Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A Winter's Eve

Snow falls on branches splayed like fingers,
falls on your dark hair, where it glistens
like a constellation drifting about your shoulders.

Icy stars are set like diamonds in the sky
of this dying year, though I don’t know why.
Perhaps your parted lips and silent breath

have chased away the clouds of this waking dream.
We are so much younger now,
the years having fallen away

as if someone had taken a lathe to time
and shaved away decades, day by day,
as we hold each other in a distant wood,

though I don’t where,
though I don’t know how.
Moonlight slides down the trunks of trees.

An owl hiding inside a hole in the thicket
tells us to kiss, and we do.
Despite the deep blue tones of a winter’s eve,

everything is new again, though not the same,
and the cold air in my lungs
is the energy and seamless soul of you.

The universe is reflected in your eyes,
all places, all things, all time,
but I know better than to question why.

I am content to remain in this moment
of death and rebirth, to rest within
a conversation that need not be spoken.

The evening is caught in time, is clear,
and we both know why,
and we both know why.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Monday, July 8, 2024


From time to time I must leave that which I know,
the daily routines of rise and come and go,
the floorboards that have been worn to sand,
the stairs that connect a firm grasp of life
to rooms of sleep and drifting, dreamy weather.

I leave solid footing for a flippant, waving hand.
I must walk across a cold field of brown heather
past a fourteenth century Scottish castle of gray stones
that have been knocked into crooked, crenelated teeth,
an empty scull sans brain sitting on the gray jetty.

There, I wait for zephyrs to turn foreboding into fair,
time and tide that will lead me to a less familiar where.
The slim horizon is a mistress I must divide,
ocean from sky, piercing virginity waiting to die
so that I may relish the other side of should or would,

climb mountains and drink wide rivers running
from a range hidden by a mist of mystery’s cunning.
I must speak with grasslands and converse with pilgrims
who evolved during Pangea’s prehistoric slide.
I will speak with Ulysses, pluck the lyre into bacchanal,

and stroke the nape of Penelope’s ivory neck.
And when I have sampled the lexicon of constellations,
of Orion chasing animals always beyond his reach
or weaving deep desire from locks of maidenhair,
I shall return to my well-worn life of hanging hats in the hall

and listen to my chest rise and fall, rise and fall.
From time to time I do this because I must,
because the double helix unwinds into permutations
irresistible, wanton, wild, and rare,
magnets that sing, pull, and draw me into wanderlust.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Friday, June 28, 2024

The Price of Admission

It is a brittle thing, like an old twig
or a dried leaf pressed under museum glass.
The qualification for quintessence,

the seer’s gaze into the heart of heart,
is a sapling that must know the hurricane
and feel the bruise of wind gods it cannot see.

The cost of slipping through the tent flap of eternity
is first love—the one untimely ripped
that is lost to too few years round the sun.

Slings and arrows, stings to the marrow—
that is the price of admission to life
for the soul that is hiding for a time

inside fleeting flesh made from a random rib.
Such is the tilling of springtime soil
and loss in a paradise too early born.

But open the joy-stained gate
and let new rivers rage and roar.
Set free the monk and grant love to the whore.

Throw with abandon a flock of birds
into the air with orisons and holy charms,
for these troubadours stayed in the nest of yearning,

endured gravity in the time of youthful learning.
Glory circles round to find itself again
as Wordsworth discovers splendor in the grass

and takes up immortality with his pen.
This is how we step onto mandala spin
to find membership in the tribe of women and of men.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Bowery at Dawn

Whitman and Thoreau are usually out the door by six,
the first to leave their off-track cubbyholes—
leaves of grass piled to the ceiling’s naked light—

to observe seagulls spindrifting on high Manhattan air,
to watch the Brooklyn ferry lumber through decades
coiled like movie reels in their transcendental eyes.

Emerson, stumbling through the lobby, claims the East River
is full of transmigrations, currents of the Oversoul’s rise.
Kerouac awakens late, dons a wife beater,

is on the road less traveled half past the hand-rolled joint.
Hamlet is the only holdout, sitting in his nutshell
and calling himself a king of melancholy space.

Let us not be too harsh to judge the rags and weeds
shuffling down the pavement, harvesting dandelions
to accent their six-by-ten palaces of crack and speed.

We all live in the rundown El Centro Hotel, condemned,
a dust mote spindrifting through the solar system.
We are hungry hobos stirring in the Bowery dawn,

hoping to catch a wave of luminescent biocentric soul,
a ribbon of stars to carry us past the nine-to-five syringe
and find our home, wherever that may be.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Poaching Secrets from the Alchemist

Standing behind a cape of invisibility
woven from the orb weaver’s dew,
I study the wise and aging wizard,
his beard a cascade of white years,
unwinding gold from the lead on his bench.

