unexpected things | words with elizabeth

the body remembers.

the body remembers everything, both good and bad, and she holds onto it, planting it in tiny pockets all over herself.

she hides it well, but she doesn’t like to let go of things, and sometimes she has a hard time remembering the lovely things, the kind things—finding it easier to pick up the sharp things by their thorns, they stick into the skin so much better, they can’t just be blown away by a soft exhale, she thinks she might need them again when she needs to warn you of danger, or trouble, or maybe someone who wants to come closer to your heart, or to your life.

she does. she thinks she is protecting you.

and one day, you might be sitting at your kitchen table where you never work, but here you are working on an old piece of fabric that once graced another’s woman’s skin, heard another woman’s stories, and you might hear a soft voice inside your chest, and she might sound like a young girl, and she might sound familiar, and she might whisper—

…remember how it happened in the kitchen, remember how the kitchen was never the same, remember how you could never sit on that side of the table without your throat closing up like an open clam threatened, perhaps with an ordinary fork, a thing to eat a meal with, but also a weapon, held against your face, all the fear, the way your legs stopped working, how your heart wanted to rip her way out of your chest, how your brain curled up into a ball and didn’t know what to do, how you try to walk around the memory on tip-toe, with light feet, how you sat in church the next day, singing holy holy holy is the name of the God you were given, how you wonder at the bible held open on his lap, and the fork, the fork, the fork…

do you remember now?

and you are safe.

and you might look up from the stitch you were about to make in honour of yourself, in honour of the others, a small thing this remembering, but see how it casts a big shadow, and she is shaped like healing, and things you cannot begin to know, but the fabric listens to your hands, listens to your fingers and it tells the stitches—here, and here, and here, is where you must go, and you see the soft snow falling outside, the fat flakes swirling towards the earth, and there is Beethoven on the radio, the candle blooming a sweet vanilla flame on the windowsill, and you in your own warm kitchen, a womb, and within arms’ reach a drawer full of forks used only for eating.

and you are safe.

© Liezel Graham 2022.

when i started this project, i had hoped it would give a voice to the narrative that permeates domestic violence.

it is doing so much more.

the remembering, the things just below the surface—how they are rising with each quiet needle pierce and how the stitches, the act of stitching, the fabric—how it all takes me to places i would never have anticipated.

and it’s all good.

our bodies remember trauma and fear, and they want to heal, and they want to play a role in their healing.

what is remembered, can be named, and what can be named, can be observed with compassion and kindness and love, and this is the beginning of healing.

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