One Morning

            Poetry is the sun streaming down in the meshes of morning.          Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 Late September sun warms, as I cross the street to City Lights Book Store,
climb stairs to the Poetry Room where I
plan to read and maybe buy a book or two,

not prepared to see cameras lining the far wall
and spotlights drowning out sunlight

as a filmmaker greets a white-haired man—
Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

For a poet this is nirvana,
so I whisper, May I stay? 
If you are very quiet.

I’m barely breathing and promise to be still.

Ferlinghetti first interviews the filmmaker:
Aids Quilt, Harvey Milk, 30 years in the City.

Then the Poet Laureate of San Francisco begins his story: Howl, Jack Kerouac the Beat Poets,
admits he was never the poet they were.

Started City Lights in ’53, wanted poets to have a place to speak their work.

He confides: Awards are meaningless.
Quotes Mailer, They’re like hemorrhoids,
every asshole gets one.


 As they break from filming, I approach him,  introduce myself as a writer from Sanibel, Florida. 

He remembers the island, we chat, he signs two books then returns to muted light.
They’ve hung a black curtain over the window. 

I descend the stairs and step back into the sun
streaming all over North Beach, streaming down
in the meshes of morning.


Lorraine Walker Williams

Poetry

A Sampling of Lorraine's Poetry

About the poem:  Featured in The Pen Woman, Winter 2021, National League of American Pen Women.

Seeking Shells

About the poem:  Forthcoming in the Lawrence Ferlinghetti Tribute Anthology from Jambu Press.

ArtPoem 2020

Lorraine Walker Williams

Award Winning Poet

Lorraine Walker Williams

Virtual

    I am a rock, I am an island,
    I touch no one and no one touches me.

                            Simon and Garfunkel


The problem is I am not a rock,
I am nerve-ending needy.

A voice, a smile…images transmitted speak from screens…
my granddaughter at one
reaches for me inside the phone pleading,
Gramma, Gramma.
I want to smell her baby scent, cuddle her close.

In a class in gallery mode onscreen,
I am pixels transformed across a continent
in a virtual room with others I used to sit next to.

Calls are made by appointment so we
have something to look forward to,
to mark the day on empty calendars.

Connect with family, friends, a series of virtual hugs.
I hear touch in our voices. Tones soothe and
settle like candlelight and soft music…
like distant bells marking matins and vespers.

Like hands on a clock that once touched,
I have become digital, a pulsing blip on a screen.

I touch no one and no one touches me.


Lorraine Walker Williams

About the poem:  This poem began as an observation of the simple act of braiding hair. Since the poem is written in sestina form, the six end words of the first verse have to follow a pattern and repeat as end words in the next 5 stanzas. This challenged me to expand images and move in new directions until the last 3 lines which bring us back to the simple act of braiding.

About the poem:  Published in First Wave, anthology of poetry from the New Jersey Beach Bards Program.

Woman in Black


Woman in black with long, blonde hair,
serpentine shadow slinks gray-white,
slips from the painter’s brush to stare

like Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Stair.
Shattered yet focused, eyes like night,
woman in black with long, blonde hair.

Head tilted forward, nostrils flared,
silenced in paint, crimson lips tight,
glides from the artist’s brush to stare

from pale canvas with eyes that dare
to speak her words, to claim her right.
Woman in black with long, blonde hair,

Mona Lisa in swift repair.
Her smile beguiles, her moment ripe,
slides from the painter’s brush, to stare,

to mark, to trace across space where
the palette masks her form in flight.
Woman in black with long, blonde hair,
slips through the artist’s brush, beware.


Lorraine Walker Williams

On the beach a blowout tide—
Sandbars, tide pools, Gulf water

recedes exposing live shells
scattering late afternoon light.

Eyes fixed on finding tiny olive,
limpet shells that will drop through

the narrow neck of a bottle
to be carried away to mountains.

With each careful choosing,
a shell holds sea’s memory.