His world is upside down or right-side up,
spinning like a drunken gyroscope
or a falcon creating wanton wind
with the purpose of fire and gyre.
Rain falls up to be transformed

into Solomon’s wildflower regalia
that will enter jaded Jerusalem
on the back of a borrowed ass.
This progenitor did not turn rocks into bread
or jump from a cliff onto angels’ wings,

did not transmute the kingdoms of the world
into a gospel made of shiny things.
His retrograde mojo was better at rolling stones
or making rattle and rebel clatter
from Ezekiel’s dry and lifeless bones.

As for me, I wish only to drink spiced wine
that bestows the power of impish Puck,
seduce the sultry brunette behind the castle wall
and gain a kiss on the far side of midnight.
Oh, what pleasant Saturnalia.

Let the periodic table mix and match
as you play me backwards, backwards play me.
Such creative alchemies will never give me pause,
for inversions still lie at the bottom of the rabbit hole.
Effect has become the everlasting cause.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Monday, May 27, 2024


The humpback spins, torques, sprays,
breaches the wave-capped skin of ocean,
the skein of rolling foam and blue.

The sky and sea explode unbounded
from the newfound sexual seam that is horizon,
undreamt of in his deepwater philosophy

of pods piloting in hazy cataract.
He is suspended in beatific view,
fixed and freed in transcendental fugue.

I wake within a dream, impressionism’s blur,
to discover the crystal lucidity of sight,
consciousness squared and multiplied by joy.

Suspended above the bustle of a crowded street,
I feel the vibrations of a thousand strings
plucked into harmonies beyond the scales

fallen from my eyes and unknown clefs.
Everything is rhythm ejaculating symphony
as rich and rhyming as any spiral arm

speckled with star stuff in a pinwheel galaxy.
In rare moments, I rise from my skin
to see that this wonderworld is mere illusion.

I am only mind inside a greater mind
observing the frequency of beget, believe, become.
A transparent eyelid blinks to behold

the marvel of behold, I and thou,
before I sink back into the ocean of Adam’s dream
and sing another meandering, migratory song.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Monday, May 20, 2024

Bird, Branch, Sky

The bird sits on the black branch
growing into the pearl-gray sky.
Or does the winter sky sit upon the bird,

the branch upon the sky?
This mystical geometry simply appeared
from nature’s morning mind.

The branch splits into finer versions of itself,
fractals that open a door to infinite quest
while the bird spreads its Rorschach wings,

balancing the magnetism of east and west.
But the sky knows only the thoughts of God
and is perhaps the father of this evolving trinity.

The bird suddenly bolts, takes wing
from its temporary still-life perch
as the branch recoils, contemplates, quivers,

clouds now twisting into the strangest of rivers.
What response can be made to these particles-turned-wave?
What can be made of bird, branch, and sky?

The beggar, king, prophet, and seer
can only weep for joy in December’s nave,
can only launch through parted lips a most ecstatic cry.

~William Hammett

Thursday, May 9, 2024


With a gust of wind, the bouquet of flowers
flies from the rear basket of the bicycle.

Minutes later, the man scoops it up
and continues on his way to the park,

where he sits next to a young woman on a bench.
A maple leaf falls from the overhead tree.

They turn, grab, kiss, and laugh
without thought of repercussions down the line.

Years later, they live in a three-story Victorian,
a gaggle of daughters rushing out the door

to ride bicycles in the park and collect spring flowers.
Surely it was all divinely-inspired happenstance,

this blur of joy and color spanning decades,
for there is no such thing as randomness or chance.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Lost Moon

It was the Year of the Dragon,
and the moon was in Gemini
when I rowed towards the silver eye

resting on the rim of dark ocean,
water dripping from the oars
in the slow cadence of a dirge.

I was out of my depth in so many ways,
fall coming on hard and cold,
youth already spent on the known and old,

on fighting Grendel’s Mother
and her bitch-heavy pathological urge.
But then there was Mozart,

A Little Night Music, spin and jitterbug
to infuse this fallen man
with a few more stuttering steps,

a few more bittersweet miles.
Was it a kiss or the mind of God
or something else entirely

that I tried to reach on that long-ago night,
an ampersand that connected cradle to grave,
the modulation of a Tibetan Buddha’s wave?

It’s all the same, you know—
the kiss, the chant, the god, the now,
and yet I loved her song and flow.

I found a shiny nickel
minted in the Year of the Dragon
on a corner paving stone.

I polish it once a year with love
before holding it at arm’s length
against the glory of the stars.

And that is enough catharsis to bury the loss.
The moon is always in my pocket,
no longer a mariner’s albatross.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Twisted Symmetry

Tie the gentle curve into a Gordian Knot
or fold the desert highway into pretzel logic.
Waves will still break on the shore in fringe and foam.

Let M.C. Escher walk up the down staircase,
take the Bureau of Weights and Measures off speed dial.
Rain will still slant silver in the spring.

