your drought is almost over.

how many years have you spent pulling on clothes that do not fit—forcing on shoes that pinch and make you fall over your own feet?

how many different hats have you worn and each one more wrong than the other?

how long have you wandered from room to room searching for your own breath?

your fingers in the holes in the walls and all you want is earth under your feet, wide open sky above your head, soft rain to ease the drought in your heart, to hear each blade of grass as it moves in the breeze—some holy books call it a spacious place—you call it home.

and you have seen it behind your eyes just before you fall asleep, and the birds that sing in that garden wake you, just before you open your eyes every morning.

and you know it’s there.
somewhere.

and perhaps you thought it was tied to a promise, but see here’s the thing, sometimes things break and even words don’t hold their weight and it is difficult for me to say this, because of how much i love words.

but words break too, even ones given as a gift.

anything can break, can fracture, a hairline crack at first and then a slow end into i-cannot-go-back and inbetween being the glue that holds others together, and not remembering the sound of your own name, you wake up one morning and your hands are empty and the first thing you want to do, is ball your fists, curl yourself up from the hunger that has eaten its way through your bones, and all the things that you have used to fill that ache, no longer work, because you have been a cardboard cutout—a paper doll dressed up by the hands of others and you have called this ‘a life’ and sometimes even, ‘my life’, thinking that if you could only possess it with a small pronoun, then it would be ok, be enough, but it isn’t.

is it?

and you see others, carrying their lives in their arms and they seem happy with the weight of what they have been given, so why can’t you be the same—wear the same shade of happiness on your lips every morning?

and in your dreams the moon has called you, wooed you with a song that somewhere deep inside of you, you can still remember from lifetimes ago, and now?

now you find yourself standing outside the lines, knees scuffed from climbing outside the box, wrists bruised from breaking the ropes that held you to the life that belonged to your father and your mother and your father’s father and your mother’s mother and all of those who lived their lives before you, and maybe even with you, but see?

this is the secret—their life was never your life to live, even if they said so and there are many ‘theys’ in your life and sometimes the bravest thing you can do, is to turn your back on a hand-me-down-life and leave it behind.

and you have lived a hungry life trying to make sure that your colours don’t bleed all over other people, so thoughtful you have been.

and now?

now you are on the other side of the fence.
finally.

but you are all alone.

and you are scared.

where to now?
where is home?
where do you belong?
perhaps that two-sizes-too-small-coat wasn’t so bad after all?
you could live smaller—lose the weight of your dreams and then perhaps you will fit into
that life?

no. no. no.
don’t you dare!

let those questions come.

you can’t leave without a hundred hungry questions following you, anyway.

it’s ok.
there are answers for most of them.
the others will die from lack of fear.

eventually.

but until then, this is what you do—you breathe… breathe free for the first time and call it what it is—you are on your own, but you are not alone!

open your hands.
uncurl your fingers.
you cannot receive anything if your hands are full of fear.

breathe.

see the wide open sky above your head?
it is all yours.
see the clouds building up in the east?
smell the dampness in the air.
your drought is almost over.

and there’s more.
so much more.

take off that coat, that dress, shapewear?
what on earth for?
you have always been the perfect shape!
no more of this… that hat? those shoes?

kick them off.
throw them away.

feel the air on your face and look! see how your skin fits perfectly… stretched just right over your bones, and this is what you have wanted—hungered for, isn’t it?

this freedom to be what they told you, you couldn’t.

naked.
enough.

here you are.

you’ve come this far and i know that it’s scary—terrifying really, but you can’t turn back now, not again.

open your eyes.
look up.
breathe.
hold out your hands.

the rain is coming.

— your drought is almost over.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Kourosh Qaffari

read them in the night, or in the early morning just before light breaks over your fear.

i hope that they help.

liezel

silent letters

early monday morning

there is chaos
to tame,

a kitchen to clean, and
spelling to teach.

some words are deceptive,

some letters can be seen, but

be careful, listen

they are never heard, they

do not own
their own
sound, may as well

not be there, i have found

there is a
b
in numb
that refuses to be known,

even though it is there
for everyone to see.

a lamb on a limb
on her way to the tomb,

i pull on a pair of jeans,
a sweater

comfort
familiar to my skin, and
practical.

did i mention

that there is work to be done?

from deep within
the third drawer,

i pull a scarf

tie it
around
my neck, it is soft

does not feel like hands.

i will not take it off, i

leave it on my skin.

all day i search

for lost things.

i am covered in dust,
baptised in silk.

