it’s ok, you can let go now.

how to heal a broken heart?

you must love again

something

someone

get up

dry your eyes

dust yourself off

loss, is just a season’s weight

not a calling until death

you were not born

to exist

on crumbs

now go!

someone out there

is searching

for you.

— it’s ok, you can let go now.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photography by Liezel Graham

if this is for you, may your heart find all the courage it needs to love again.

it’s ok, you can let go now.

liezel

scope

we sit on opposite sides of the waiting room

clutching our middle years

in our hands,

strangers

comparing stories of raising boys

they never seem to stop eating

do they,

from the minute they leave our bodies

so much life fills their skin.

we have given them everything that we have and more, and

perhaps because we are a hospital gown away

from being completely naked with each other,

we also speak

quietly

of the things that they might find

hiding

within our walls, and

how we hope

that they

don’t,

because we have sons to feed, and

we are hungry

to be

in their lives, and

we smile and we laugh

a little

in the shadow of the thing

that has a name

but doesn’t have ours,

yet

we hope

like all the women before us,

we walk barefoot here

in the valley, and

we all lose our shoes when we walk this road,

it doesn’t matter what your name is,

here

in this place,

we all fear the same, and

we follow the nurse to the room where they will tell us

our future

for a moment

you turn away

and i see it in your eyes.

later when i walk out of recovery

orange juice still sweet on my tongue,

i carry words in my hands

that breathe,

words that do not chase

me

yet

you are in the cubicle next to me

the borders that i have just left

behind

i never want to return to this place, and

i see you

curled up

into the shape of a foetus,

asleep

under the weight of the extra peace they pumped into your veins,

statistics say that it had to be one of us

the odds took more from you

than from me, and

i hope that you find the courage to chase away the

dogs of fear.

— scope.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

recently i had my ‘future’ told by a medical team.

i was the fortunate one who walked out with hope in my hands.

xx

Photograph by Leo Cardelli.

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

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.

how to fight death.

almost half my faith ago,

when i was wide-eyed

and

fresh in my skin,

a man in a white coat said

i think this might be all

that you’ll get, and

then

there will be no more days left,

for you to chase

in wonder.

and the thought that dying

might be difficult,

climbed onto

my lap and

stayed

with

me.

but somehow i was given more, and

ever since then i have run after

every scrap of beauty

that has danced

past me, and

the feel of the ocean on my skin, and the way that yellow freesias smell like joy, and the taste of the first cup of coffee in the morning, and the curve of my son’s nose against my breast as he nestled to feed in the dark, and the smell of rain after a drought, and the

way that my heart can still make

room for more love, and

how much courage

it takes to trust,

again

and

again, and

every time that fear

told

me

to

sit down,

i said no,

and i stood up.

and this is how i came to know

that living,

is the more difficult thing

to do.

not everybody knows

that dying is easy.

we are all doing it,

right now,

without even trying.

but

do

you

know

how to look fear in the eye,

and

say,

how beautiful is this day,

and i think i shall

enjoy it

very

much

to be

alive,

if only for a little while

longer.

— how to fight death.

(for djs with all my love).

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by David Boca.

going home.

it has almost been a week.

almost seven days without you.

almost seven days of not being able to call you and hear you say my name.

this afternoon i lay down on the floor. wrapped in a blanket and my tears, i went home.

to you.

the garden gate still squeaks on its hinges and i stumbled on that crack in the front path.

how many times have i tripped there?

there was rain-water in the metal drum where i used to play as a child, and tadpoles. how i loved the tadpoles. do you remember?

the light on the purple jacaranda tree was full of bees.

you would like that, and the front porch was freshly polished; red and shiny.

the old front door knew my face.

knew that i too, belong, and even though i did not want them to, all the memories that are now part of my bones, came out to play. tenderly, they touched my face and my tears, or was that you?

was that you.

and you were everywhere.

down the stone stairs into the kitchen, i walked and i saw bowls of hot pea soup and my fingers frozen from a night watching shows at the fringe.

do you remember how much i loved the arts festival?

how i would spend winter nights walking through the streets, eating the colour and the sounds and the sights.

only to return to you.

my compass.

and in the back garden, the lemon tree stood there. wondering where you are.

and i said, she is here, and she is not.

and my heart does not know what to do.

can i just sit here for a little bit longer?

here, by the kitchen window where the late afternoon light likes to sneak in.

this has always been my favourite spot.

here, with you, drinking warm cups of tea, i could see forever.

and every hurt was wrapped in kitchen-love.

and it was all that i ever needed.

this rich, never-ending love.

and you are here, but you are not.

how can this be.

— going home.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

This afternoon, after a quiet, but tearful half-an-hour of meditation, I took a walk.

And somewhere between here, and not, I walked down my Ouma’s garden path and found her old house full of her and me and other lovely things that I have stored in my bones.

And it was good.