love, will not make you search for it.

you shouldn’t have to look for love in the long grass,

you shouldn’t have to search
for it

hungrily, living

from crumb to crumb,

map faded,
edges torn

trying to remember
where you last saw it,

when you were last allowed
to sit next to it

for a little while,
until.

sometimes it is what it is

and
not

what you want it to be.

you have to open your eyes

when you kiss, and
keep them unclosed
long after.

love,
if it is real

is a tree that spreads,
shields and

shelters.

you never have to search for it.

it is always there
right before your eyes, and

every time you fall to your knees

in the moss
of the green softness that
covers the roots of the thing

that holds you,

you
will
know
this

and not forget.

— love will not make you search for it.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Annie Spratt.

this is for you,

if you need reminding that love, does not leave you hungry, does not make you search for it in the long grass of your life.

liezel

your drought is almost over.

how many years have you spent pulling on clothes that do not fit—forcing on shoes that pinch and make you fall over your own feet?

how many different hats have you worn and each one more wrong than the other?

how long have you wandered from room to room searching for your own breath?

your fingers in the holes in the walls and all you want is earth under your feet, wide open sky above your head, soft rain to ease the drought in your heart, to hear each blade of grass as it moves in the breeze—some holy books call it a spacious place—you call it home.

and you have seen it behind your eyes just before you fall asleep, and the birds that sing in that garden wake you, just before you open your eyes every morning.

and you know it’s there.
somewhere.

and perhaps you thought it was tied to a promise, but see here’s the thing, sometimes things break and even words don’t hold their weight and it is difficult for me to say this, because of how much i love words.

but words break too, even ones given as a gift.

anything can break, can fracture, a hairline crack at first and then a slow end into i-cannot-go-back and inbetween being the glue that holds others together, and not remembering the sound of your own name, you wake up one morning and your hands are empty and the first thing you want to do, is ball your fists, curl yourself up from the hunger that has eaten its way through your bones, and all the things that you have used to fill that ache, no longer work, because you have been a cardboard cutout—a paper doll dressed up by the hands of others and you have called this ‘a life’ and sometimes even, ‘my life’, thinking that if you could only possess it with a small pronoun, then it would be ok, be enough, but it isn’t.

is it?

and you see others, carrying their lives in their arms and they seem happy with the weight of what they have been given, so why can’t you be the same—wear the same shade of happiness on your lips every morning?

and in your dreams the moon has called you, wooed you with a song that somewhere deep inside of you, you can still remember from lifetimes ago, and now?

now you find yourself standing outside the lines, knees scuffed from climbing outside the box, wrists bruised from breaking the ropes that held you to the life that belonged to your father and your mother and your father’s father and your mother’s mother and all of those who lived their lives before you, and maybe even with you, but see?

this is the secret—their life was never your life to live, even if they said so and there are many ‘theys’ in your life and sometimes the bravest thing you can do, is to turn your back on a hand-me-down-life and leave it behind.

and you have lived a hungry life trying to make sure that your colours don’t bleed all over other people, so thoughtful you have been.

and now?

now you are on the other side of the fence.
finally.

but you are all alone.

and you are scared.

where to now?
where is home?
where do you belong?
perhaps that two-sizes-too-small-coat wasn’t so bad after all?
you could live smaller—lose the weight of your dreams and then perhaps you will fit into
that life?

no. no. no.
don’t you dare!

let those questions come.

you can’t leave without a hundred hungry questions following you, anyway.

it’s ok.
there are answers for most of them.
the others will die from lack of fear.

eventually.

but until then, this is what you do—you breathe… breathe free for the first time and call it what it is—you are on your own, but you are not alone!

open your hands.
uncurl your fingers.
you cannot receive anything if your hands are full of fear.

breathe.

see the wide open sky above your head?
it is all yours.
see the clouds building up in the east?
smell the dampness in the air.
your drought is almost over.

and there’s more.
so much more.

take off that coat, that dress, shapewear?
what on earth for?
you have always been the perfect shape!
no more of this… that hat? those shoes?

kick them off.
throw them away.

feel the air on your face and look! see how your skin fits perfectly… stretched just right over your bones, and this is what you have wanted—hungered for, isn’t it?

this freedom to be what they told you, you couldn’t.

naked.
enough.

here you are.

you’ve come this far and i know that it’s scary—terrifying really, but you can’t turn back now, not again.

open your eyes.
look up.
breathe.
hold out your hands.

the rain is coming.

— your drought is almost over.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Kourosh Qaffari

read them in the night, or in the early morning just before light breaks over your fear.

i hope that they help.

liezel

you are not the well.

did you also tell yourself
that you have to save
everyone

just to feel the weight of their

‘i love you’

on your skin?

…and did they also tell you,

when your eyes were still
dew soft with memories
of where you were made,

and put together in the secret places,

that

their happiness was all tied
up inside of you

with ribbons, except

they were really ropes.

and it has been impossible
for you
to
escape,

their hunger

which consumes you from the outside in, and you are

always having to smile
and keep the peace.

keep them happy
when they break.

always having to glue
things

and places
and people

right back together

when you have run out of light
yourself?

as if this were the only
thing that heaven has
called you
to do.

that when the angel stirs the pool you have to carry them
in, but

it never works.
they are never healed.
they are never, ever happy.

because you are not the water.

it is a lie.

you
are not here to save people
from themselves.

you
are not here to earn love.

to cross deserts,
and fields of thorns
for someone to draw water
from your empty hands.

just because you have a cup

does not mean
you are a well.

you are not the source,
or even the back that carries
the weight.

somehow,
you were not told
that your voice is strong,

and beautiful.

and that it can sing on
its own,

carry an entire melody
alone!

and has anyone ever told you
this,

that there is a God
for everyone,

and

it is not you.

you,
are free to go.

go and live!

— you are not the well.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Frank Albrecht.

I don’t like posting twice on the same day, but I really want to put this one up tonight.

You cannot be the source of someone’s happiness, peace and joy.

It is not your job.

And sometimes, we are told this from a very young age and all we know from thereon out, is that we need to keep the peace… we don’t learn that we can challenge opinions, and say ‘no’ to things that make us uncomfortable.

we become people pleasers with a skewed sense of love.

we think that we have to somehow earn the ‘i love you’s’ by being the source to people who don’t know where to find it themselves, or don’t want to find it themselves.

you are not a crutch.

you were a given a life.

go and live it!

With a grateful nod to Melissa T, for a line that I used in this poem.

liezel

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’.