Lorraine Walker Williams


Inspired by Barbara Gage Milford’s “Northern Maine Barn”

Why do I feel longing when I pass

a weathered barn along the road?
A barn with the sweet straw smell
of summer and scarred red boards
tucked into a field where horses
graze and children climb split-rail
fences close enough to lean and
touch the horse’s mane.

When I wander country roads
with nowhere special to go and
happen upon an abandoned barn,
I want to gaze awhile at the
gray patina, once dressed red,
the splintered boards, some still
hanging, and the jagged hole
in the roof that lets birds in.

Doors unlatched, one can almost
smell the animals once housed
in stalls, cats curled asleep
on sultry afternoons, and imagine
the glint of pitchforks above bales
of hay, and know a community
where neighbors came together
to build a barn.

Perhaps an abandoned barn is
a vision of the past disappearing
a little each season as it ages—
Barns slick with rain, framed in
autumn leaves or blanketed with
snow echo in the distant laughter
of children flopping on hay,
piled high after harvest.

 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

About the Poem: A draft of this poem was written after the massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. I was still working on the poem when I walked along San Carlos Bay and ironically counted 20 ducks. This poem is one of two ArtPoems I read on Saturday, February 27 at the ArtPoems Performance at BIG ARTS.

On Guns

Twenty ducks float on the waves of the bay…

Teacher tells the children a wild animal
is loose in the building. They must hide,
stay together until he is caught.
Bad guys are in the school and they
have to wait for good guys to come.

Twenty ducks paddle and swim this day…

A bullet hits a child, kills a child.
Tender flesh hugged a teddy bear in bed,
small fist clutched a frayed blanket,
child sat on Santa’s lap, whispered…
Bloodied mass brings the coroner to tears.

Twenty ducks bobble, bullets spray…

First grader left a heart crayoned red,
hand-lettered note, “I love you mom.”
Bullets pierce a child, kill a child.
Twenty children who smile in photos
eyes filled with light, no longer see.

Twenty ducks blind, life blown away…

Kiss on the child’s soft cheek—
Kiss mom, dad good-bye,
Dora the Explorer lunch box filled,
peanut butter and jelly sandwich…
Bullets shatter a child, kill a child.

Twenty ducks dead, blood on the bay…


The Turquoise House

There’s a turquoise house down the beach,
a turning point where we draw the line
to walk back up the sand.

Sometimes a swift pace in sneakers,
sometimes our feet splashing surf.

We step around royal terns resting,
pass a rare reddish egret fishing.

Glancing out to sea, pelicans
fly in formation, dip wings into a dive,
waves and tides in steady motion.

I look through photos of us on the beach
smiling, so happy in those moments—

I want to turn back to those afternoons
and once again walk with waves,

birds huddled at shoreline
sand littered with shells and
our footprints sinking in sand,

making our way to the turquoise house.

Lorraine Walker Williams

shots fired from a Bushmaster
inflict mortal wounds…parents
claim broken bodies they had given life.
Bullets killed this child, guns killed this …
child...killed this…child...killed…this…child.

Twenty ducks float on the waves of the bay…
Twenty ducks paddle and swim this day…
Twenty ducks bobble, bullets spray…
Twenty ducks blind, life blown away…
Twenty ducks dead, blood on the bay…

 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: This ArtPoem was written in response to the accompanying painting. Barns have a special place in my heart and evoke many memories. This poem is one of two ArtPoems I read on Saturday, February 27 at the ArtPoems Performance at BIG ARTS.

About the Poem: I began writing this poem after reading an article about freedom of the press. Diverse opinions need a place at the table.

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.

Seeking Shells

A Seat at the Table

No matter the challenge or price I may pay,
no one can stop me from having my say.

Words flow like water, flooding and
rising through power and play—
No one can stop me from having my say.

Report and repeat what they may,
oozing, recusing fake news day by day.
Who would dare stop me from having my say?

Distraction, delay may seem far away,
little by little our rights slip and fray.
No cameras record what I want to say.

So I tap away, words in the silence,
crippled, forgotten, one click away.

Still, one voice joins another, a growing display—
No one can stop me from having my say.

Lorraine Walker Williams

About the poem:A poem of memory is always triggered by what once was and a longing to return to a happier time. For me, the beach is a healing place that gives me a measure of peace..


A Sampling of Lorraine's Poetry

I Wish I Had Better Sins
from Split Poems

I wish I had better sins than not pleasing you.
Mea culpa. Let me offer the sin of lust desiring
to be loved above all else or that nasty sin of lying
tucked with tassels of truth like a silly hat.

I wish I had better sins than anger sputtering words,
black and sticky on the tongue. Please give me
the sin of greed, avarice like a cocktail
served with crushed ice to settle my alarming need.

I wish for the sin of gluttony, wantonly eating and
drinking to distress. Allow me to lounge across the
table and overeat my words and vomit them on
your plate. Forgive my gross lack of better sins.

I am distracted by envy and her green-sequined sister,
jealousy gossiping about my sloth of better sins.
Help me to reach the epitome of hate or murder
although I know I will never learn to fire a gun.

Do I wish I had lied or been unfaithful?
No, I must confess I am only guilty of pride and
slow to understand all the sin you tried to hide—
I wish I could offer you better sins.

Lorraine Walker Williams

Award Winning Poet