do you know what my freedom tastes like?

i go to the store for essentails,

eggs,

bread,

and bags

to line the kitcen bin with.

but in the fruit aisle i am seduced by mangoes from a hot country,

and i fall in love

right there.

i touch,

i pick up,

and i smell

the ripeness of the red skin

and

everything that lies beneath.

i have never liked mangoes,

a woman says to me.

they are too messy,

and the juice

stains.

i nod quietly at her truth, but

i also go home to my kitchen where nothing makes sense anymore

since a lifetime ago.

and here, in the afternoon light,

i peel and i slice,

and i cut away,

until

the flesh blooms ripe orange

in my hungry hands,

like the sun,

or truth.

and i eat the fragrant offering,

the juice running down my

chin and onto my shirt.

and i think to myself,

this will leave a mark that cannot ever be removed.

and it tastes like freedom,

and like all the more

that i have been

searching for,

for so long

now.

— do you know what my freedom tastes like?

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Ruth Currie.

the lies we tell ourselves.

a few nights ago, whilst paging through a magazine, i read a letter

by ‘struggling to trust’, penned in desperation to an agony aunt column, and

she writes—this woman with an ancient question burning in her bones—that she had known a man for a long time, since they were not much more than children, and how she had planted love at his feet, in wild faith, as we women sometimes do, but

how he did not notice the fragrance of the flowers that bloomed around her when he was near, but still

she hoped.

for more. for him. for love.

and how they had lost sight of each other over the years, but love is a thing that does not easily die, even if it is only watered by one pair of hands,

and how there came a night where they were in the same place, geographically at least, and how he poured hot words all over her naked skin, and how she gave him her heart in her hands, and

she tells of his kiss, and his mouth and how it lingered on her limbs, and over the softest parts of her, and how he found the secret scar that runs across the half-moon of her right breast,

and she had once fought the darkness, and won, but

he did not know this, and

how his fingers had traced the full length of it, and how his mouth had moved over its landscape, on his conquering path, and how he did not stop to look into her eyes with ‘when’ and ‘how’ and ‘why’ on his lips, and

don’t scars in secret places whisper, there is more here and i am showing you everything that i have hidden from the world, and please look into my eyes and see what i am giving you, and

how the next morning he took all his words with him, and how they didn’t seem to shine as much in the light.

and what she really needed to know was how could she change so that she could be enough for him, and did this mean that he never really loved her?

and the reply came:

tell me…what do you think?

— the lies we tell ourselves.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Jaymantri.

absolution.

at least now

i can give you this.

that you are not responsible

for the landscape

of us.

i planted.

you ripped it all out.

without knowing,

i suppose.

you watered.

i let the hot sun fall.

on purpose,

i suppose.

at least now,

i can give you this.

— absolution.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

a reflection on how sometimes, we apportion blame unfairly onto the shoulders of another,

when relationships are planted and watered by two pairs of hands.

Photograph by Zachary de Bottis.

how to love a tired world.

i heard her — a real, live woman with a beating heart,

hidden

deep

inside her disappointment, say

what does it matter how i live, this world is hard, and why should i care about others, and don’t tell me to smile when nobody ever smiles at me.

and i said, i know, but look!

right here there is a field of orange

just for you,

and why don’t you lie down

in its green embrace and breathe.

just for a little bit.

and if you look up, far away, you will see millions of tiny water drops clinging to each other with sheer joy,

and yes,

i know they’re only clouds,

but soon they will pour their life out

all over this field, and

they won’t care about giving themselves away, and they won’t worry about tomorrow,

or whether the earth appreciates their

sacrifice, and

let

me

tell you a secret,

sometimes, love is messy.

but, i love anyway.

i give it away to everyone

who deserves it, and

especially to those who don’t.

because they are the hungriest, and they don’t know how to make it themselves, and

so i give it to them just like rain, with no expectation.

and really, it is so easy to let go of fear, and all the bits of what-will-they-think, that whisper in your ear, and

sometimes, they don’t want my smile, and they have walls that won’t let kindness through, and that’s ok.

i am not afraid of walls, because i have broken down my own from the inside out, and i know how hard it is to do.

but every now and then,

a word from my mouth flies right across a valley, and falls gently on a heart that hasn’t eaten kindness in weeks, and

it is like a rainstorm on a hot afternoon,

and the relief

when those clouds finally break,

is a living,

breathing

thing,

and i don’t think about the mess then, and

i’ll worry about that another day, and who really worries about cleaning when a tired heart blooms bright in front of your eyes, and all it needed was a bit of love?

so, come, leave your heart outside for a bit — right here with the flowers.

i think i smell rain in the air.

