Anna, means grace. (It’s time to say goodbye).

I lit a candle for you, today.

Only one. If you live right, one light is enough.

Every time the tiny flame sputtered and died, I lit another. It still burns, even now, as I write with the sun almost at your door, and the moon, at mine.

The candle’s light kept me company as I peeled carrots for lunch—I know you’d appreciate that—the spirit keeping vigil whilst the hands are busy with the ordinary task of preparing food for a child. You were always so good at that. Filling tummies and hearts.

Remember how you showed me how to peel a potato so that the peel was almost as thin as tissue paper? Your face a study of quiet pride as your knotted fingers struggled not to yield to arthritis. I remember.

And how you used to walk with me to the other side of town, whenever I came to visit in the school holidays, just so that I could see the museum for the hundredth time. If you only knew the joy that gave me. The escape from the agony that was school. Of not fitting in no matter how hard I tried. Although, I think you do. You, were always my safe place. I remember.

And how you used to lift me out of that ancient cast-iron bath? The water never stayed warm in it. The blazing heat from the gas-heater warmed that small bathroom and small children too, on those icy nights.

Now, the flesh has faded from your bones and you are the one needing strong arms to hold you up and Winter has come, once again.

And I am not sure my heart can ever be warmed up again.

The years have been kind to you. But, time? Time, has been cruel. It has taken so many people that you have loved. And how you loved! I hope that they are all there, waiting for you when you walk through that door.

I hope.

Do you remember how I loved to play in the shade of the old Cape Rough-skin Lemon tree outside your kitchen door? How I loved that tree. And those lemons. And nobody could make lemon curd like you could. If I close my eyes, just like this, I can taste the sweet tartness on my tongue.

And when you were the first to look cancer in the eye and I gave you a card that said ‘Don’t give up’. As if you would.

And then, when it was my turn to face a doctor’s words, you gave it back to me. ‘Don’t give up’, you said.

As if I would. With your stubborn Irish genes in my DNA.

And now, here I am. On the other side of the world. I picked up my roots like a skirt and stepped gingerly onto another continent. Home, but not quite. I wonder if the women in my bones remember that their blood was once a part of this land. Do they remember me?

I am home, but not quite. Just like you.

And as I give my son his lunch, I teach him about nouns and how they name things, like ‘Ouma’.

We haven’t talked about adjectives yet, but I have so many that walk hand-in-hand with you, my Ouma.

Strong. Brave. Gracious. Wise. Loving. Loyal. Courageous. Faithful. Funny. Beautiful. Kind. Hopeful.

Soon, you will leave this place. It’s ok. I know that you’re tired. It’s been a long, hard season for you, and they are waiting.

They’re all there waiting for you. And I hope that there is a lemon tree. And new, strong bones and blue eyes, bright with new life.

And I shall be ok. It will hurt like hell. I cannot lie. It will be a searing pain that will leave a mark, but I shall be ok.

You know that.

I lit a candle for you, today.

It still burns as I wait.

The moon is here with me and so is the light.

…and I shall wait.

It’s ok, now. You can take off this life. It’s a bit frayed around the edges. You’ve worn it well.

But it’s time to go home, soon.

It’s ok.

I’ll see you on the other side.

— Anna, means grace. (It’s time to say goodbye).

© Liezel Graham 2019.

two sparrows’ worth.

do you remember

that dream?

.

the one that you held so

. tenderly

in your hands.

.

for a long while

you looked at it every day.

. breathing life into it

as often as you could.

.

until,

it got too hard

. to hope

for more.

.

and so,

after a while

you folded it up

. neatly.

like something no longer needed.

.

. but that’s not true.

is it?

.

i know.

.

it might be a bit dusty now.

. forgotten things often are.

.

and

. fuzzy

and

. frayed

around the edges.

.

that book you were going to write.

. remember?

.

that trip,

to see how the light

caresses the lavender fields of

. provence.

.

the marriage,

that has

slowly

stopped

breathing.

.

that house,

with a garden

big enough for children to build dreams in.

.

the

baby,

that you hear

when it’s still, at night.

. not yet there.

perhaps the time was never

. right.

or so you told

your broken heart

with the red moon

of

each

new month.

.

until,

it was safer to put it away.

.

it’s ok.

.

i know that, too.

.

but,

let me tell you

. dust,

is no match for courage.

.

and that’s all you need, really.

. two sparrows’ worth

of wild courage.

.

and

if standing in front

of

that

locked door,

feels hopeless?

