A Parallel Uni-Verse
Some worship life, the sun
that gives it, that is, and some death
because it's at least eternal,
though always they make up a life
for it. Sun on his shoulder
made him happy, the singer sang.
The shine of it. Enough bullshit,
though -- hard work kills people
all the time. The chilly trudge
over rocks through river mist
and down under bitter tamaracks
makes the warm yellow seep
through dry meadow bracken
feel quite fine. Until sweat
itches under the straps. Soon
it seems like the meadowlarks
we scare up ahead of us
with such cheery little cries
in fact hate us. Not forever
like we do, but isn't an instant
really forever? A flash of light
from east to west, someone
once said? Billions of years
are but a wink before you're
judged. If you so believe.
That singer was not in fact happy;
a warm caress showed him
what happiness was. Of course,
what thoughts fly up to flit
away at random on a long hike
in high mountains can take
any shade of light you choose.
Such is your freedom:
absolutely no one minds.

William Hathaway recently moved from Surry, Maine, to Gettysburg, Pa. His most recent collection in a long, distinguished career is The Right No.
Climate's Weather
By William Hathaway
The good people handing out the toys
for the poor people's tots were feeling good
about how poor people's eyes wet up
with gratitude until some bad people
drove up in an Escalade and loaded her up
with nary a thanks like the government’s
trained them like rats fed treats in a box
to expect a tit for no tat, a quidless quo,
and off they scooted with the shiny red trike
with white plastic tassels and the choo-
choo a tot could trundle around on
driving everyone crazy pushing a button
that sings Frère Jacque in French.

“Where the heck’s my Escalade?”
the burly fireman who risked his life
until he retired into bamboo flooring
at fifty-two asks, because it’s a lady
barber we’re all watching, and we nod—
yes, that’s where goodness got us.

She breaks a two buck tip on top of ten
from my socialist social security twenty
and outside I take a deep gulp
of October light — maybe fifty reds
and yellows smearing Pentagon Bunker hill,
bloody lights blinking night and day.
What would Krishna say? Ah, desire.
That’s why I keep my coins snug
in a blue plastic purse that opens
like a mouth when squeezed, so as not
to hear a jingle as I walk.

My Love for You Is Like a Cadillac
By William Hathaway
By William Hathaway
Should I pretend my soul still sings
in promiscuous union with this polyglot fraud
who cocks his insolent tail atop a telephone pole
to “do the police” in a seamless succession
of all their voices? This morning when I paused
to gaze at this bird flared against the sky,
he cackled like the jay, spat out epithets
against teachers like an oven bird, chirruped
as sweet robins do. Shit-shit-shit he cried
so plaintively, then warbled a melody
I cannot name though I’ve heard it somewhere
everywhere all my life in peripheral air
like a parable I just assumed would save me
by just wheedling in an ear. As he wound out
his virtuoso medley with the urgent bleats
of a garbage truck backing up, a true listener
might’ve known how weak his accent really rang,
how small points of grammar tell a tourist
from a scholar. I know nothing, now.
I never did, but early on I seized the myth
that unique genius was a myth to raise up
myself as a singer of others’ songs,
as if my own song sang in unsung singing.

Up he fluttered, flashing chevron whites
only to flutter right back down again
without ever ceasing singing. Why say the songs
of all he hears -- the birds’ morning chorus,
cicadas, frogs, small dogs yapping all night long?
Here is where I could pretend
that since I do not know, such knowing
is not worth knowing. But I do know now.
He says to all that as far as his voice can call
he owns it all, but if you would know
how far his dominion goes, place a mirror
at points distant from his pole of Babel
and where he no longer batters
against himself, another world begins.

William Hathaway recently moved from Surry, Maine, to Gettysburg, Pa. His most recent collection in a long, distinguished career is The Right No.

