Barbara Williams © 2015 website by pcmacavtech.com
Barbara has just finished working on a memoir and also has a screenplay in development. These are various pieces she has written while studying with her long time mentor Jack Grapes.
I was walking alone it was a starless night and i was sad, deeply lonely and barren to the bone
Then i came to the end of the earth
I could see it’s arc
There were people sitting in bleachers
Like an audience in a darkened movie theatre
Watching the black screen of night
Waiting for the show a galactic opera or maybe a sermon from the minister of stars, though there were no stars
There was no room for me on the bleachers
This was the end of the world club
Though i had the qualifications i didn’t belong
There was no indication what was coming but it was clear it was something big
I saw it first
From the unwatched hemisphere a vessel appeared
Something like an army helicopter, dark and ominous
A black hole absorbing my personal gravity
It bullied it’s way through the unguarded sky then suddenly jerked and bumped, then started to careen out of control..the spectators sat up and watched the drama
From inside the distressed ship the silhouette of two figures appeared, two little wizards crawling out from either side and joining together on top. From their middle they produced a golden orb which they hurled into the empty sky just as the black flying machine exploded. The people cheered for the disaster and in their excitation, failed to see the golden orb spinning off across the sky. Oh wonderful distraction.. Glorious sacrifice..
I tracked the orb from below and when it was directly over me, it rotated to reveal the inner part of it’s goldeness. It was a baby.
It kept spinning. I chased after it. I had to catch it. I ran and ran, i had to save it. Had to see it at least.
It lost momentum over a field and started to drop. I was bursting with frustration. My legs were propelled with a speed beyond my capacity but i couldn’t get there in time. A hundred yards from me, it landed. In the arms of a young girl. I stopped and absorbed my disappointment. Then approached, once again, to give my congratulations to someone else. She lfted her head and held the baby in outstretched arms. Then said “ for you “
Some years later i was driving to the growing place. My son’s voice came out of silence as it so often does. “hey mama, when i was a golden orb flying across the sky, who caught me?”
I very carefully answered “her name was chandra” for a long time he didn’t speak then he said “aren’t we lucky she was such a good catch”
© 2013 Barbara Williams
PALLID WHITE LILY FACE, UNBLEMISHED, UNLINED UNMARRED FLOWER OF FATHERS ASPIRATIONS. THIN RED PETAL LIPS CUTELY TUGGED BY UPTURNED PRETTY NOSE THAT’S NEVER SMELLED THE STINK OF PERPETUAL STRUGGLE.
PALE ELISABETH GENTLY GRIPPING PEN (perhaps a graduation gift) WITH COLOURLESS HAND, STILL SOFT AS A CHILD’S, WRITING CLEVER MEMO THAT ELICITS DISCREET SMIRKS OF CONFIDENCE FROM PARTNERS ON PROSECUTORIAL TEAM. HER BROW CARRIES NO CONCERN. SHE WILL PERFORM WELL. FATHER WILL HEAP PRAISE WHETHER ROUND IS WON OR LOST. IF LOST HE WILL BOLSTER HER TO RESTRATAGIZE. LOSING HELPS YOU WIN BETTER NEXT TIME, AN ATTITUDE DOUBTLESSLY INCULCATED SINCE FIRST STEP. SHE SHIFTS HER LONG THIN CALVES SHAPED TO VOGUE PERFECTION BY IMMACULATE HEELS TOWARD THE UNMISTAKEABLE SHUFFLE OF INCARCERATED.
“NO HAND GESTURES TO ACCUSED” BARKS DEPUTY,”NO EYE CONTACT”. WIFE DELIA, BIRTHED on the DARK side OF LOSING, AGED WITH WORRY, DEPRIVED OF SHACKLED HUSBAND HALF YEAR ALMOST, JOB IN JEOPARDY FOR being HERE, PLEADING WITH EVICTORS FOR ONE MORE WEEK, EYES RED RIMMED WITH INEFFECTUAL EXPLANATIONS TO FEVERISHLY CONFUSED CHILDREN STANDS TRANSLATING TO SALVADORANO KIN IN LEAKY RASP.
