Of words, and stitches, vast unlived spaces, and grace.

{imperfect in every way, still, a life of beauty.}

i want to tell you something real, something honest—how from one week to the next i hadn’t noticed a hole forming at the bottom of the sheet on my bed.

how could this be? how is it possible that i have removed this sheet from my bed week after week, putting it in the washing machine, watching it turn and turn and turn in the small soap-foamy ocean behind the blind eye of that glass door, my hands making food, washing dishes, chasing words into poems, teaching maths at the kitchen table.

busy, busy, busy.

a life.

what i mean to say is this—i have done this before with things other than sheets.

can i say this?

should i dress it up as a confession?

there are things that have fallen apart right in front of me because i did not notice.

yes, a confession it will have to be.

and always the breath is knocked straight out of my hope at the way that something has broken right in front of my eyes, and with me living right there, breathing my life all over it.

i was taught how to live my life held taut in the lines of attention.

some people, even children, know how to do this from the moment they learn how to read.



the language of the bodies in the same room with them.

i have made a life out of paying attention.

and here, i have failed.

when i saw the way that the fibres were pulling away from each other in the very place where they covered my feet, the holiest of holies, the part of me that binds me to the earth with their bareness, in that moment, i knew choice.

i washed it once more for luck, perhaps for love.

i knew what i wanted.

i wanted to save this fabric, this quiet domesticity that i once chose so carefully, and again, did i tell you how it covered my body, my bare skin, my nakedness, but more than this, i wanted to make it beautiful, wanted above all else keep it close to my hands, my eyes.

sheets do so many things. they keep the body warm. keep it covered. in life.

also, i have pulled it over many faces once they have stepped into the other room.

there are many ways in which to cover things.

and the body doesn’t always know how to let go. sometimes it needs to be guided.

in ripping it apart, i gave it new life.

and then i let it sit for a while, dormant, a quiet wintering in my cupboard.

until it called to me, sang to my hands—these hands that have planted so many things in the wrong places.

sang to them a song of making, of seeing new things, or perhaps seeing old things as new.

and i, of the eyes that hadn’t noticed—answered with a sigh.

invited into the failing place, the heart space, my life

that lay torn into unequal strips.

soft and lived.

at first

i refused to make a mark on the white, worn landscape.

if i placed it wrong again, i couldn’t bare it.

i have carved lines all over the spine of my life, my ribs, needing to hold the control, and still i have found myself lost.

no, this time i would allow myself to be led, and so i chose first the thread, and then

to let go.

red is the colour of blood, and life, and death, and i have bled and bled and bled, and still

i live.

isn’t that a miracle right there?

still, i live.

put your needle right here, the song whispered, puncture the vastness, the fear of what lies beyond the nothing that you think you hold in your hands.

pierce it.

know that even you, especially you, can break things.

but you can come back.


you have the thread.

once you eat the courage it takes to hold it in your hands, you are ready to make

beauty out of failure.

see the way that the stitches crawl forward on their small hands and knees.

this is you.

this is you.

and how there are corners taken wildly, also you.

a leap into the unknown, how the way unfolds

and unfolds.

and unfolds.

and still

there is


turning. turning. turning.

into the substance of the things that you hope for, even when someone says, no, this is not how you do it.

this is not how you belong to the life that you say that you are, even then, you hold it up in your hands and you crawl on your knees.

you have the thread.

courage. hope.

hold it.

a life lived inward, always finding the end of the path and then when you think you are at the wall and now it is over, you look to your left, and you face the life with no name.

and you turn.

turning. turning. turning.

i stitched in the morning as the swifts cut the morning sky into tatters.

i stitched in the afternoon as my son told me about coral reefs, sea stars, how much he loves my wobbly thighs.

i stitched at night by the soft lamp-light next to my bed, when i missed everything that loved me.

i stitched my way through an entire life and at the end of it all,

all i had was one small square, but also

a diamond

depending on sleight of hand.

i confess, that i have held my life upside down at times to make it look better.

to make it look like


later, when i arrived at the centre of it all, i stood in that unborn place where nothing had happened yet, and it was up to me, and dear God, my hands are so full of things that i cannot name yet, they are still too young to be named out loud, other than

please, and thank you, and miracle.

and i listened.

i held it like that for a few days, wondering whether it was finished.

is it done?

can i let go now?

not yet, said the song, find the green thread

and stitch a growing, greening place.

a womb.

then you can stop.

this is you.

when you can see that you are enough.

this is you.

when you can see that you have broken things.

this is you.

that your very hands have ripped them apart.

this is you.

not noticing when things have stopped breathing.


you are choice. you are choice. you are choice.

your name is your own.

you took it all and made a life.

and if you should ask me,

what is it? what will you do with it, this quiet piece of cloth?

i will tell you this,

i don’t know.

isn’t it the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?

isn’t it enough just as it is?

how it is full of words, full of soft things that knew my skin, and broken things, and how i ripped it with my own hands, and how i have crawled on my hands and knees towards beauty, towards the word


how i have bled, and bled, and bled, and still

i live

around this soft, green, space that i have made with a few uneven stitches.

held deep, i am the presence of this, the gift.

i will not let go, especially now.

call it grace if you want to.

call it, love, even failure.

this is me.

tell me, what more should i do with this?

© Liezel Graham 2021.

One thought on “Of words, and stitches, vast unlived spaces, and grace.

  1. […] ills of this world—look for the loveliness and your life will always be sparkly and bright? No, choosing to look for the good; for the beauty, is often hard work and it requires a conscious decisi…, but my experience over the last two decades has been that the more I practice this (as an art) the […]

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s