One live shell wiggles free and
I cast it into the shallows,

soon swallowed by waves
secure offshore.

Mid-summer when I miss
the ocean most these tide tossed

shells pull me back—
splashing salt water,

walking wet sand barefoot,
holding the sea in my hand.

Hummingbird


Hummingbird swoops afternoon sky,
flits bloom to bloom on whirling wings,
sipping sweetness, pauses then flies.

Feathers catch light as shadows glide,
glistening leaves hide rainbow rings,
hummingbird swoops afternoon sky,

Spinning, swirling, catches my eye.
Iridescent wings almost cling,
sipping sweetness, pauses then flies.

Hovers in air, never soars high.
Flower’s nectar beckons, then brings
hummingbird close, swoops from the sky.

Sweeps past trees, evanescent guide,
a flash of color seems to sing
sipping sweetness, pauses then flies.

Fleeting moments too soon pass by,
yet bird’s flight changes everything.
Hummingbird swoops afternoon sky,
sipping sweetness, pauses then flies,


Lorraine Walker Williams

After the Election

I walk the white path to the beach
          skewed after the storm.

          Dunes breached by waves,

                    grass drowned in salt water,

                    tossed in random rivulets
          that carved sand like an angry sculptor.

Yes, I have seen water’s devastation,
          the power and force
          that tears a house from its moorings,
                    splinters a fence into ribbons of wood.

After sea’s rage, a silence settles.
          I listen; the lapping tongues of water
          almost voice remorse.

           Beach flattened, dunes displaced,
                    sand hauled offshore,
                    held hostage beneath waves.

Ocean’s power shifts below the surface,
                    each grain propelled with the current,
                    a massive migration
                              toward land and into light,

wave by wave, grain by grain,
          reclaiming the beach,
          building new paths
                    I will walk.


Lorraine Walker Williams

Two Braids: A Sestina


Her child’s hair wet from the shower,
the mother’s fingers caress her head,
comb out tangles, separate
long strands, twist one on another.
The child holds her head still
as braiding rhythm repeats.

Her grandmother watches a pattern repeat,
brushing her daughter’s hair after a shower,
wrapping her close, wanting time to stand still.
Soap clean, she kisses her head.
Her child grows, years fold one to another,
mother and child like two braids, separate,
 
like sun and falling rain separate.
Days and seasons repeat,
streaming one to another.
Clouds, heavy with rain before a shower,
undone like braids on the head.
Hair falls free, air becomes still.

 Grandmother’s hands still
remember silk strands separate
like moonlight on water at the head
of the bay. Wave after wave repeats
tide’s ebb and flow, showers
starlight from night.  Other

voices summon the days, other
dreams fade from light, still
the grandmother showers
love on the child, cannot separate
the braid she weaves and repeats
through time and space in her head
 
to breath’s rise and fall of the child’s head.
Distance carries one away from the other.
The braid spins out, rhythm repeats
flutters on feathered wings. Still,
their hearts never unravel or separate,
love steady as rain in a shower


forms a rainbow, shines on the child’s head still.
A mother separates one fine strand from another,
fresh from the shower, braid upon braid repeats.


Lorraine Walker Williams

Unraveling


Pay attention to the wisp
of hanging thread on the hem
or a loose button on slacks—
beginning the unraveling unnoticed
until hem sags or button
clicks on the floor or worse, is lost.

Seems like such a tiny thing,
like air moved by a butterfly wing
can build a breeze, become wind,
toss trees or fan a fire’s loss.
Rain spills, soaks hills,
runs downstream, overflows,
destroys dreams.

So it seems in a relationship,
unraveling begins from within—
a word spoken or left unsaid,
a heart  broken, a turn of the head.
Missed cues accrue and a bond
becomes undone.

Yet sun and tides will rise,
a wound heals then renews.
After roses bloom with stems cut,
a bud forms along with thorns,
unfurls, spills perfume, soon fills
the darkest heart with stars and moon
unraveling into spring.
 

Lorraine Walker Williams