i love you.

just as i was swallowing

the impossible blue

of the morning

sky,

the thing that knows my name

crawled

darkly

onto my lap, and

stayed

and for a moment

i was lost in every war

that ever

fought

me.

but you,

you with your three words

strung

on a sling,

your heart in your hands,

a pebble that slays.

— i love you.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photography by Flora Westbrook.

never underestimate the power of three simple words to fight big wars,

liezel

an exciting collaboration!

I can finally share some exciting news—the incredible indie band, Keeper of Bees has used one of my short poems in a new song in a collaboration with The Ocean Beneath.

I heard the rough track yesterday and it is beautiful!

I’ll share more when I can, but for now I am going about my day with a big smile on my face.

https://www.facebook.com/keeperbeesmusic/

i have made beauty from everything they said was broken.

when i was in labour with you,

all

those

hungry

years of waiting,

the anaesthetist ran his hands gently down my spine.

his voice running over my pain like water,

has anyone ever told you that you have scoliosis?

yes, i nodded, right in the middle of a contraction that felt like it could force continents apart.

a woman knows when she is held up by imperfection.

is that why it hurts so much?

a murmur—yes—a stranger’s fingers moving up and down my vertebrae;

an attempt to tame the thing that was wild within my bones, right from the start, and

later, when the light broke hot pink and wild orange, all over our new life, you were a soft weight on my chest, and i was learning how to keep you alive with all the broken pieces that i had, and

all i could smell was heaven.

it was there in your hair, and in your cries, and the way that your fingers curled around mine, and

how could something like this, ever have been made in the dark?

all this beauty that was built, in spite of a foundation that is still tilted

rebelliously.

— i have made beauty from everything they said was broken.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Dominika Roseclay.

the beds in my grandmother’s house were heavy with love and i miss you.

the beds in my grandmother’s house were heavy with blankets and floral sheets—orange and purple and pink— that made me happy when i was eight, and nine, and six.

and again when i was twenty-one,

they were a cool, familiar weight on a cold night, and

here child, put a hot water bottle by your feet, or else you’ll catch your death, and i have never seen a winter such as this, and let’s have some hot chocolate before we turn out all the lights.

and all that love weighed the same as a soft, round body and it wrapped us up, and sleep was an easy thing to chase, then.

when you were four and i was six.

and now, i am on the other side of forty-six and you are forever forty-four, and i am pretty sure that’s cheating, and why are there no rules to this game, and

i have never seen a winter such as this, and

my sheets are white now, and unfloral, and i don’t really like purple, and every night i kick the duvet off my feet,

the air cool on my skin, so

that i can feel,

and move,

and

escape, if i need to.

there are things that are heavy in the dark, do you remember them?

and it turns out that it isn’t that easy to catch your death if it is not your time,

yet.

but if it is,

then it is.

and here we are,

you forever forty-four, and i am on the other side of six, and i am pretty sure that’s cheating, but i’ll let it go this time.

there are no rules to this game.

— the beds in my grandmother’s house were heavy with love and i miss you.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Jackson Jorvan.

a little bit of freeform poetry on a wednesday afternoon.

x

my words are always making poems.

the poet fears the loss of words to rearrange on paper, and

there are many places in the heart that a drought can happen, but

last night i told my son a story before sleep claimed him from me,

and he laughed,

and laughed.

his mouth a happy moon in a dark night, and

this morning my words carried the sun on their shoulders as they left my mouth to call him back, and

he heard, and smiled in his sleep.

that is how far they can travel when they do not need my

permission.

the poet fears the loss of words that will obey her on paper, but

see how many quiet ones slip out when she is not looking, but

they will not be shaped into poems where they do not want to live.

no.

some words are made to fall all over sleep-soft skin.

they are made entirely of love.

— my words are always making poems.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Magda Ehlers.

Mrs Garland’s Gift.

Mrs Garland’s gift.

Take everything with both hands and ask for more.’

Sometimes in life, a fortunate stroke of serendipity might allow us to encounter profound wisdom in a quite unexpected place, and moments like these only later reveal themselves as seed for hope.

