i was born a fire walker.
i did not want to feel the skin blister under my feet; smell the scorched offering that i was forced to become, but
the fire still came for me.
i had no choice.
and i have seen many things burn down into nothing.
i have thrown ash into the wind—watched it blow away
all the things that my young mouth promised before i knew that i would fail
and i have sat down by the rivers of babylon
and i have wept.
over and over,
i have peeled my skin off, only to put it back on in the morning.
i was stretched tight in all the wrong places and nobody knew
and after all the tears i thought i didn’t have, fell from me like rain,
i stood up,
on my new legs, and
i made tea as a new day birthed itself
inside of me.
i poured water into the teapot, the one with the pink flowers, that you gave to me, and
you have always known how to give beauty to me, despite who i am.
despite what i couldn’t be.
in the soft winter rain i saw a gift of light in the clouds over the old kilpatrick hills, and
not one, but two.
one for me and one for you.
and i knew the days of pretending were over.
i have stripped them from my back, and i have lost feathers, and skin.
but i have done it.
it is done.
i don’t have to pretend anymore.
the fire came for me and i ate it.
— first person, singular.
© Liezel Graham 2020.
Photograph by Grahame Jenkins.
With a grateful nod to songwriters Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the Jamaican reggae group ‘The Melodians’, who wrote the song ‘The Rivers of Babylon’.