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

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’.

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 Anshu A.

{a repost from 2018}.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your tremendous support, your friendship, your encouragement, your willingness to be vulnerable and your courage in sharing your hurts and your joys, here on my page!

You are all so beautiful!

2020 will be a tremendously exciting year for me. I have a recording session lined up in January where I shall be recording a selection of my poems, my second book will be published in March and I have been afforded a wonderful opportunity to teach on vulnerability and creativity in April (more to come on that later in the year).

I shall also be starting a group off this page for those of you who want to explore writing as therapy, or as a healing tool in your own life — a safe space where you can share your writing, ask for feedback from others (or not), enjoy writing prompts and perhaps just find your feet as a writer. More on that in the new year and it doesn’t matter where you are in terms of skill — this will be a space to heal.

I wish you a spacious, honest New Year,

liezel

faith | new names from old.

black birds flying darkly

up

and

down

the spine of my life.

i give them names

that sound like light.

faith

falling

brazenly

from my mouth.

— faith | new names from old.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Matti Johnson.

Sometimes the black birds of fear, shame and guilt will fly up and down your life… they like to go far back into your past and remind you of all the reasons you have failed. They like to fly into your future and prophecy that things will never work out; that you are not deserving of the things your heart dreams of.

You might listen to what they whisper.

But you don’t have to.

Give them new names—new names from the old ones.

Handmade names that sound like light.

For all the things that you are hoping for, let faith fall brazenly from your mouth.

liezel

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.

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.