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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