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

on finding my place.

one starry night, the woman took a walk inside of herself to the quiet places that she loved to visit, and

there, under the karoo sun, she could play barefoot again, unworried about ice and snow and other cold things, and her young hands could tease the

hot earth for tiny fragments of blue glass hidden in the soil, and

one day i will be an archaeologist and i will dig for things — beautiful things, in the dirt, and i will have rooms full of books and i will travel the world and see pyramids and other beautiful, broken things, and we will see each other and smile — the broken things and i — and i will never have to prove that i do know things and they are all wrong about me and perhaps i will finally belong, and i wonder what that feels like, to fit snugly in a place and in a life, like your shape was made to belong, but

some don’t, do they — belong?

and some people aren’t made

to fit into round holes, because they have sharp edges and sharp corners where the loveliest things hide, but not everybody can see this and not everybody knows, and it takes a very long time for a soft, square heart to know that it is ok not to be round,

and i have been scratching in the dust for years to find hope and life and other green things, and

i have grown soft with love for myself, and i still look for fragments and other broken things in places where others see dirt, and

this is my gift — to see the loveliness in a man’s skin, and to hear africa in his voice as our children swim together, here, far from home, and to see hope in the eyes of a woman who crossed deserts and bullets

with children in tow and then

still the oceans, too — what did she know about water so deep and so fierce, other than that it was safer than the hearts from where she ran, and i look for smiles and people who walk straight into you with mouths that bow up to the light, and eyes that sparkle like glass in the sun — these are the things that i search for now, and when i find them, i turn them over, and over, in my hands and when my hunger is satisfied i hide them, deep in a corner, and oh!

you should see all the beauty that i have hidden inside here, on this side of my walls, and finally i belong.

— on finding my place.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Tim Mossholder.

this is (already) heaven on earth.

today, i saw an old man walking with his wife. his turban a flash of bright orange — everyday holiness on an ordinary afternoon, and i saw daffodils — a sea of brazen yellow — just waiting to be noticed, despite the throng of traffic, and tired people chasing lists of things to do, and to buy, and to get through, before they can live, and the sky was a van gogh blue that hasn’t shown its handsome face around here since last september and it made my head dizzy with joy as it shouted hope is here, hope is here. just look up!

and a man with very little money, gave me a smile — he was that rich — and i gave him one of mine as i bought his magazine full of brave stories, and a father was swimming with his little girl and i saw tenderness wrapped in strength and one small heart was safe today, and it was good. and a man from another faith taught my son to swim — gently and patiently, he made miracles happen in my boy’s brain, and later at the shop there were rare, bright jewels in the fruit aisle, although some people call them pomegranates, and the aroma from the bakery was heaven on the breeze, and how i love the way my nose can smell, even though someone once said that it is too big, and unpretty, but i do not care, it works so well, how can i worry about opinions that do not love me.

and another man said this world is going to hell and look at this mess they’ve made, and how can we ever find peace this side of heaven, and i said but look! look — i am wearing my scarlet lipstick and my toes are pretty too, in red — do you know what i have seen and survived to be brave enough to wear these colours, and to tell of joy, and light, and maybe this is already heaven and we need to look up, and around, and sometimes even down, but especially inside, so that we can find the thing that sings in the dark and says, see, it is not too late, take off your shoes on this sacred ground, and all the earth is, you know. and can you even remember how the grass feels under your feet, and just listen to the breath dancing in your chest and do you know how precious that is?

how much it is worth?

just hold out your hands, don’t be shy — and ask for more, and it will come, if you believe.

but you must believe, this doesn’t work so well if you don’t, and neither will you, or your heart, and i am not sure you know this yet, but you are so beautiful, inside and out, and one day you will know it, really know it, when you walk straight into love, as we all will, but until then open the windows and sing.

— this is (already) heaven on earth.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Amin Imanifar.

the holiness of cinnamon, and more.

in the quiet of this morning i made oatmeal, rich with cinnamon and honey’s golden kiss.

i do this every day, and also,

i whisper blessings on the hands that made this and not just mine, no.

all the hands that planted, and watered, and harvested, and packed, and delivered, and the lovely hands that work at the till in the shop where i bought all of this goodness.

all of this light.

how beautiful is this life of mine, i say as i eat all of this love.

and i say thank you to the bees, and the earth, and the trees, and my body, who i so often forget.

but lately, i don’t.

no.

not anymore.

because late one night and early some mornings, when the earth was sleeping, i dared to ask for more.

more light, more God, and truth like i have never known.

and i watered my hopes and my bones with tears, and they were seen.

and they were heard.

so small and so quiet.

but still.

i was heard.

and now i see God everywhere, but seldom where i was told he was before, and now i don’t look for him there anymore.

because he is here in the light that falls on my bedroom floor, even before i vacuum it, can you believe that?

even in the dust, on my floors and on my shelves and on my life, even here.

but dust, is what i am made of and more — little bits of stars and heaven and tears and earth.

and floors are where i have found holiness, and him — yes, God.

and there is more to this, if i may tell — he is in the postman too when he comes to my door, but i don’t think he knows it yet, so i will keep on speaking kindness over him until it blooms white hot in his soul.

and i call him by his name, God, and the postman,

and i say thank you for all that i have received, from Him, and from him, yes, even the mail.

and just in case someone else further back has forgotten that we are all holy, i say thanks for him too, the postman.

the one who delivers my mail with his soul.

it is only a simple prayer.

thank you.

but holy.

holy, with the fragrance of heaven, and somewhere out there in another part of home and earth, someone once touched the cinnamon on my oats, and i bless their hands, and their heart, and their body, and their soul, and for them too, i ask for more.

and this is how i change the world, and this is how i open the windows.

and God finds me here, in the dust, and in the light where it falls.

everywhere.

— the holiness of cinnamon, and more.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Alessio Cesario.

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.