Reading between your own lines.

you can wear a pair of shoes out
or a life
by walking the same road, over and over

just like words, perhaps
by getting to the end
and not realising it is the end, you turn to the left instead
listening to the small voice of your life
still wanting to be your old life

and you don’t give up, do you?

perhaps you have told yourself,

well, it’s not so bad, at least i know which way to go

and then you don’t, because
you have always known which way you are going

and really, it’s far better to get lost
and to stay there

so, instead of letting go

looking down
you search for something else to strap onto your feet

things are failing, letting you down


all your days are weeping, your years are too afraid to hope
that things might change, might fit into your hands
differently, this time

perhaps you have told yourself that all you need
is something sturdy, less glamour
less hope
a little less red, Dorothy, will see you through
don’t you know that some roads are hard work
and ruby shoes are not for the likes of you

a life has to fit into its box, and you
do not get to choose, do not get to ask
for the way out, for the path
that leads to a spacious place
a clearing
where the water sings to the moon
and the long grass

i have given up on shoes many times before
it’s easy when you know how to walk
better if you know how to run
close to the earth, near to the sky
where the hidden, green world
is pregnant with everything you cannot hold
cannot own

perhaps you should just walk barefoot

i do it all the time, but i must add
that i grew up a little feral, a little wild
i still eat my life from the inside out
using my bare hands

but also, i know the taste of
i know that feet need to feel the earth, need to know
the shape of each stone
as it presses into the arch of
that keeps me standing

and i know that i have told you to always look up
it’s true

don’t stop

that’s where the soft-winged things live
where they fold themselves gently
like mothers
over little cups filled with tears

all the ways in which i have prayed without once using my mouth

it’s true, and i have told you so many things
but please do not think that i hold your map

you do, and you might have to unfold it, wrap it
around your shoulders

or rip it up into a million mustard seeds
because what you need now, is a thing called

and maps don’t always go so well with this

before you leave, before you let your toes sink deep into the earth
isn’t it wonderous how mud can hold you

such a holy thing, mud

did you know this?
sometimes you need to go back, need to ask for more

need to ask

once isn’t always enough to fix what is broken
what has stopped working

sometimes you need to be reminded, need to be given
a small sparrow breathing bravely in your hands

know this

that all of us need to be held
perhaps a little loosely
perhaps so tight
that fear will unlearn itself, curling back
into its bones, stretching into a new shape
until it falls asleep in the light

may i give you a little pebble to keep in your pocket?
if you let it, it can slay a giant

one of the hardest words to say, is very tiny
almost always
from the mouth like this,

‘i am fine, really’

when this happens, pick it up
and put it far back
onto the moist pink of your tongue
let it dissolve there

do not set it free until it looks like this,


— how to read between your own lines

© Liezel Graham 2021.

Image by Anastasiia Balandina, on Unsplash.

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