womb.

i have always been

a misfit

and

a rebel,

a dweller on the fringe,

a woman who refuses

to submit, or

fit

into a box,

and

why do i always have to ask

so

many

questions, it makes you uncomfortable, and

angry,

and,

why can’t i just obey?

it is a woman’s place,

don’t you know, because

the bible tells me so, and

does He still love me,

the song says He may, but

you

say

no, and

honestly, i don’t know anymore.

and there are times,

at least 365 moments in a year, where i wonder if it would be easier

to just give in

and

be

what you want me to be, but

already i can feel the weight

on my bones, and my heart knows

that it is strong enough

to hold,

what i once thought

was truth, up to the heavens

and say,

this is not enough, and

there are people here who need to be loved, and you say

no.

but, hear me now

this is not enough.

can you hear me?

we are not being enough.

and i have examined holy words,

hoping to knit them into a blanket,

soft and big enough

to cover the naked heart

of a broken woman, but

it was too

flimsy,

and

threadbare.

and they said,

all the holy ones,

that she should be left

on the other side of the road, because her sin is too great,

and we know best.

and i said,

(but nobody cared

what I thought),

hasn’t this been done before?

in another time and place,

and didn’t someone write

it down on a scroll,

perhaps whilst eating of

the bread and the wine,

and didn’t God decide

that it was not enough?

but i am wrong, they say.

what do i know.

i am just a woman, after all

and where is my husband,

and i do not belong

to the council — that holy club,

where decisions are made

about

wombs

and

other

uncomfortable words

that walk around on two legs

in the dead of the night,

rape

and

incest, and

how they may only be managed by men,

and we must protect life, but

when there are two,

who wins?

not me.

not girls

not women,

only men, it seems.

and,

also there was that scene

a long time ago,

and,

also yesterday

and today

and tomorrow,

where a woman was caught,

and still is, every day, everywhere

red-handed in sin, and

perhaps you have heard about her?

and of course,

there must have been another,

a man,

but we don’t hear about him at all,

and

she was caught sinning.

a different sin to theirs, and

there was no love on that day,

either, only

rocks

and

laws

but Mercy was there,

quietly

sitting in the dust,

singing a love song over her,

that woman,

me.

but,

i think we don’t know

the words to that song anymore, and

all we know now

is that we are not free, and

girls will know,

and

women will know,

we are not free.

and here i sit

holding

your truth in my hands, but

it is not mine anymore,

and you are disappointed,

i know.

but i have folded it

into halves

and

again

into quarters,

in the hope

that i might make it small enough

to fit into my pocket,

so that i can take it out with me

and

shake it out on a cold night

to cover a naked woman,

or a child,

who has had everything stolen

from her,

but it is still not enough.

and i think

we are all cold, now.

— womb.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

on tending hearts and soil.

gardeners — the ones who like to get their hands really dirty — are some of my favourite people in the whole world.

they are only concerned with what is growing outside their own front doors, but their hearts are big enough to encourage the smallest effort at planting-and-hoping-for-life.

they know that most of us just need water, food, a place for our roots, and lots of love and light — and then the magic happens.

they know that fruit trees, and flowers all have their place and that we are all different, but rooted the same, and

they spend all their energy tilling the soil they have been given, and sometimes the soil that has been taken from them, too, and they know that bad soil, much like a heart, can be fixed by adding a bit of this, and removing a bit of that, and

that good soil can wear out if it isn’t given a chance to rest.

and gardeners know that a little bit can be too little, and a lot can be too much, and that life lies in having just enough of what we need, and when we have more than we could ever use, we need to give it away, or it will rot, right there in our hands, and that sometimes the more we harvest, the more we get.

they know that plants are greenest where they are watered and cared for, and

they live each day by the seasons — to a gardener, every season has a beauty, and a function, all of its own — to everything there is a season,

and it all belongs in the big plan.

they have enormous hearts — the biggest, really, that delight in seeing life, reach for the light, through dark soil, and

they know how to push through a bad harvest, or a harsh winter, or a drought that will kill the joy right out of a heart — they know how to look for hope, and for life, and even for signs that it’s over — and it’s important to know when something is over.

doors need to be closed, as much as opened, sometimes.

and these are my people, the ones with dirt under their fingernails and hope in their eyes, even when that hope is held by a single thread, or a tiny seed, and mustard seed is good for hope, i’ve heard it said, and

it only takes one — seed, or heart, either one will do — to get a plant growing, and a mountain moving, and a heart believing that there is more.

it only takes one, and that’s when the magic happens.

— on tending hearts and soil.

Photograph by Gelgas.

A little freeform writing this afternoon, on one of my favourite things in the world,

liezel

where i find holiness. where i am enough.

i have tried

to carve (your) rules

into the back of my eyes,

.

so that i might belong.

.

but

an owl

is calling

outside my

bedroom window,

. a sacred,

nocturnal song.

.

and

in

this

holiness

there is nothing wrong

with me.

.

— where i find holiness. where i am enough.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

Photograph by Eberhard Grossgasteiger.

on the inside (i am outside).

i wish that i could say

that i have

all the answers.

.

or perhaps,

. just a few.

that would be good.

.

that i have

. somehow,

grown fat with wisdom.

.

i have neither.

.

. all i have in my hands

are words.

.

. and none of them are smooth.

.

they are hungry words

that know how to search

when the lights have gone out.

.

they are strong words

that know how to break down walls,

one stone at a time.

.

they are brave words

that know how to open windows,

when all the doors are locked.

