Lorraine Walker Williams' new book, Simply Sanibel Poems, is out!

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: 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.