PRICKLY OLD BIGOT WITH GAVEL REFUSES TO HEAR TESTIMONY FROM RESPECTED PRIEST. I KNOW WHAT HE HAS TO SAY” DECLARES CURMUDGEONLY BASTARD. “IT’S IRRELEVANT.”
ELISABETH STIFLES SMILE OF RELIEF. FROM Rough BARRIOS OF EAST L.A. TO privileged PARLORS OF WEST side. TO HALLOWED HALLS OF POPELAND, FATHER IS GREATLY LOVED, WHITE AND IRREFUTABLY GOOD. A POTENTIALLY TROUBLESOME THORN HAS BEEN PLUCKED BEFORE IT STUCK. DEFENCE COLLAPSES. BAIL DENIED. LUCKY ELISABETH HANDS STILL CLEAN. I don’t know you but I judge you.
“You always yell help,” says a tow-
Some minutes before, Vero and I were sprinting along the shore, reveling in the serendipity of us both being in the same place at the same time. Liam and Viva frolicked in the shallow surf. We are in Puff the magic dragon land. I can’t remember the names of places in Hawaii, not enough letters in their alphabet to make words distinct, but I remember a land called Honelee.. pronounced Honelei.
Viva is cold, she wants a towel. She’s such a skinny thing.
The blue sky against the green ocean, Liam walking through the waves. I snap a shot.
In retrospect, it’s an ominous image.
Tom wants a picture of him and Vero and turns her bikinied butt to the camera..she protests, but not too much. She’s my only friend who plays coquette agreeably. It’s the French thing. Tom takes the camera and Vero and I beam like goofy tourists.
I notice Liam’s brown back getting smaller on the horizon. I’m not thinking anything, I just follow his path. He looks lonely. Did he and Viva have a spat? They often do. He’s no longer wading but is waist deep. The heat has left the day. The sky has turned dramatic.
A substantial wave crops up. Liam is swallowed and when his head appears he is farther away. Too far. His stroke has no form, it’s weak, powerless. “Jesus Christ, he’s got to take real swimming lessons,” I’m thinking. He is calling to me but I can’t hear. I am running against the ocean’s will. “Swim” I shout. How did he get so far out?
Another wave. Some lucky surfers, 100 yards over have timed it right, and gracefully ride inside the smooth tunnel. Liam is flapping his arms uselessly. This is a surfer beach. No one is swimming. What the fuck was I thinking? The sun is going down. The lifeguards have gone home.
Now I hear his words “I can’t move, mom.”
I’m having trouble moving too. I saw those signs on the beach. They didn’t register. “Danger, rip currents..blah blah” Shit, it’s hard getting through this water.
A tattooed man is approaching from the side. Another wave. I lose sight of Liam, then a small part of his upturned face bobs out of the water. He’s coughing.
“Swim across the current” Tattooed Guy yells to Liam. “Can he swim?” he asks me. “Yes, but..” You wouldn’t think so by the way he’s flailing. He’s not hysterical, just frustrated, like when he crumples up his worksheet because he hates cursive. “Aargh” he growls.
I make my way to him, and lift him up by the armpits. My head’s above water but the bottom has disappeared. I peddle strenuously with my feet.
Tattooed guy is maybe 15 feet away, up to his waist, he can see where the current is and comes as close as he can. “Swim that way” he gestures with his hand. I know this. Yes. Swim parallel to the shore. I remember. I’ve dealt with currents before but nothing like this. This is foreign. This is a stingray zapper to the heart. I’m holding Liam up so his head won’t go under. I can’t take the risk to let him go. Only in nightmares have I felt this frantic paralysis. Resisting against an unknown force. Can’t let it take us. The God of the underworld is pulling us to his realm. In dreams I would lose the struggle and then find it wasn’t so bad after all. Sucked under, finding Nemo. Beautiful colors, growing gills.