Siphon the universe into a black hole
and hammer a triangle into Picasso.
The sun will still paint the meadow gold.

Unzip the double helix of DNA into drooping flowers,
make love to the twenty-something,
and dine out with the old crone.

The actress will still deliver her soliloquy
on the proscenium either way.
Explode the order of fractals into a jigsaw puzzle

or build a shrine to Our Lady of the Hobos.
Particle and wave will still keep dancing
no matter how you diagram the sentence.

Expose the man behind the curtain or not:
only in the undoing will the doing find potential.
Order becomes decay, decay is order’s art

in a cosmos that is cooling but always running hot.
Carry the wisdom of the ages, but be forever young at heart.
You will always be free to fold everything

back into a reality you cannot understand
as long as thought travels faster than the speed of light.
Tell me I’m wrong, and then tell me I’m right.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Piano Bar

It sits on the corner of Steinway and Baldwin Streets,
nicely cooled against Dog Day heat.
At 2 a.m., the bartender, in stiff white shirt and black bow tie,

polishes glasses and eyes them like an astronomer
looking through telescopes fixed on three silent patrons
at corner tables light years from one another,

their candles winking like inebriated stars.
The femme fatale at the ivories sounds like Nora,
her voice floating on late-night silk

and singing just as comely sweet.
I sit in a corner and scratch poems on a napkin
while observing this dim universe as the hours wear on.

The astronomer delivers a tumbler of scotch, neat.
Piano notes become cosmic background radiation,
a rendition in a minor key from the music of the spheres.

It is a universe that I can inhabit and wear like skin,
one in which I can create my verse on the downlow
for the next fourteen billion years or so.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Friday, March 29, 2024

War and Peace

There is much ado about guns
and cannons and then nothing.
There are troops and last-minute marriages
and lingering farewells at a train station,

fingertips touching vanishing fingertips
as the passenger car slides away
to a wave of tears and uneasy applause.
And then there is a great sigh of relief,

the return to the hometown or the farm,
afternoon naps on a sagging porch,
eyes sequestered by a floppy hat
to keep away gnats and dreams of shell shock.

And in between lies the truth, lies everything.
Everything—the day’s stock-in-trade—keeps it all going.
It’s how war begets peace, how peace gives birth to war.
Swords become plowshares, plowshares become swords.

To everything there is a season.
The old man polishes the long barrel of a carbine.
The young man enters No Man’s Land
in a war, they said, that would end all wars.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Monday, March 18, 2024


It’s the road less traveled—
that’s the one I wonder about,
whether I’m daydreaming on dust motes
or sliding into a long shadow

when my thoughts grow dark as November.
Call me Ishmael or a son of light.
It’s the one we all wonder about,
both Adam and Adam’s rib.

My mind always circles back,
calculating vectors, a swell of waves,
the schizophrenic oak growing east and west.
Kisses sweet as pears and plums,

the novel that didn’t work,
the man digging a hole
that turns out to be his grave—
everything proceeds and yet doesn’t.

A leaf falls into the high grass,
trapped and headed for decay.
A wind from nowhere kicks up
and sends it pinwheeling to the stream,

though I couldn’t tell you why,
for I hold no patent on a destiny that breathes.
Suffice to say that the leaf finds a swell of ocean.
Call me Ishmael. I think we all find the sea.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Friday, March 8, 2024

Living in the Desert

The mountains in the distance, dancing from the heat,
are my only sentries, though it is doubtful
that the silicon fraternity of modern man
would wish to storm this hermitage, or any at all.

The sand is carpet enough, the rocks ample tables.
Cactus and sage, accents in the latest earth tones,
were here when I declared myself a holy squatter sans deed.
Everything, I learned, is solar-powered and well lit.

At night, the stars do not compete with spangled harlots
who gather round a lamppost like moths
in a town that once called me its favorite son.
The bleached bones of prophets—rats and birds—

give the space its ambience of endless eons.
Reptiles bury themselves beneath oozing stone
in the hope of noonday resurrection.
Alone but not lonely, I read books committed to memory,

but I do not recite them aloud, do not wag my tongue
like the merchants I left in Babylon.
In silence there is communion and grace,
though with whom or what I simply do not know.

~William Hammett

Site Map

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Silent Poem

The words are only signposts.
An image, after all, is just an image.
Poems are about what is never said
since narration only appeals to the eye and ear. 

Search between the words and lines.

Look to the open, empty desert for meaning.

To read nothingness is to become a Zen master.

Why do you suppose there are spaces between stanzas?


What is all this about, you ask.

I can only guide you. Jesus wept.

I shall tell you a story, but you must open your eyes.

Or perhaps close them. Take this poem, for example.

~William Hammett

Site Map

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

Site Map

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

Site Map

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

Site Map

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

Site Map

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

Site Map