Blackwell’s of Oxford new stockist of my books.

Just a tiny bit giddy and excited to mention that both my books are now available in Blackwell’s online catalogue, and also in their brick and mortar stores at various universities in England, Wales and Scotland.

If not on the shelf, they can order in.

They are listed online under Biography, Literature and Literary Studies.

Blackwell of Oxford is the largest academic and specialist bookseller in the UK, but they also ship worldwide.

https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/search/author/Liezel%20Graham

#poetry

Remember: Light does, what light does.

I want to tell you a story. It’s long and winding, but I hope there will be a crumb for you, or a glass of brand-new wine, or water. Let’s see.

Will you let me? Ok?

I have been chasing a poem for a few days now.

I don’t usually run after poems, or stories, and I don’t like to go and look for them, either.

It feels too much like picking unripe fruit.

A good poem shows herself when she is ready. When she is ripe.

Windfall poems are the ones that I really want.

Windfall poems are the ones that I find in the long grass, sometimes long after I have given up, and to be honest with you, sometimes I do.

{see my heart behind my words, please. it beats just like yours.}

Windfall poems are a beautiful serendipity, but they are also the ones that I tend to slip on—the ones that have me flinging my arms out wildly, like new-born wings as I try desperately to stay on my feet.

{people are watching, you know, and listening to hear what I don’t say.}

And I have been there so many times, searching for something to give, only to slip and fall.

I am good at falling, but also, I know how to get up again.

I have carried dark things on my back.

{look for this in my words, please.}

You might think that a good poem, a poem blown off the tree, away from the branch, and onto the ground would be a sweet, grateful thing to hold in my hands, and it is all that, but a good poem also makes me work—makes me work to stay upright, sometimes she makes my heart race with the effort of not falling over.

Nobody sees this part, of course. I keep this hidden behind the naked skin of my words, but if you look for it, you will find it there.

{look for it until you find it. please.}

A good poem will have blemishes and bruises, and the birds will have been at the sweetness of her bones with their hungry autumn beaks. All of this is true, and it is tempting to walk on and ignore that which lies at my feet, but then also, I am not so good at ignoring things, and when I find the right one, the right poem? I bend down holy, pick her up, holding her close to my face, inhaling from deep inside my grandmother’s lungs, and I know.

I know that I have found her, or rather, that I have been found.

I know this, because a good poem smells like darkness and also, like light, and once you have tasted the darkness in words, and rubbed their light all over your dirty skin, you will never forget.

{light does, what light does.}

A poem that is stitched together from my darkness and from my light, will tiptoe over to my side and sit down quietly next to me. Then, after a little while she will climb onto my lap and kiss my cheek softly, her breath apple sweet.

I hope that she does this for you too.

{you can’t take this away from me, but I know that there is always someone who will try.}

But sometimes she hides, my poem, and she won’t come out until I call her, until I give her my own name to wear on her shoulder.

And it hurts, this taking the six letters of my name, giving it to a poem and saying, ‘Yes. Yes, this is mine. I shall own this, and everyone will see.’

I shall pin these words to my chest, watch my skin bleed, and it will be good in the end.

In the end it will all be good.

Outside my window where I sit working at my desk, the weather has wrapped herself in a light coat, and I have made pots of strong Assam tea, and read from the beautiful mountain of books next to my bed, and I have worked on assignments to learn new skills—there is a new season waiting for me, and I teach my son how to love numbers, and I show him that adjectives are wonderful things, but that they don’t tell you how valuable someone really is.

Not everyone knows this, though, and so there are many people who love adjectives, who crave them and eat them with hungry hands, stuff their cheeks, syrup running down their chins, but still they are never full.

Perhaps, they forget that we are nouns.

That we are bone, and spine, and blood, and scar, and heart, and breath, and fear, and hope.

And that we can stand alone in a room full of people and know who we are deep inside.

{woman: a noun that does not need an adjective to hold her up.}

They forget that adjectives only serve to cover us up—hide us from each other.

I tell him, my son in his man-cocoon, that we can choose adjectives just like we choose our clothes, and that there is a little bit of magic about them. It’s all a little mysterious to me, even after all these years, but adjectives, if you use them in the proper way, are a little bit like liquid gold.

You can choose to pour it over someone even when the word doesn’t quite fit them yet, and before you know it, if you keep going back to polish it, the gold will have set into something glorious.

It has become the very thing you wanted it to become.

You have created something from dust.

{God said you could.}

You should try it! Call yourself ‘loved’ at least seven times a day, and then you times that by seventy and I promise you, very soon, your bones will believe you. Go on. Do it!

{love lives in all of us.}

But I digress. Back to my story.

This dreadfully stubborn poem refused to show herself to me, and she was having none of this windfall business, and simply muttered, ‘No’, at my begging her to please come and sit with me.

Only giving me a glimpse of her shape here and there, it was enough to drive me to distraction, and this morning I couldn’t take it anymore and I stamped my foot and said, ‘Enough of this! Who are you? What do you want to wear today? You had better tell me or I might pull out clothes for you to wear, and that will teach us both a lesson.’

{remember that time we forgot to write our words naked and people got confused at what we meant.}

And that made her laugh, and at last she came out from behind the thing that I have been trying to avoid, the thing that I was trying so hard not to think about.

Of course, she would hide there, I thought to myself, as she looked at me and told me to light a candle. In fact, not one, but six, and I said,

Six candles in the middle of the day? Look at all the light that is already here. You are wasting my candles!

{can light ever be wasted? dear God, I still have so much to learn.}

But what I have learnt, is to do as I am told, when a poem tells me what to do, or what to say.

So, I lit six candles and stood back to watch the tiny flames in recycled glass jars (blackberry jam, if you must know), light up my kitchen windowsill.

A candle for each letter of my name.

A candle for each time that I picked up a stone in the last few days, raised my hand to throw it, but then, remembering that I am made entirely of glass blown by God’s mouth, and that my windows are dirty, and that I am a woman now, and that I was throwing stones with the arm of the small child that hides in the dark corners behind my mouth, too afraid to say anything.

Because she was told her voice didn’t matter.

Because she didn’t have the right adjectives pinned to her chest.

Because she didn’t know that {girl} was enough.

Because for so long she only knew that the one who threw the stone first, was the winner.

Because someone walked all over my words, that have my blood on them, and they laughed.

{still, I chose light, but it was hard.}

I remembered.

I dropped the stone.

I said, ‘No’, and I walked away.

Because I have been here before.

I have tied my own hands with another’s rope.

I have sat at their feet refusing to leave, refusing to go free.

{still, I chose light, but it was actually for me.}

A candle for each letter of my name because I will not allow you to hold me prisoner.

I have set myself free, by dropping the stone that sits in my hand.

The stone with your name on it.

So, kick off your shoes, lift high your skirt and walk with me here by the apple tree.

Perhaps a poem will find you.

Perhaps freedom will.

Mind the stones.

I am building an altar.

{light does, what light does.}

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Clement Falize, on Unsplash.

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