No, we didn’t let go buck naked
off a rope over a fishing hole, whooping
like Tarzan, somersaulting cannonballs
to explode a pond and sink fetal into its murk
still pinching noses like the freckled boys-
being-boys in the barber shop calendar
under the mirror next to a speckled fly tape
dripping in amber curlicues over jars
of cloying creams and drowned combs,
watching Ray the barber buzz our heads,
waiting for him to rail against communists
so we could tell him we were commies,
homos, part negro, and we’d be glad
if the wrestling team lost every match,
which was, in fact, by accident the truth,
not because bigotry outraged us,
but because ashes from the cigarette
dangling from his squinting sneer
kept falling onto the apron dusty
with our sheared stubble, for we were no
hippies but townies who dove
from high shale ledges into black pools
pocketing ancient gorges, or we trudged
through cinders down tracks
shimmering with hopeless chimeras,
stinking of creosote and skunk weed,
to clamber over smashed cement block
into the cold lake wearing ragged cut-offs
we worked in, pushing a wheelbarrow
clattering with rakes down Snob Hill
sidewalks, shouting up to white gables
Bring out your dead, sweltering in sweat
only long enough to buy a night’s wine
we drank with girls whose long straight hair
whipped back in circles as they bubbled
the jug and whose eyes flashed warnings
in leaping firelight.

William Hathaway recently moved from Surry, Maine, to Gettysburg, Pa. His most recent collection in a long, distinguished career is The Right No.
Ithaca 1960
By William Hathaway
When no one wants to love or live with you,
you can always live in the woods in a box
of a house, and when your mind grows so light
in your head, as it will, that daylight looks
gray, you can always walk out in the rain
where gray sky is at least a higher ceiling,
and of course you’ll go to two forking paths
smothered in slick yellow maple and birch
leaves, and for a change you can always choose
the narrow stony one instead of the wide
easy old logging road, but right away
brambles will be grabbing at your rain gear,
leaves will brush across your face soaking
your collar, and you’ll have to watch your feet
for roots, instead of enjoying nature
like Thoreau did all by himself, while a drab
sparrow will keep chittering just ahead of you,
annoying you with its consistent stupidity,
and you’ll begin to realize mossy lumps
off in the trees you thought were firewood
some farmer of simpler times forgot to sled
home are really dumped washing machines,
gutted car parts, and middens of rusty cans,
and before too long you’ll come to a clutch
of ramshackle trailers just yards to the right
of the trail, ending all illusions of wilderness,
with two slavering pit bulls, savagely
straining at you on flimsy swing set chains,
and just beyond that clearing you’ll come
upon a muddy patch littered with brown
paper sacks and aerosol cans and condoms
of various garish hues will start popping up
on twigs like trail markers of your own spent
passions, so you’ll pause to reconnoiter
next to the words “fuck you” carved in tender
beech bark, to reconsider the journey’s parable,
when your heavy mind and heart come together
to perceive and understand you’ve gone too far
down this dirt track to turn back, a road less
ambled by philosophers than by men
who come to shoot guns at empty beer cans
and chirping songbirds, but what will make all
the difference, standing in that epiphany,
are wet and cold feet, until you’ll notice
that as you were bushwhacking evermore
blindly toward that end where all paths, hard
or easy, end, rain had ceased unnoticed,
and at any moment then the sky will crack
open and sunshine will pour down upon
you, as yellow and warm as it beams on houses
clamoring with mirth and love.

William Hathaway recently moved from Surry, Maine, to Gettysburg, Pa. His most recent collection in a long, distinguished career is The Right No.
All the Difference
By William Hathaway
was I surprised, but by a black bear
that raised its head from snuffling blueberries,
not to glare, but to gaze into my frozen stare,
wet-piggy eyes neither mean nor friendly
that seemed unfazed by biting flies
sucking their circumference of red, wet rims.
Indeed, a halo buzzed about his dusty head,
viscous drool dripped off his purple jowl.
(Yes, a he, for there I saw his wispy sheath
and balls as he lurched into a crouch.)
So slowly, slowly I backwards stepped,
step by step, giving up the patch
I’d tended for my own by ripping out
sweet ferns and spruce saplings
that burgeon like proprioceptive joy
from clear cut waste. In sincere truth,
as I slipped into sweat-cooling shade
under great white pines on the slope
down to the cold dark stream
toward home, picking out warm berries
from leaf and twig trash barely covering
the bottom of my coffee can, I felt
a secret gladness for the bandit bear,
not because our eyes locked
in some vestigial bond as fiction done for art
so often sighs, but because I loathed
sticky, stinging work that seemed pleasure
once when done together, but done
alone now only seems like wasted labor
done only not to waste.