— how to love a tired a world.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Surreyhills Wellness.

how to fight death.

almost half my faith ago,

when i was wide-eyed

and

fresh in my skin,

a man in a white coat said

i think this might be all

that you’ll get, and

then

there will be no more days left,

for you to chase

in wonder.

and the thought that dying

might be difficult,

climbed onto

my lap and

stayed

with

me.

but somehow i was given more, and

ever since then i have run after

every scrap of beauty

that has danced

past me, and

the feel of the ocean on my skin, and the way that yellow freesias smell like joy, and the taste of the first cup of coffee in the morning, and the curve of my son’s nose against my breast as he nestled to feed in the dark, and the smell of rain after a drought, and the

way that my heart can still make

room for more love, and

how much courage

it takes to trust,

again

and

again, and

every time that fear

told

me

to

sit down,

i said no,

and i stood up.

and this is how i came to know

that living,

is the more difficult thing

to do.

not everybody knows

that dying is easy.

we are all doing it,

right now,

without even trying.

but

do

you

know

how to look fear in the eye,

and

say,

how beautiful is this day,

and i think i shall

enjoy it

very

much

to be

alive,

if only for a little while

longer.

— how to fight death.

(for djs with all my love).

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by David Boca.

honey and water.

she said, this man makes me

feel so alive and he is everything

that i have ever wanted, but

still he is not enough, and

still i need more, and

i don’t know what it is, and why do i always have this thirst in the middle of my heart, and how

do i fill it,

if not with love?

and i said, as gently as i could, because some words are spiky and need to be unwrapped with gentle hands, and

i asked my friend, with the father-shaped hole in her heart,

do you know the difference between honey and water?

do you know that there are men who will pour you cups of honey and oh, it will be so sweet on your tongue and you will feel all your holes fill up with golden stickiness, and

for a little while,

perhaps if you are very lucky,

and if you learn this lesson quickly, then

you will only believe this for a short while, and

you will think that honey is

liquid

love,

but it is not.

and it will never be enough.

because honey

will never

quench

your

thirst.

and you need to wait for a man

who is running water,

pure and full of life, who

will pour himself out, and into your cupped hands, and over your head, dripping down into your bones, filling up that thirst in the middle of your heart.

flooding it with the one thing

that always gives life, and

only then will you know the difference between words that fall sweetly from the tongue, and

the men who use them, and

words that will make an ancient thirst go away, and

they are not the same thing.

honey and water.

and what you should really know, is this,

it is not the man

who should heal your heart, and

only one man is shaped like your father, and

no other man can do that,

fill that hole,

and

fix that hurt.

although some men will try,

if their hearts are big enough for two, and

if they love you enough.

but it is not fair to expect a man to lie down in a hole made by another, so that you can walk across him to the other side, and

you have to find your own way out of that hurt, and when you finally manage to swim to the edge of that hole, and

you finally manage to crawl your way out through the mud, only

then will you know the difference between honey and water, and

you will know which men bring life in their hands, and

which men don’t.

and you will never confuse

them again, and

you will teach your daughter

how to sniff the air for the scent of rain, and you will show her how to walk away from things that do not flow over her thirst with life, and

she will know how to swim

to the edge of her pain, and

she will grow strong from climbing out of holes that were made by others, and

she will stand on the edge of that which wanted to drown her,

but couldn’t.

and water will run down her limbs, and drip from her skin, onto the dry dusty ground, until

everything under her feet blooms green.

and this will be your gift to her.

— honey and water.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Nicholas Githiri.