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

the colour of your love (is violent).

the colour of

your love

blooms

red

on my lip, and

i walked into the door, again

last night.

the secret

soft

parts of me

hidden from the

light, a

love letter of

purple,

green,

and

blue.

an undying reminder, that

i belong to you,

forget-me-not,

until

death

us

do

part.

— the colour of your love (is violent).

© Liezel graham 2018.

The Colour of Your Love (is violent), is a poem about domestic violence.

This is a topic that I feel deeply about. It is not an easy topic to write about, but writing for me is cathartic and healing.

This poem was published in Brenda Magazine’s RED issue earlier this year and I was very pleased to have it feature in the magazine.

If you are affected by domestic abuse or violence, please know that there are organisations that can help you leave.

Wishing you healing,

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.

the old man at the door saw me.

today, on our way to a place

that holds joy for my son, i saw an old house — falling apart, but held together, somehow, by a hot pink camellia bleeding joy, brazenly onto the walls and the front of the sidewalk, and nobody saw this sign, but

i did.

and later, i saw an old man at a door, checking tickets, and i started to breathe the word autism, hoping for more than we need, and he saw my eyes, and my heart, and my fear, and my boy, and he said, aye, you’re alright, and enjoy — in that big scottish way, and he gave me a smile, and his light, that said, see! it’s going to be alright, wait and see, and

my child — barely ten and a few sleepless nights fresh from my womb, stood in the shadow of something that breathed 150 million years ago when the land looked so much different, and

life was more peaceful, i think, and he was in awe at those bones, and i stood there smiling at my cup spilling over, right here and right now, but not everyone can see through the mess, sometimes — these miracles that find me — stars, that guide me all the way home, and

last night when i was afraid of undressing my heart, and my words were more salt, than they were light, a friend said, it’s ok, no need to explain or apologise, your journey home is yours, and yours alone, and i carried her gift all night until the sun rose fresh over my life again.

and people have been climbing out of closets, and boxes, and other locked rooms for centuries, have they not? and still, life breathes and breaks new every couple of hours, but not everyone sees, but

i do.

and i look for the way that God breaks wide open in a face, in a smile, and the way that eyes can lift a heart right out of the mud and the dark, and how so many roads lead home, and i walk them, wandering here and there, and would you know? that,

everywhere i go i find others who hear the same silence, weaving songs from notes as ancient as bone, and who are not afraid of hands that flap and fold like birds, flying up, to heaven and back.

they, who keep watch over windows, and doors, and other ways into a soul — who hold up the walls that are crumbling, with light, and who say, aye, you’re ok, it’s going to be alright, just you wait and see.

— the old man at the door saw me.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Juan Pablo Arenas.

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.

the thing that gave you joy, is (still) waiting.

do you still have that dream?

the one that you have been dressing and,

undressing

since you were little.

breathing in the joy

of knowing that

this,

this beautiful thing

belongs to you,

and

only you, but

then

they made

you build a fence

around the thing

that makes you happy.

keeping you out,

and away

from it.

your

face

pressed

right up against the magic,

but

not

close

enough.

did they say,

who do you think you are,

and

that will never happen,

and

you are not like them,

you are like us,

and

people like us don’t dream.

and,

you

think

you

are

so much better than us.

but

you

are

not.

do you remember it now?

i thought you might.

the voices

are pretty much the same,

no matter who you are,

or who you were,

once-upon-a-time.

and that fence

might be overgrown by now.

mine was.

and it might be higher

than it seemed

when you still believed

in dreams.

that happens.

so, don’t you worry

about

weeds,

and thorns,

and strangling things,

that can be cut back,

ripped out,

and

broken down.

that will be the easy part.

what i want to know,

and this,

is really the most important part,

do you still hear their voices?

because

that is where the lie started,

and

that is where the lie must end.

so

turn

your

back,

dreamer, yes

you must

if you are still searching

for that thing

that made you feel alive, and

it will need some care, and

a little bit of love,

but it will live

if you want it to.

so, this is what you do.

you listen for another voice,

and

it is quiet

and

it is soft,

so listen carefully.

it says i-believe-in-you things, like

you can,

and

i know you can do this,

and

what a great idea,

and

you are just the right one for this,

and,

let

me

tell

you

something else.

sometimes,

there is a lot of noise

when fences come down,

and

when dreams go up, so

don’t you mind this.

it will die down,

and

you will grow up,

and

you will grow out,

and

you will find your way again.

because

the thing that gave you joy,

is (still) waiting (for you), and

the light on your skin

will be beautiful

and warm,

and

one day,

sooner than you think,

you will walk

straight into yourself,

again.

— the thing that gave you joy, is (still) waiting.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Matheus Bertelli.

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.