William Hathaway recently moved from Surry, Maine, to Gettysburg, Pa. His most recent collection in a long, distinguished career is The Right No.
Not by Joy
By William Hathaway
That the great lofting bird, whose glide
so high in circles on V-flung wings
we admire as majestic, only thinks
about sniffing up dead people to eat
is too gloomy to contemplate. Since things
are what they are, it’s best always to say
what they aren’t. The sharp-shinned hawk,
perching with such military smartness
in the yellow poplar, for example, watches
the birdfeeder with unwavering diligence,
thinking only about killing people,
then eating them; a thought so much less
putrid that we know she strikes her noble pose
to rebuke highfliers their slouching waddle
over corpses that we slew and in hot onslaught
left crushed to the road behind us. Best
to think nice thoughts, nestle down to dream
dreams of glory—snatching up the standard
in a cozy din of horror at Gettysburg
or Gallipoli. After all, being what we must be,
let’s let a stately sweep of far foragers
bring not to mind some ghoulish creeping
over a field of slain, but let’s see instead
The Cross of Constantine adjuring us
to once again rejoice in the violence
that always must bear it away and assures us
of our chosen seats in paradise.

William Hathaway recently moved from Surry, Maine, to Gettysburg, Pa. His most recent collection in a long, distinguished career is The Right No.
Human Nature
By William Hathaway
Should we rescue the soft, powdery moth
gyrating in fluttery panic viciously gripped
by a wasp that rides crouched behind its head
like a tiny jockey made of shiny black majolica?
Or should we let nature, where nothing’s mean,
meaning petty according to Emerson,
take (or give, for that matter) its course,
as we’re wont to presume some choice
in the matter? Or should we just stomp on
both of them and march on? Why, you ask?
Because ugly’s ugly no matter what
direct object’s tacked on to a dangling what,
and once a stomp’s stomped what’s the use
of asking why? Or why ask if terror governs
in things so small? Shouldn’t we imagine
the moth’s frantic flapping and the wasp’s
fierce pincers not as fear and hunger
but just some buzzing in almost brainless
beings? What’s in minuscule black orbs
that pass for eyes but the tiniest glimmer
of a reflected world in which, if only we
could see in things so small, shadows
of ourselves are bending to observe
a casual horror, as we make our judgments
to do or not to do before moving on?

William Hathaway in recent years moved from Surry, Maine, to Gettysburg, Pa. His most recent collection in a long, distinguished career is The Right No.
By William Hathaway
for Susanne

Vacant eyes that gazed timelessly
toward the Lido and past Punta Sabbioni
now shallow hollowly between sugared lumps
on erased faces. No need to journey back
to see what is said passing years have done
when we can twiddle up the tears of things
in pictures on our phones. Why is blue
glass so treasured over coke bottle green?
Like shards of memory roughened soft,
all stinging glare and slicing edges
polish to glowing lozenges, as if the sea
spat half-sucked candies upon the strand.
Blue-bottled magnesium milk chalked guts
with a powdered soup of ancient sea lime
to cure the mal-de-mer, and trash
that’s now prized so rare once littered
everywhere. No ticking tock burned off
stolid Venetian faces that had stared
impassively upon some million tides
but our new acid smaze. So don’t glibly blame
the flowing years themselves. The moon
drags oceans back and forth, like a woman
rubbing clothes over stones by its pearly glow,
but it’s ground grit itself, gently swirling
in eternal swaying wash, that grinds
smashed garbage into cherished gems.

William Hathaway in recent years moved from Surry, Maine, to Gettysburg, Pa. His most recent collection in a long, distinguished career is The Right No.
Sea Glass
By William Hathaway