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

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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

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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

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