.

they are tender words

that know how to soothe what is broken,

because they remember.

.

. because,

i remember

. what it is to need water

and hope.

.

and i have

somehow

stumbled right into the middle of my life

still carrying a bag of questions.

.

. rebellious ones at that.

or, so i have been told.

.

not fit for one who stands in the shadow of the cross.

.

. my coat,

is too bright

or too faded

or too there-is-something-not-quite-right

and

we can see right through that cloak

and

she does not fit in,

. here on holy ground.

.

i know.

. i know.

.

but i can pour shame

onto paper

in

the

shape

of grace.

.

and i can string words into lights

that stubbornly lead the way out.

or up,

. if you believe.

.

and

this relentless unmasking

of flesh

and

bone

and

heart

and

soul

into words,

. is all that i have been given

in exchange

for

all

that has been taken.

.

and still

it is not enough?

.

.

—on the inside (i am outside).

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

on letting go of what is gone.

the silver birch

and

the oak,

called me into the woods

today.

.

.

i carried with me

all the things

that i have ever lost

.

. and never let go of.

.

.

and the weight of it all

was counted

in fear.

.

.

and

i sat beneath

the bare arms of the birch, reaching up.

.

.

. always up,

despite her season

of nakedness

and loss.

.

.

and we sang a lament

together.

. an ancient song

of letting go.

.

.

and it was hard.

.

.

loss,

can scrape the joy

right

out

of your bones.

.

.

and that,

which i never wanted to give up,

.

.

brought life,

. in the end,

like

. dead leaves

on the woodland floor.

.

.

and the silver birch

and

the oak,

sent their roots down,

.

.

deep

. deep,

down

into

the earth,

.

.

and asked for more.

—on letting go of what is gone.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

.

Photograph by Skitterphoto.com

a new year’s song.

the year is dying in my hands

and

. i am filling my apron

with a feather

. for hope,

and

tiny bits of tumbled sea glass

. for courage.

.

.

when the waters rise,

. they will not wash over me.

.

.

a pinch of faith,

. you only need a little,

and

a quilt of mercy

to warm my heart

.

that

at

times

has

loved

so coldly.

.

. i will guard the spring.

.

guard it fiercely,

so that only

love

will

flow,

. but i know

that i am cut from rough cloth

and

grace

is the bread that keeps me alive,

.

and you.

.

so

i will give

. and give

. and give,

until

we cannot see

who we once were,

. for all the love.

.

that,

is how they will recognise us.

.

.

the broken ones.

.

not the knowledge.

not the perfection.

not the raised eyebrow,

.

but

the

love.

.

it’s how i recognised you,

when

all

i had known was failure.

.

you loved me first,

and

never

stopped.

.

and i will not worry about

my hips

or

my wrinkles

or

my yesterdays

or

my tomorrows.

.

i am held.

.

and because i am the one,

.

that

one,

.

who deserves an entire parable.

. yes.

.

the one

who wanders

and

strays .

into thickets

. and

thorns,

where others see the danger,

i will remember that i was searched for

. over and over,

every time

and

i too will

. search

when others get lost.

.

i will not be the pointing finger,

but

the open hand that says,

. here i am.

.

let me be

a light in a glass jar,

. shining

in spite of it all.

.

.

—a new year’s song.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

.

.

Photograph by Martí Pardo.

.

.

Friends,

.

.

I wish you a peaceful, spacious

new year.

.

.

Know that you are held

and that though they may rise,

the waters will not wash over you,

.

.

liezel

this story, ends well.

in the late afternoon,

i light

a candle in my kitchen.

the visible hours

are

few

this time of year.

my eyes

and

my heart

both

struggle to see

clearly

in this season.

there is so much

in the air

that

hides

the ache

inside

and

this longing

for

all is calm

all is bright,

is overwhelming

at times,

and

perhaps

your

star is hidden

this year?

and,

when children sing,

you,

only

have

the memory

of

what

once

was,

to unwrap

and

the edges are frayed

and

the past

is

all

that

still

breathes.

and the past

might be

your (only) present.

and,

the nights are silent,

and

dark.

sometimes.

yes,

some seasons

are not

always

merry

and

bright.

i know.

but

we

keep

moving

and

clinging

to

the

hem

of the one

who heals.

so,

i carry this small flame

through

doorways

and

heart-spaces

and

i watch it

soften

the every-day

scratchiness

of the hallway

and

heart-ways.

ready

to welcome

anyone

who should knock,

seeking.

and,

tiny lights have done

this

deep

work,

forever.

this,

keeping the dark outside,

and

holding the night at bay.

bravely.

this little light of mine

flickers

and

sometimes,

fails,

but,

it fights.

oh,

it does.

turning fearful places

into

a place of hope,

high

on

top

of

a hill,

and

you can trust

that

your light

is still

enough.

enough

to

warm

hope

so broken

and

grief,

so fierce

it would rip the fabric

of

your

being.

but it won’t.

it won’t.

although it will try.

and

we will light

(our)

tiny flames

and

we

will

breathe

in,

and

out.

in.

and.

out.

until

we return

to where we

lost

the precious thing.

where we lost our hope,

and

in the end

we will

be ok.

our stories might be

broken,

but,

stories full of light,

always

end well.

just keep burning.

— this story, ends well.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

Photograph by Inna Lesyk.

Amidst all the lovely chaos of family and Christmas preparations, some of us

get lost and get tired from trying

to hide sadness and grief.

Your story might have broken bits written into its chapters,

but hold on — stories full of light, always end well.

liezel