. i’ve heard it said that

even if you’re down to your last coin.

.

. especially,

if you are down

to

your

very last coin.

.

. the last

of what you have to give,

often opens heaven’s door.

.

but you have to try.

. there’s no giving up.

.

so, go on, up you get!

.

listen.

do you hear that?

the rain is falling

. softly.

and you,

have some dusting to do.

.

—two sparrows’ worth.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

Photograph by Ricardo Esquivel.

things i teach my son.

things i teach my son:

to honour his sadness

. when it settles in his bones.

to know the value of his tears.

to always give words

to the rain in his heart.

. this,

is my gift to the one

who will love him one day.

.

—things i teach my son.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

.

A familiar poem to some of you, and a very special poem to me. This little poem was recently published in The Scarlet Leaf Review along with three other poems that I wrote last year.

I hope you find it as special as it is to me.

.

.

You can read my other poems at

https://www.scarletleafreview.com/poems25/liezel-graham-poems

.

.

liezel

every woman who heals herself.

Recently, one of my micro-poems was given new life by the wonderfully talented artist and illustrator, Kimothy Joy.

The image has been flying around social media and I am both pleased and humbled by this.

Here’s to healing — men and women, so that we don’t pass on unresolved hurt and pain to our children and through them, our children’s children.

on being jabez.

she named you jabez.

when

wave,

after wave,

of searing heat

had

ripped

through

her belly and skin.

and she,

exhausted,

could finally hold you in her arms,

she looked at you and said,

i gave birth to him

in pain.

call him, jabez.

he makes sorrowful.

he causes pain.

and i often wonder,

why?

a mother forgets

the pain of birth.

usually.

forgetting can be a lifeline.

but you — born in misery.

a maker of sorrow.

your name.

your very being.

you carried

that

with you.

inscribed on your heart.

through the years,

every

time

your

name

was

called.

a reminder.

(i caused) pain.

(i was born from) sorrow.

dear one,

born

in

strife.

did you ever wonder, why?

did you silently long

for the ordinary names of your playmates?

yes.

i see you.

i see your heart determine

not

to

fail.

i see a young man

steadfastly refuse

to give in.

refuse to give life,

to that

which crushed his mother’s heart.

that,

which longed to crush him,

too.

i see you fight.

fight,

to

not

settle

for the destiny

that you were named for.

knowing,

that there is more.

knowing,

that words have power.

great power.

if only i realised how much,

and

that

life

and

death

lives

in

my

mouth.

but,

there is one

who breathes

hope

into a tired spirit.

one,

who speaks

life

into dry bones

and

dead hearts.

i know.

jabez.

honourable man.

thousands of years after your name was written on a scroll,

i see you.

and i hear,

what the words do not say.

defiant one.

you taught me

that i too,

could shrug off a

hand-me-down cloak

too

small

for my shoulders.

you showed me the way to say,

no.

no,

i

shall

not

settle

for sorrow,

though i might be

named for it.

and,

there are many ways

to name a child.

i shall not be satisfied

with misery.

though it might have been a companion

for all the generations

before

me.

i shall not,

forever

carry

the bitter disappointments

of another.

though they know my name.

it is not my load to carry.

i will never be enough,

and

it will always be too heavy.

and,

this life has more.

always, more.

because there is one

who

is

enough,

and

i can go

with outstretched hands

and ask for more.

jabez.

the broken dreams

of our mothers,

were never meant

to guide

us

home.

there is hope.

there

is

so

much

hope.

stand up.

lift your head.

take

off

that

cloak.

it was never yours, to begin with.

— on being jabez.

‘Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying,

“I gave birth to him in pain.”

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.’

1 Chronicles 4:9-10

© 2017. Liezel Graham.

A re-post of one of my older poems that I have polished a wee bit and that I feel so strongly to share today.

If you are not familiar with the story of Jabez, I can summarise it as follows:

a baby is born to a mother, who remembers only the pain of childbirth and names her son for that pain and that sorrow.

As someone who has delivered a few babies I know that there are as many different mothers as there are grains of sand, yet most forget the pain of labour and rejoice in the gift of the child that they have given birth to.

Unless, the child is not wanted.

Or, carries the weight of a mother’s broken dreams, and

we all do.

Sometimes.

But, this man story has always shown me that there is more.

Despite what you have inherited.

Despite what you have been named for.

Names,

can be changed.

And, misery and sorrow and pain

do not have to be your defining companions.

Even though they might be familiar.

Let them go.

Change your name.

Change your heritage.

xx