“Aargh” Liam growls again. He’s not growing gills. He’s spitting up water. I’m thinking about the plane directive to use the gas mask for yourself because you’re no good to anyone if you pass out. It doesn’t apply. I can’t let go of him., but we’re both sinking.
Tattooed guy starts shouting loudly, waving his arms to a man on his surfboard on the other side of the danger zone “Hey!! Hey, over here! The guy doesn’t get it at first, but as he nears, he sees what’s going on.
“It’s right there”, Tattooed guy indicates the rip current trench, “Push your board over to them.” Surfer guy looks a little freaked out, even though he’s on a sandbar up to his torso. Safe. It’s weird, almost banal, how close they both are. The Surfer holds onto the leash and pushes his board to within an arms length of me. It’s all I can do to flop Liam on to it and hold on as we are pulled out.
Tom and Vero are standing close to shore. Tom is clapping. “Well done.” he says. I wrap Liam in a towel and he silently drifts over to the palm frond fort he made earlier with Viva. He doesn’t want me to hug him. He’s done with the drama.
The surfer guy must be one of the silhouettes still riding waves. Getting back on the horse.
The tattooed guy is leaving the beach with his little girl on his shoulders. I thank him again, he nods. He knows how grateful I am.
“You always yell help” his daughter has been well-
I nod but for the next 3 nights I can’t stop the image of Liam’s arms struggling against the waves and his head disappearing under the water.
So I wrote this. Just to remind people how insidious the ocean can be.
© 2013 Barbara Williams
You Always Yell Help by Barbara Williams
WASTE by Barbara Williams
on the shelf
In this family
Love Is In The Air
When the light is strong like this
the wind so excited
Birds joy ride on wreckless currents
Pride of medeira sway in jerky circles
Like fans at a heavy metal concert
Shouting Give it to me, give it to me
Old trees split their branches
While air nymphs carry pollen
from brimming stamens
to the perfect pistil
© 2013 Barbara Williams
Barbara’s memoir “The Hope in Leaving” is arriving in book stores March 15th 2016
and is available for pre-
"If you appreciate Mary Karr and Jeannette Walls, you'll want to read Williams's
eloquent memoir of growing up in and out of the harsh lumber camps of British Columbia.
In an honest, compelling voice devoid of self-
"Barbara Williams is the daughter of wanderlust. She grew up in logging camps, skid
roads, and temporary homes on Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. Her
father was ‘Handsome Jack,’ the man who danced on tree-
"Barbara Williams has written a breathtaking, ruthlessly poetic coming of stage; a
memoir that reads more like a hardscrabble book of common prayer. Hope In Leaving is
a born writer's pure and savage plainsong, a ghost dance summoning family, hope,
endurance, and the transcendence of love." -
"Authentic. Human. Unselfconscious. Beautifully crafted. The Hope in Leaving is a
jewel of a book." -
I always behaved
as if being watched
always wanting to please
I don’t know what
I would have done
If God blinked
Who would I be?
When life was bad
I just pleased harder
not questioning his judgment
Until I was sent
to live with a family
who called me Babs
was a Barbara too
who rode a pony
that I was not
allowed to touch
a rotten pumpkin
Up a tree
And dropped it
on her little horse
And made her fall
And for once
punishment made sense.
I climbed a tree
another time od’ed
To look into his eye
“what’s the fucking point”
As I slid
down the trunk
Into a hospital bed
His watchful eye
observing every twitch
if I would Succumb
to the ultimate crime
and when it was
so close as
to be pornographic
I grabbed the eye
And held it
Through breaking glass
So we both could know
Just what I felt.
The punctured eye
inside my chest
where it’s been
recovering ever since.
© 2013 Barbara Williams
|Pallid White Lily Face|
|You Always Yell Help|
|Love Is In The Air|