ee cummings at midnight.

i am eve

paradise has found me

after midnight

in the unlined hours

of this day

consumed

by words

i am

consumed

falling

into

my

hands

there are poems

here

that breathe

that have

secrets

i hold them

a little bit longer

than i should

they are the soft skin

of my grandmother’s hands

they are

the happy sitting

around a christmas table

before we splintered

i hold

all of this

sweet fat

that fills

dripping down my chin

into the hollow

of my collar bones

i keep all my secrets

there

it satisfies

i am

for a moment

full

yet

it leaves me

empty

again

and

hungry

for

more

is what i crave

haven’t i always been

chasing glorious things

wildly

i wonder how

there are people

bored

with life

when there is so much to eat

on this page.

— ee cummings at midnight.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Zoltan Tasi.

A poem about losing yourself in the words of a poet in a darkly, quiet house, when all you hear is silence and all your hunger is filled with the richness of another’s words.

liezel

in finding the ones who will hold your heart.

look for the ones who lean into your story.

the ones who don’t shrink back from your pain.

the ones who can hear what you are not saying.

these, are your people.

love them fiercely.

— on finding the ones who will hold your heart.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph source Pixabay.

{a repost from a year ago}

swimming in deep water.

at the leisure centre

through the revolving doors

i walk

i wear my favourite jeans

the ones that lift

and support

there are parts of me

that need help

staying up

even after all these years of

strong

i come from a place only i know the scent of

i strip away

my coat

my shoes

i am on holy ground

a rain damp hat

knickers

too

everything that hides

me from the truth

of other bodies

them from me

me from you

i walk on feet

afraid

naked

almost

still

our eyes find each other

in all this wetness

and

we talk

we are strangers

in this great daring thing

together

we throw words to each other

like bright balls

catch and throw

catch and throw

your turn now

now my go

can i show

you

a little bit more of

me

when last has a stranger seen

the pale

of my skin

the dimples on my thighs

that grew with my pregnant

belly

but never left

twelve winters my hands have

felt them every night

just before i yield

reproving

as if my whole life is held

hostage

by the plumpness of my legs

that have carried me

bravely

through doors

and

far away from war

when we have finally shown

each other

enough

we undo the babysoft skin

of our courage

and

leave

revolving outward

into winter

later

quite by chance

we see each other in the

bread aisle

fingers carefully looking for

something sweet

our eyes do not meet

for more than

a second

they can’t

we are wearing far too many layers now.

— swimming in deep water.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Stefano Zocca.

how to climb out of a foxhole.

when i find myself walking on a beach again,

sand soft and ocean lapped,

i shall be brave.

braver than i have ever been.

run into the water without a thought

of how i might look

to anyone passing through

on their way home from war.

aren’t we all?

hiding from each other

in foxholes all day

in plain sight.

i shall allow my hands

the freedom to throw joy

into the foam of the green, and

i shall not use them as a holy covering for all the parts of me that are hungry

to feel cool air salted with joy, and

the ordinary blessing of water.

do i really need to earn this right?

i refuse.

pale and dimpled in secret places,

i am a velvet map

to a place called courage.

it turns out,

that despite all my hiding from others,

and me,

that i have been naked all my life,

anyway.

aren’t we all?

and i am slowly dying.

ever since my birth,

time is slowly being taken

from me

and all the nights

that i did not walk into love

feet bare, fingers searching,

has been loss.

the weight of it all was enough

to make me walk away

and live.

— how to climb out of a foxhole.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Jordan Donaldson.

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’.