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

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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

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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

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