Such was my good fortune one sunny morning when I was out for a walk in the fresh air of a long-awaited Spring, almost twenty years ago now, but the memory remains fresh in my mind. I was almost at the end of a 2-year treatment regime for Aplastic Anaemia, a serious blood disorder that can be fatal. Although my body had responded well to the treatment, my spirit was struggling. At diagnosis I was told that if the treatment did not work, I would have a 3-month prognosis at best. I was only twenty-five when I fell ill, and I had a future full of dreams ahead of me. What I needed, desperately, was a bone marrow transplant, but no suitable matched donor could be found and so an alternative treatment plan was put into place. As I slowly started to heal, some of the other patients that I encountered at the hospital, did not. At times I felt tremendous guilt for simply having life, coupled with a pervasive fear of the unknown. Why am I surviving this, and others not?  Would the treatment work in the long-term?  Might I relapse? And, the most disabling fear of all, if I were to relapse, would I survive a second time? These questions that plagued my inner-world were not unique. Many people who have battled cancer and other potentially life-limiting diseases have to face the reality of their own mortality, and the sheer vulnerability of life. I was tired of living with fear and I was searching for something—the permission to live, and to enjoy what I had been given.

And so, it was on that bright mid-week morning that I met Mrs Garland, a tiny, frail woman that I placed somewhere in her eighties. She had the loveliest smile and blue eyes that twinkled mischievously when she spoke. As we walked together in the sunshine, we exchanged pleasantries, and talked about the weather as strangers might do, but somehow, within a matter of minutes, the conversation grew deeper than what one would expect from two people who had never met until that day. I felt as if I had been drawn into a quiet place with this lovely woman who seemed to look right into the most afraid part of my heart. As our conversation kept pace with the soft rhythm of our feet on the sidewalk, I found myself telling her about the shock of falling ill, the two years of countless hospital visits, the never-ending blood and platelet transfusions, the countless pills that I had to take every day, the deep sense of loss and guilt that followed me around, and the dark fear that wanted to strangle me at times. Patiently, she listened to my whole story, a quiet nod of her head here and there, and when to my great embarrassment I started to cry, she didn’t once look away, she simply took both my hands in hers and said, ‘Life can be terrifying sometimes, and so unfair, but I decided a long time ago to live my life in only one way. I take everything with both hands, and I ask for more. Always ask for more, and it will come to you!

I don’t remember much more of that day, but I have held onto Mrs Garland’s words like a lifeline.

And ever since that morning, when her wise words were planted so gently in my heart. I have lived my life with both hands stretched out, always asking for more! Always expecting more! And, time has proven her wisdom to be true. Over the years, I have received more than I could ever have dreamed I would be given. Time, the most precious gift of all, but also love, and a beautiful little boy, and a million other things like sunsets, and the song of a blackbird, the fragrance of my tea in the mornings, and poetry to read and fill my soul. And yes, some of what I had been given was hard, and the fear remained for a long time, but still I received it as a gift, and it taught me to live bigger—to live outward, beyond my fears. Not only for myself but for everyone who didn’t get to leave that hospital—I live my life for them, too, and I live it gratefully and with great joy. I slowly learned how to live more vulnerably, and how to show my heart to the world. I now see everything as a miracle, and my heart and hands have never stopped being full.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Javon Swaby.

let me hold your hand a little bit longer.

at the end of a long walk

we come upon a split

in the path.

i know these woods like i know the contours of my son’s face.

i should not be afraid to let

him run ahead,

i know this.

but he shares my brother’s name, and i cannot see beyond the trees today.

i have lost so many things;

misplaced so much,

that my hand will not let go of his.

not yet.

— let me hold your hand a little bit longer.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

I wrote this poem after a walk in one of our favourite woods this morning.

Today, is nine days without my brother and this afternoon, in a phone call back home, I listened to my Mom’s heartache at trying to find her way around a new normal without her son.

Learning to let go is a hard thing.

x

Photograph by Lisa Fotios.