good.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Visiting Paris with Robert Bly

I visited Notre Dame Cathedral
and was taken to the Seventh Heaven,
where Saint Paul was mending tents.
He had made errors in his zeal to condemn

rattling, world-weary bones whose only sin
was to have eyes of cinder and rock.
He needed to make amends
by the sweat of his brow,

the long labors born of Eden.
A French waitress died in my arms.
It could have been from a broken heart.
No one really knew,

although the final verse
she offered as poetic prayer
to her cannon of observations
was, “The man in the beret!

The man in the beret!”
I saw a young boy with eyes
of robin’s-egg blue, pale,
launch a sailboat on the pond in the park,

sad that it sailed away to the New World.
It was there that shamans wearing beads
wondered if their lives were at an end
because a strange white cloud skimmed the horizon.

It certainly was. The moon died that day.
At an outdoor café, a comfortable cliché,
I read some poems by Robert Bly.
They were short and simple and very nice.

And so I wrote this one.
I hope you are in the Seventh Heaven, Robert,
but not stitching the sins of canvas tents
that housed a bit of soul.

You did not make the same mistakes as Paul.
Perhaps if he had visited Paris
and kissed a French waitress, sans beret,
he might have had a smoother edge.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Tribe of Dreamers

“Art thou not of the dreamer tribe?”
John Keats, The Fall of Hyperion

At their best, poets can see into the heart of a beggar,
his extended hand withered and bare like a sycamore branch in fall.

They can define the wherewithal of hookers and harlequins
as they go through the motions, painted and dressed to the oblivious nines.

Seers and prophets, they build a kingdom of syllables
that cannot be toppled by the Tower of Babel’s foreign syntax.

Their words flow from Hippocrene's pure and fathomless spring,
pens poised eternally above blank parchment, ready to bleed new wine.

They know whether Schrödinger’s cat is alive or dead,
particle and wave always dancing at reality’s elusive cotillion.

How vast and ingenious is the universe that the poet dreams,
where lovers always pirouette back to promissory schemes,

to the subatomic spin that entangles trivial and lofty things.
Their lines of verse run across pages to create a newfound scripture

so holy and divine, rooted in the earth yet also knowing
the glory of rhyme and reason, of untethered feathered wings
and the nightingale that forever in the dark our collective poetry sings.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Friday, September 8, 2023

Salvation Army Band

Fifth Avenue is festooned in Yuletide oompah
and shades of unpolished brass, faded blue swaddling and epaulets.
The soldiers on the front line of heavenly peace have thinned,

and joyous exhalations, streams of vapor, were once angelic wings.
Copper coins drop into the red kettle like so many bits of hale.
Old men and women wheeze into trumpets while the bass drum

fires a friendly shot of holiday cheer on the downbeat.
There’s the rub. The street corner is always going under
because the ragtag army has little ammunition.

Once again, Good King Wenceslas, fat as Santa Claus,
dines with meager winter fuel on the feast of Stephen.
Sunshine paints the intersection with yellow satin ribbons

until the mournful gray evening sweeps the street,
pushing the babe across pavement until it is tucked away
a thousand miles from the minds of men,

from demons in wool overcoats racing by the French horn
while ripping notes from the clef of military comfort and joy.
Bright lights die in the wake of dark zephyrs, Christmas past.

Noel, noel.
The manger on display begins to sink, wise men falling from the deck
while the band plays “Nearer My God to Thee.”

~William Hammett

Thursday, August 24, 2023

All Saints' Day

In the Bowery, sweet Belinda tries to kick the harder stuff.
No one sees her sleeping beneath the paper-thin Dow Jones
scrolling behind the dumpster in the alley known as Hallows Eve.

The New York Central runs down her forearm three times a day,
but the dark gray hoodie conceals the more prominent whistlestops.
Window boxes bloom in the brown tenements of Harlem,

marigolds taking first place in color and the Darwinian will to survive.
There is stickball in the shadows as Moses goes on the nod.
An empty grocery cart is driven by a ghost.

Lovers stroll in Battery Park and kiss from sea to shining sea,
and the linden tree still sways from Jenny’s operatic wind and wave.
In 1850, everyone applauded the Swedish Nightingale’s full-throated ease.

