on mothering diabetes.

in my fridge,

in the shelf that is designed

to hold cheese,

there are vials of hope,

and an emergency kit

in bright orange,

remember, remember

in case you forget

how to breathe,

with pre-filled hormone,

so that when my fingers

fumble with fear

i have a needle

ready

to plunge deep into muscle,

to bring you back

if you should ever slip

too far away

from me.

i keep nocturnal vigils with foxes

and

other moon mothers

who have to keep on keeping on,

until

the

day

breaks

fresh

hope

over

me,

and how tired can a mother

be and still breathe?

i punch a calculator in my head with every meal,

and

i sing songs of

no, you cannot eat that now

and please,

you must drink this now,

or else…

and in this home

we know needles,

and

we

know

fear,

and we are the ones with

a yellow sharps container

on our kitchen counter

where

others

have no such things, and

we are intimately familiar

with the fear

that

can

slip

into

a word,

hypo

hyper

ketones

coma

death.

but, i also know this hope that lives in delicate glass vials,

where every drop

holds life

yours,

and also my heart, and

i promise you

that cells might forget

how to keep

you alive,

but i will not forget,

or

give up,

ever.

and

for you,

and for life,

i am grateful.

— on mothering diabetes.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

The 10th to the 16th of June is Diabetes Week.

This is a reworking of a poem that I wrote last year.

Many of you know that my son has T1 Diabetes (and autism) and in our home, we sing a different song and we fight a daily war that involves needles and insulin and fear — if I am honest.

But, we also know hope and we are grateful for the simple miracle of insulin.

And, for life.

#DiabetesWeek

#SeeDiabetesDifferently

#T1Diabetes.

somehow, i have kept a child alive in the dark and please don’t tell me how to be beautiful.

the light has woken me early, but the night that was only 380 broken minutes long, has left me tender and not yet ready for all these new hours that stretch lazily ahead of me, like a languid cat already seeking my attention, and i have pulled myself back from sleep 3 times in the name of all that is holy, so that i can put a needle into my sleeping son’s finger to check that there is enough glucose and insulin for him to wake again in the morning—not too much, and not too little, the porrige must be just right said the baby bear, and there was juice and a biscuit in the dark hours, sit up my boy and drink, you are too low, and with eyes closed he hears my voice and drinks, just like a long time ago, and still i manage to keep him alive, and isn’t this a miracle i whisper to myself, and just right is what the magazines say i must be, and not too hot (how dare she…) and not too cold (she’s really let herself go…) and there are women who were not even conceived yet, when i said yes, and they, these lovely, shiny, unlined and untested women, are telling me how to erase the gentle rise, and fall of my body’s topography, and that i should feel shame at the contour lines that snake over my womb, and someone with teeth as white as revelation is telling me how to pretend that my hips never held a heartbeat, and that my breasts were never a source of life, and this is how you shine if you want it all she says, and who doesn’t want that? but this morning i will settle for coffee and a slow-burning hope, and i unroll my yoga mat and i unfurl my limbs and my heart gently follows, and somehow i have kept a child alive in the dark—can you believe that? i ask the pretty girl—and please don’t tell me how to be beautiful.

just don’t.

and now the morning light has climbed in through my window like a bold, teenage lover, and it falls softly on my skin, and i can see all the pretty young women, and all the men who tell us how to be acceptable and everything they’ve ever dreamed of, and i can hear them as i fold my body down, down, down towards my feet, and i can hear their hunger, and it is no longer mine, and somehow i have kept a child alive in the dark, can you believe that? and this, is enough.

—somehow i have kept a child alive in the dark, and please don’t tell me how to be beautiful.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Arthur Roman.

elizabeth.

did you know, she said, that i have been so hungry for so long, from birth, i think, that i have fed all the soft parts of me to a hundred, maybe more, and it is never enough when the light breaks, and i am never enough, and only one of us leaves with a full belly and it is never me.

it is never me who knows what it feels like to be enough, to be just right and not too much, or too little, and i don’t know how to get all my pieces back, how do i find myself again, and my heart needs them back, because these holes are too big now and the wind blows right through them, and late at night, when all those people are walking through my head with their hungry bellies and their dirty feet, i can’t sleep for the sound of the wind weeping through those holes, my holes, and right through me, and perhaps it is me, i don’t know anymore…

and all i could say was, i know.

i know.

me too.

— elizabeth.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Dominika Roseclay.

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.