courage.

i would like to say that

i look for beauty

everywhere

i go.

that i see it in the rebellious pout

of an old woman’s lips,

a slash of red

life owes her nothing.

has taken much

given more

she knows this truth

that it will all end at some point.

it will come to a sudden stop.

but

not

yet.

that will be me some day,

i say.

and i mean it.

and when i saw a young woman in costa,

freshly mothered

feeding her baby.

breast in tiny mouth

where everyone

could see,

but nobody was bothered

by a hunger being stilled

in their company.

such a quiet loveliness.

and that was me,

i say.

eleven winters ago,

but i had to leave the table.

my cup of hot tea.

my dignity.

to search for hidden places where the curve of my skin

as i fed my son

would not

offend

you.

if i could do it again

i would be

brave.

i would.

and i mean it.

and sometimes beauty

finds me first.

i do not always have to look for it.

such a quiet kindness.

dressed in old wellington boots,

she was

feeding

the mallard ducks bathed in low liquid sunlight.

casting her bread upon deep murky waters,

for the angry mute swans.

their cygnets

grey

unlived-in feathers

furiously

fluffing.

that will be me some day,

i say.

and i mean it.

still finding things

that need

to be

fed

even as they peck at my feet.

— courage.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photography by Evie S.

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

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.

things to do when you are grieving.

on a sunny morning

in

the

middle

of my grief,

we stumble upon a new playground.

swings and roundabouts,

seesaws

and

margery-daws, and

push

me

higher

mom, and

suddenly

young laughter

making funny faces

at all of this sadness.

how beautifully life carries on.

— things to do when you are grieving.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Levi Damasceno.

musings on grief.

when you have lived your

whole life,

whole and at peace,

in one place.

does the soil remember you?

.

the old plum tree in the

back garden,

heavy with pink promise.

will she miss the sound of your voice, too?

.

and the gnarled jacaranda

on the front path,

blushing brazen purple every spring.

will she long to feel your hands

as night begins to sing?

.

and then,

there is more.

.

there is you

and

there is me

and

there is

this love.

.

this

love.

.

what about this?

i wonder,

will it remember

us?

.

—musings on grief.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

Photograph by Irina Iriser.

.

.

My Ouma lived her whole life in the same small town in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

.

She spent most of her married life and after my Oupa died, in the same house. A house that she adored.

.

There is an old plum tree that bears masses of sweet plums and a gnarled jacaranda tree that covers the front garden with a carpet of purple blossom every spring.

.

This old house and garden have been a part of my life ever since I can remember.

.

Today’s poem is more free-form musing than poetry, but I hope it speaks to someone else who might be on the same journey as me.

.

My heart is much lighter since Sunday when my Ouma left us and I have a great deal of peace,

.

liezel

Anna, means grace. (It’s time to say goodbye).

I lit a candle for you, today.

Only one. If you live right, one light is enough.

Every time the tiny flame sputtered and died, I lit another. It still burns, even now, as I write with the sun almost at your door, and the moon, at mine.

The candle’s light kept me company as I peeled carrots for lunch—I know you’d appreciate that—the spirit keeping vigil whilst the hands are busy with the ordinary task of preparing food for a child. You were always so good at that. Filling tummies and hearts.

Remember how you showed me how to peel a potato so that the peel was almost as thin as tissue paper? Your face a study of quiet pride as your knotted fingers struggled not to yield to arthritis. I remember.

And how you used to walk with me to the other side of town, whenever I came to visit in the school holidays, just so that I could see the museum for the hundredth time. If you only knew the joy that gave me. The escape from the agony that was school. Of not fitting in no matter how hard I tried. Although, I think you do. You, were always my safe place. I remember.

And how you used to lift me out of that ancient cast-iron bath? The water never stayed warm in it. The blazing heat from the gas-heater warmed that small bathroom and small children too, on those icy nights.

Now, the flesh has faded from your bones and you are the one needing strong arms to hold you up and Winter has come, once again.

And I am not sure my heart can ever be warmed up again.

The years have been kind to you. But, time? Time, has been cruel. It has taken so many people that you have loved. And how you loved! I hope that they are all there, waiting for you when you walk through that door.

I hope.

Do you remember how I loved to play in the shade of the old Cape Rough-skin Lemon tree outside your kitchen door? How I loved that tree. And those lemons. And nobody could make lemon curd like you could. If I close my eyes, just like this, I can taste the sweet tartness on my tongue.

And when you were the first to look cancer in the eye and I gave you a card that said ‘Don’t give up’. As if you would.

And then, when it was my turn to face a doctor’s words, you gave it back to me. ‘Don’t give up’, you said.

As if I would. With your stubborn Irish genes in my DNA.

And now, here I am. On the other side of the world. I picked up my roots like a skirt and stepped gingerly onto another continent. Home, but not quite. I wonder if the women in my bones remember that their blood was once a part of this land. Do they remember me?

I am home, but not quite. Just like you.

And as I give my son his lunch, I teach him about nouns and how they name things, like ‘Ouma’.

We haven’t talked about adjectives yet, but I have so many that walk hand-in-hand with you, my Ouma.

Strong. Brave. Gracious. Wise. Loving. Loyal. Courageous. Faithful. Funny. Beautiful. Kind. Hopeful.

Soon, you will leave this place. It’s ok. I know that you’re tired. It’s been a long, hard season for you, and they are waiting.

They’re all there waiting for you. And I hope that there is a lemon tree. And new, strong bones and blue eyes, bright with new life.

And I shall be ok. It will hurt like hell. I cannot lie. It will be a searing pain that will leave a mark, but I shall be ok.

You know that.

I lit a candle for you, today.

It still burns as I wait.

The moon is here with me and so is the light.

…and I shall wait.

It’s ok, now. You can take off this life. It’s a bit frayed around the edges. You’ve worn it well.

But it’s time to go home, soon.

It’s ok.

I’ll see you on the other side.

— Anna, means grace. (It’s time to say goodbye).

© Liezel Graham 2019.