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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