There are good days and bad, broken concrete above promising earth.
Sometimes Eve strolls through the Apple but doesn’t drop the sin.
A Pratt and Whitney cuts the twins off at the knees,

but Belinda wakes and decides to lose the lighter and the spoon.
A week later, while the moon washes the streets, she’s perfectly clean.
Sheep and goats, wheat and chaff—they can change late or soon,

so it’s wise to keep the scorecard close to the vest.
A wise man told me that everyone’s a saint if you read the final page.
All these years later, I think I know what he means.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Wednesday, August 16, 2023


In my youth, I didn’t see the coin, only heads or tails,
and I could not see the forest for the trees.
I walked the narrow path of enigma and cliché

with no room for the super-colliding electron’s decay
or a subatomic particle’s brief foray into space and time.
I had stumbling meter, but not a couplet’s rhyme.

Now I see neither the forest nor the trees,
only the ever-present likelihood of green.
The either-or is such a silly prom night theme.

It is the fool who tries to separate the river from the sea,
to divide lovers in the act of love into he or she
or to split particle and wave, erasing the ecstasy of light.

But, I hear you ask, what happens to the ocean
when the tide washes ashore and sinks into the sand?
I have been where you are standing, but now

I do not see such a beginning or an end,
for the shoreline is seamless in a cosmos on the mend.
I divine the wholeness of Earth and star and galaxy.

I feel, but do not see, that time, like love,
forever folds upon itself, forever bends.
It is said that the most memorable of kisses never ends.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Wednesday, August 9, 2023


Suppose that a dry leaf
falls into a clear brook that runs to the sea
and circles the world a full seven times
before being read by a thankful maiden,
a letter that simply says “Yes, yes, oh yes!”

It changes the world
as all leaves and lovers change the world,
as all words and poems
fold grass into stars and bend time
upon itself so that now-and-then
kiss with wine dripping from their lips.

Entanglement, quanta parsed into pairs,
summons the royal wedding to court.
Lute and harp bless the world
now married to the virgin ready to unfold
and give birth to compassionate winds
that awaken a sleeping mother’s son.

Love and jubilee pirouette
on the head of an eternal pin
while pouring forth the virtue
of dolphins keeping the mariner safe at sea.
The mystical sum lies to the right
of the equals sign, the omega fulfilled.

It is the beating heart of a robin,
the song of the humpback whale.
It is my love poured into a cup
so that I may drink with each breath.
It is the light of lovingkindness
falling across the hardwood floor.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Monday, July 31, 2023


“For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
~From “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman

The mitochondrial needle stitches green into a leaf
that branches and blooms into a forest of plant.
In Gotham, the hooker steps off the curb

into a sea of a hundred million tailor-made sins.
I cannot sift them all or know in this flesh and flow
where one ends and another begins

any more than I can divide raindrops that fall in sheets
to cleanse the bruising sidewalks and sloping gutters
that form a single grid of a thousand streets.

The stardust of Hera’s milk spans the sky,
an entwined ribbon of nuclear fire and fusion
giving birth to chalk-white bones in your legs and mine.

Together, we walk as one,
stitching days hyphenated by the rising and falling sun
into a single stream, a book with a single theme of time.

There is the you of me and the me of you,
a bonnie lad and a more-than-fetching lass
bound as an epic poem from lasting leaves of grass.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Monday, July 24, 2023

Sacred Moment

Sitting in the kitchen, I look out the window
at the green meadow, the tree line, the mountain range beyond.
The scene is painted freshly each morning with a new color palette

by an impressionist who has a vested interest in the landscape.
The clock in the downstairs hall chimes,
a call to prayer as I sip morning coffee,

added inspiration lest my brain show up late.
In the poplar, two birds debate philosophy,
St. Thomas versus Hawking, the wind of their debate

flapping leaves like Buddhist prayer flags.
The rising sun changes angles of light by degrees,
and I am bathed in a yellow beam

for a minute or two, or perhaps eternity.
It is good to be here, transfigured for a sacred moment in time.
Did I mention that it was good to be here?

~William Hammett

Site Map

Friday, July 14, 2023


The impossible glaciers, the icy slopes,
the serpentine path through the Himalayas—
they fall behind me like a season
that has outlived its days and dies.
The snow blindness, white corridors of darkness,
are cured by the High Lama’s touch
and ministrations in the Valley of the Blue Moon.
The Sherpas make camp while doves,
bells flying on their tail feathers,
serenade the air and pluck the Aeolian harp.
I sit in the library of the grand palace
surrounded by the holy incense of silence,
leatherbound volumes sweeping away
the confusion of distant megabytes.
I read of millennia’s glories and delights,
the madding crowd fading, fading
like the harbor’s last light
before sunrise ruffles new water
with Florentine wavelets of gold.
I lay my glasses on the desk, rise,
and put a kettle on for evening tea.
Later, I go for a walk up and down the block,
the wonders of Shangri-La spinning in my mind
before I ascend the porch stairs, weary,
lock the door, and set the ticking clock.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Mona Lisa and the Buddha

