Monday, February 19, 2024

The Tryst

The young woman on the old bicycle at dawn,
her spine a testament to posture and righteousness,
pedals across the brick streets of a French village.

A navy-blue cap rides a wave of short black hair;
a white blouse hangs on shoulder blades fit for a mannequin.
The merchants are still dreaming of wine and cheese,

and no one stirs from the romance of a sagging mattress
to see her tight red sweater or black pants
paint wide brushstrokes across storefronts.

In the basket in front of rusty handlebars
is a newspaper, fresh bread, and a bottle of wine.
She is so innocent that she could be a fairy

who was born yesterday deep in the forest over the hill.
She meets her young man in a field of sunshine,
and after they drink the Bordeaux, they kiss,

but her eyes open and follow a flock of birds
scared into the air by a lurch of fur and claws.
In that moment she knows she will never marry Claude,

for her heart can only belong to the sky,
a bosom so large that only its blue curve
can contain the love of love and ardent desire.

~William Hammett


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Friday, February 9, 2024

Hours of the Day

The black coffee is a singularity giving birth to a universe,
the horizon on fire with newfound glory.
Evening and morning, the first day.
The Tower of Babel is switched off, the cloistered mind preserved.
I do not need to know the latest recipe for crepes

or why the Pilate instructor sailed around the world.
Vanity vanity—all is vanity. Silence is the message.
An army of shadow soldiers appears at ten o’clock,
but it practices formations as on a parade ground, nothing more.
A bird in the elm sings melodies with the same joy

as a woman cleaning her three-room apartment
on the fifth floor of a tenement, the window open,
because her husband is out of prison and on the way home.
I notice everyday objects around the house at noon,
a marble whale, a brass pot, and a row of twenty books

on the shelf, each holding a parallel universe of probability.
In the afternoon I do nothing but observe the passage of time,
the change of light, and the chiming of the clock on the mantel.
It seems the world is moving on and has been doing so
ever since dew flew from the grass hours ago

like geese fleeing the marsh for some high and mighty sky.
The dark soldiers who called it quits at midday
have returned, now on a mission to close the whole thing down.
Ten birds make a final stand on the telephone wire
while crickets observe vespers, chanting on cue

with the falling of the sun. It is night,
and I have scribbled a few lines of verse, written a grocery list
that will soon be out of print, and posted several reminders to myself,
The universe, I presume, will come sweeping along tomorrow.
Somewhere along the line I read the newspaper,

which kept world events at just the right distance from concern.
I even caught a glimpse of myself out the corner of my eye.
Every hour was sacred, every minute lived with grace,
though I have the feeling that a few slipped by without notice.
I don’t know what more anyone could ask for.

~William Hammett


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Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Still Life with Flowers

The spring bouquet is arranged in a clear glass vase
filled to within an inch of the top with water,

but the white daisy petals with yellow hearts
are the ones that steal the show.

For reasons unknown, the artist posed these nude models
on a plain but polished wooden table in front of a window,

sash down, with only a few saplings,
a green lawn, and a humble garden as the backstory

for this silent poem in raised oil strokes.
The picture hangs on a wall opposite another window, tall,

where the sun is free to nurture this born-again cliché.
What no one notices is that the painted flowers, all as one,

sway left to right as they follow the path of the sun,
swallowing each ray as their daily bread,

and whether they follow the sun that the painter has implied
or the one that brushes the tall window with yellow strokes

is unknown to all but the mystery of art that is reality squared.
Outshining Solomon, the lilies of the field follow the rhythm of prayer.

One can only wonder at the cataracts of the mind, of eyes
that pass this still life every day, blind to its soul and secret hope.

~William Hammett


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Monday, January 15, 2024

Empty Chairs

They’re plain and padded, others richly appointed,
their backs high, proud, and embroidered,
arms polished, curved, and ending in scrollwork

like limbs that have decided to close their hands.
They are placed on the sides of sofas and long tables
as if guarding them from the wrong type of occupant.

The more monastic are placed in corners or next to doors
to keep a watchful eye on matters of state.
Sometimes they are twins poised on either side of a marble table

with a bright lamp of bronze illuminating dark, cold veins.
They are quiet citizens of wide halls and palaces where,
despite the traffic, heavy or light, no one ever sits.

All of these four-legged guards, invisible to most,
are always empty, lovers waiting to spoon or, more likely,
are civil servants waiting to provide comfort

to the weary and downtrodden, those who find the journey
too oppressive on any given day.
They embody patience, for they wait and wait,

always empty as they wait.
It is likely that once a year, almost certainly after midnight,
they gather in a great metaphysical hall

that has no beginning and no end.
It is a conclave of silence during which they meditate
on the comings and goings of the world,

hoping and praying that people, no one in particular,
will pause for a while and think of nothing but chairs,
will stop moving from here to there,

for if they did, the masses would lay down their arms,
would cry cathartic rivers and find balm
for the soul’s deep wounds and its lifetime of wear.

~William Hammett


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Friday, January 5, 2024

The Lake House

I kiss you, and then I kiss you again
as the moon rises over the lake
and crickets sing some long-forgotten hymn.
We lie together, motionless, in the cabin,
our legs tangled in the silver shine
pouring through the open window.
Your breathing is a deep spring from which I drink.
I close my eyes, sleep, dream.
dreaming of the loon landing on midnight water,
its feathers brushing softly the surface sheen.
I am a feather, and you are the lake.
Smoother moon-colored skin I have never seen.
I kiss you, and then I kiss you again.

~William Hammett


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