how to draw water for someone who is thirsty.

it is entirely possible to love someone

without sending God’s name out first,

without reminding them

of how their hands have failed

to hold water from the well,

and

how you are the answer.

if you love them right,

they will eventually in God’s own time

unfurl

untwist

unlearn.

they will grow beyond your reach

and

the Light will find them.

if you love them right,

you won’t have to use

God’s name

once.

— how to draw water for someone who is thirsty.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Amal Ali.

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.

first person, singular.

i was born a fire walker.

i did not want to feel the skin blister under my feet; smell the scorched offering that i was forced to become, but

the fire still came for me.

i had no choice.

and i have seen many things burn down into nothing.

i have thrown ash into the wind—watched it blow away

all the things that my young mouth promised before i knew that i would fail

at this.

and i have sat down by the rivers of babylon

and i have wept.

over and over,

i have peeled my skin off, only to put it back on in the morning.

i was stretched tight in all the wrong places and nobody knew

but me.

and after all the tears i thought i didn’t have, fell from me like rain,

i stood up,

on my new legs, and

i made tea as a new day birthed itself

inside of me.

i poured water into the teapot, the one with the pink flowers, that you gave to me, and

you have always known how to give beauty to me, despite who i am.

despite what i couldn’t be.

in the soft winter rain i saw a gift of light in the clouds over the old kilpatrick hills, and

a rainbow.

not one, but two.

one for me and one for you.

and i knew the days of pretending were over.

i have stripped them from my back, and i have lost feathers, and skin.

but i have done it.

it is done.

i don’t have to pretend anymore.

the fire came for me and i ate it.

— first person, singular.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Grahame Jenkins.

With a grateful nod to songwriters Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the Jamaican reggae group ‘The Melodians’, who wrote the song ‘The Rivers of Babylon’.

on love like a moon.

all day long

we share our space

with each other.

my son and i.

we’ve done this before.

my belly full and round.

a moon

hung low in the winter sky.

at night,

he wriggles his way down

to the bottom of his bed.

the curtains across the window drawn open,

so that he can trace the stars

in the ink-black sky

as he falls asleep.

every morning he wakes,

hair tousled, cheeks pink

and sleep soft.

his head

where his feet should be.

feet,

where his head should be.

he has never cared much for

doing things the

proper way.

i gave him this gift.

at breakfast,

he tells me stories about how

the moon orbits the earth,

always showing the same side.

the same love.

no matter what,

she does not change.

following the same path,

she returns to her

beginning.

just like me.

and right there,

covered in toast crumbs

and the last of the chocolate milk,

happiness falls from his mouth

like light.

— on love like a moon | where i began.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Ganapathy Kumar.