— silent letters.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Maadhuri G.

on manuscripts and love.

The behind-the-scenes glamour of a book being born.

It’s cold and blowing a hooley out there. In other words it’s the perfect weather for sitting snugly underneath a duvet and deciding which poems go where in manuscript number 2.

Also the perfect excuse to drink copious amounts of hazelnut flavoured coffee.

Now you know some of my deep, writerly secrets and it pretty much boils down to good coffee, and lots of it too!

A Counting of Love, is a beautiful collection of poems and prose poems about love and how it is the golden thread in our lives.

Old love, new love, love as it ends, love as it begins, sacred love, love for our children… love as the glue that holds us together, always.

x

how to climb out of a foxhole.

when i find myself walking on a beach again,

sand soft and ocean lapped,

i shall be brave.

braver than i have ever been.

run into the water without a thought

of how i might look

to anyone passing through

on their way home from war.

aren’t we all?

hiding from each other

in foxholes all day

in plain sight.

i shall allow my hands

the freedom to throw joy

into the foam of the green, and

i shall not use them as a holy covering for all the parts of me that are hungry

to feel cool air salted with joy, and

the ordinary blessing of water.

do i really need to earn this right?

i refuse.

pale and dimpled in secret places,

i am a velvet map

to a place called courage.

it turns out,

that despite all my hiding from others,

and me,

that i have been naked all my life,

anyway.

aren’t we all?

and i am slowly dying.

ever since my birth,

time is slowly being taken

from me

and all the nights

that i did not walk into love

feet bare, fingers searching,

has been loss.

the weight of it all was enough

to make me walk away

and live.

— how to climb out of a foxhole.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Jordan Donaldson.

thoughts on failure.

let your failures leave you a better person, not a bitter person.

you are not alone in failing.

let the mistakes you have made—all of them—even the big ones, especially the big ones, leave you as one who will walk back to search for the one who needs help.

you are not the only one who has been lost.

everyone says let go of your failures—let go of your past. i say, all the things you wish you could undo in your life—those three am regrets? don’t let them go. hold onto them, but hold onto them loosely, so that you will always remember what it feels like to get it wrong.

because you are not the only one who has to fight off their past.

don’t let shame define you, but don’t forget the taste of it in your mouth.

give others what you needed when you were on your knees, with your back against the wall.

do this without any ulterior motive.

just be kind.

kindness, compassion and love like to get their hands dirty. they’re not ones for standing around looking holy.

so, take your hurts, take your memories, your failures and your regrets, and go out there and be a safe place for others and give them grace like it’s water.

you hold light in your hands and hope in your mouth.

and you might be the only one doing so.

this is how we change the world. this is how we save lives.

— thoughts on failure.

Photograph by Ander Burdain.

this is not my usual style, but things that need to be said.

liezel

the woman who laughed in colour.

today i saw a woman

.

in an orange jumper

and

a red floral skirt

.

creased

.

from all the living she had already done by

noon

.

brown hair unbrushed

.

rebelliously

wild

.

and when she smiled at me

the soft skin around her eyes

showed me how much

she loves to laugh

in colour

.

at life

.

a history lesson in joy

.

and for a moment she was

the most beautiful thing that

i had ever seen, and

.

i wonder if she knows this

when she looks at herself

in the mirror at night.

.

— the woman who laughed in colour.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

Photography by Kate Kozyrka.

.

Today at the library I saw a woman in a wrinkled, rumpled outfit, no make-up and with her hair unbrushed and a little wild, but when she smiled at me she lit the room up, and her smile was like an explosion of colour, and I hope she knows just how beautiful she is, and how her face spoke of her love for life, and it was a pure, intoxicating thing to witness.

.

liezel