It is a square peg in a round hole,
the fat, ascetic Buddha
with a barely-perceptible smile
spreading across his lips
like a slender crescent moon.
He was as crooked and gaunt
as the walking stick
that led him to break
and collapse like kindling
beneath the sumptuous shade
of the wise and merciful bodhi tree.
Perhaps he had calories
hidden beneath his saffron robe,
a Hershey bar with or without nuts.
Perhaps he was a puffer fish
bloated with enlightenment
when kundalini turned his spine
into a bipolar serpent of fire.
Maybe there was a wrinkle in time,
a wrinkle in space,
the Buddha stealing away
from his karma at midnight
for a tryst with Mona Lisa
in a Florence feather bed,
for she is smiling too, barely,
and hiding an extra pound or two
beneath her Florentine dress.
Here is how it all went down:
the lovers consumed tea and oranges,
chocolate kisses smeared like a swoosh
on their thin and lusty lips.
In the absence of take-your-own-photo booths,
they sat for wandering artists
skilled in paint and bronze.
Oh, what fireworks and transcendence transpired
between the sheets to produce images
of the eternal, smiling afterglow
when the sacred Ganges
made it with the frescoed Renaissance.
What a show.
What a show.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Carpenter

The carpenter chooses carefully from his tool chest,
the event horizon from which he creates a universe
of wood measured and sanded into divine satisfaction.
He sits by a brook to consult a blueprint of dreams

and other ethereal load-bearing schemes.
I rifle through the overflow drawer,
the one that contains bric-a-brac that has no phylum,
an Ellis Island of the immigrant mind.

My fingers fumble for pens, glue, stamps, rubber bands,
and something akin to a blade, that Queen of the South
who rules all endeavors to build our days
ever since cavemen sharpened rock and flint and wooden stakes.

I can find no order, no palace of consequence.
Defeated, I sit with my back against a tree
by the stream that flows from Pangea
to the fertile crescent of my neocortex.

The house takes shape before my focused eyes, serene,
like a Buddha’s gaze into preternatural skies.
And there, as if by magic, you are already seated in the attic.
I stand, ready to climb the stairs.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Friday, June 23, 2023

Petal-Yellow Mantras

The audacity of blue sky,
the mystery of deep water,
the pride of certain weeds
to defy all odds
with petal-yellow mantras,
claiming veins
in the concrete—
for the deep glory of color
let all sins be forgiven.

In the alley,
the old black man
plays a cheap guitar,
sings about weeds
and wildflowers,
about Lazarus running naked
through the lilies
though the grave forever
calls him back.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


It turns like a Buddhist prayer wheel,
clear liquid psalms sifted by the mill
that makes glassy mountain snow

into the parsed and perennial workings of the world.
I turn and turn and turn,
catching the breeze with lustful lungs

to make royal rain and a breath of beatific sky
into the ceremony of peaceful Taoist tea.
The earth spins like a gyroscope Grail,

catching electromagnetic light and solar wind,
golden orisons from a Pentecost of sun,
a ballet dancer whirling in the rhapsodies of love,

the grandest paroxysm of all, the budding leaf unfurled,
in the workings of what we perceive as world.
The waterwheel turns the seasons

while the moon makes gossamer loops
so that time and tide can be calibrated and sung.
Let all things turn and turn in due time,

for only the effortless workings of the world
can transform the infant vowels of creation
into an epic poem with perfect meter and rhyme.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Monday, June 5, 2023


I walk down Fifth Avenue
past steel and glass,
the towers of Babel,
the stone canyon hiding my shadow.
Farther along,
strip malls carve the land
into financial advice,
Italian restaurants, and urgent care,
no appointment needed.

A hundred steps
take me to middle America,
a single stoplight
anchoring the post office,
the feed store, the mercantile
rich with the smell
of khaki and denim.

A white-haired man
sitting on an iron bench
carves a wooden doll
and points to the horizon
and grasslands where the noonday sun
turns the blades silver.
Wildflowers cling to my ankles
before I walk a yellow dirt road
in a scene from North by Northwest.

I step into the adjacent field,
a maze of corn
and drooping green leaves.
There is a waterfall
and a dark, inviting forest.
Crickets and sparrows
speak in tongues.
Holiness abounds.
I sit in moist grass and wait.
Some passerby wearing a robe
will surely come this way.

~William Hammett

Site Map