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’.

unwrapped.

i made you a gift

with my own hands, and

from all the parts of me

that have

no name

but they live in the dark places

where love grows, and

i watched

as you held it in your hands

for a moment

i was still

and then you put it down

on the table

with the empty coffee mugs

and yesterday’s news, and

i hope that you will find it there

when you look for it

later.

— unwrapped.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photography by Annie Spratt.

…let’s be brave with each other,

but let’s be gentle with what we are given.

some gifts have no receipt attached.

liezel

courage.

i would like to say that

i look for beauty

everywhere

i go.

that i see it in the rebellious pout

of an old woman’s lips,

a slash of red

life owes her nothing.

has taken much

given more

she knows this truth

that it will all end at some point.

it will come to a sudden stop.

but

not

yet.

that will be me some day,

i say.

and i mean it.

and when i saw a young woman in costa,

freshly mothered

feeding her baby.

breast in tiny mouth

where everyone

could see,

but nobody was bothered

by a hunger being stilled

in their company.

such a quiet loveliness.

and that was me,

i say.

eleven winters ago,

but i had to leave the table.

my cup of hot tea.

my dignity.

to search for hidden places where the curve of my skin

as i fed my son

would not

offend

you.

if i could do it again

i would be

brave.

i would.

and i mean it.

and sometimes beauty

finds me first.

i do not always have to look for it.

such a quiet kindness.

dressed in old wellington boots,

she was

feeding

the mallard ducks bathed in low liquid sunlight.

casting her bread upon deep murky waters,

for the angry mute swans.

their cygnets

grey

unlived-in feathers

furiously

fluffing.

that will be me some day,

i say.

and i mean it.

still finding things

that need

to be

fed

even as they peck at my feet.

— courage.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photography by Evie S.

it’s ok, you can let go now.

how to heal a broken heart?

you must love again

something

someone

get up

dry your eyes

dust yourself off

loss, is just a season’s weight

not a calling until death

you were not born

to exist

on crumbs

now go!

someone out there

is searching

for you.

— it’s ok, you can let go now.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photography by Liezel Graham

if this is for you, may your heart find all the courage it needs to love again.

it’s ok, you can let go now.

liezel