how many ways are there to love?

i slice perfect circles every day

for years

the shape is important

it keeps your world

safe

carrots for your lunch, and

a yellow apple

the sweetness

for after

always the same

they said this would be hard

on my heart, but

here we are

you and i so far up this mountain

that i cannot hear their voices anymore

they didn’t tell me that love

would fall from my hands

at lunchtime,

without carrying a single word.

— how many ways are there to love?

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photography by Monicore.

my son eats a handful of foods.

the same ones for years, now.

this is not uncommon in #autism.

initially—in the very early years, just after diagnosis, this scared me.

now, it is who he is.

we have our own language of love.

words are superfluous.

x

scope

we sit on opposite sides of the waiting room

clutching our middle years

in our hands,

strangers

comparing stories of raising boys

they never seem to stop eating

do they,

from the minute they leave our bodies

so much life fills their skin.

we have given them everything that we have and more, and

perhaps because we are a hospital gown away

from being completely naked with each other,

we also speak

quietly

of the things that they might find

hiding

within our walls, and

how we hope

that they

don’t,

because we have sons to feed, and

we are hungry

to be

in their lives, and

we smile and we laugh

a little

in the shadow of the thing

that has a name

but doesn’t have ours,

yet

we hope

like all the women before us,

we walk barefoot here

in the valley, and

we all lose our shoes when we walk this road,

it doesn’t matter what your name is,

here

in this place,

we all fear the same, and

we follow the nurse to the room where they will tell us

our future

for a moment

you turn away

and i see it in your eyes.

later when i walk out of recovery

orange juice still sweet on my tongue,

i carry words in my hands

that breathe,

words that do not chase

me

yet

you are in the cubicle next to me

the borders that i have just left

behind

i never want to return to this place, and

i see you

curled up

into the shape of a foetus,

asleep

under the weight of the extra peace they pumped into your veins,

statistics say that it had to be one of us

the odds took more from you

than from me, and

i hope that you find the courage to chase away the

dogs of fear.

— scope.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

recently i had my ‘future’ told by a medical team.

i was the fortunate one who walked out with hope in my hands.

xx

Photograph by Leo Cardelli.

i have made beauty from everything they said was broken.

when i was in labour with you,

all

those

hungry

years of waiting,

the anaesthetist ran his hands gently down my spine.

his voice running over my pain like water,

has anyone ever told you that you have scoliosis?

yes, i nodded, right in the middle of a contraction that felt like it could force continents apart.

a woman knows when she is held up by imperfection.

is that why it hurts so much?

a murmur—yes—a stranger’s fingers moving up and down my vertebrae;

an attempt to tame the thing that was wild within my bones, right from the start, and

later, when the light broke hot pink and wild orange, all over our new life, you were a soft weight on my chest, and i was learning how to keep you alive with all the broken pieces that i had, and

all i could smell was heaven.

it was there in your hair, and in your cries, and the way that your fingers curled around mine, and

how could something like this, ever have been made in the dark?

all this beauty that was built, in spite of a foundation that is still tilted

rebelliously.

— i have made beauty from everything they said was broken.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Dominika Roseclay.

my words are always making poems.

the poet fears the loss of words to rearrange on paper, and

there are many places in the heart that a drought can happen, but

last night i told my son a story before sleep claimed him from me,

and he laughed,

and laughed.

his mouth a happy moon in a dark night, and

this morning my words carried the sun on their shoulders as they left my mouth to call him back, and

he heard, and smiled in his sleep.

that is how far they can travel when they do not need my

permission.

the poet fears the loss of words that will obey her on paper, but

see how many quiet ones slip out when she is not looking, but

they will not be shaped into poems where they do not want to live.

no.

some words are made to fall all over sleep-soft skin.

they are made entirely of love.

— my words are always making poems.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Magda Ehlers.

let me hold your hand a little bit longer.

at the end of a long walk

we come upon a split

in the path.

i know these woods like i know the contours of my son’s face.

i should not be afraid to let

him run ahead,

i know this.

but he shares my brother’s name, and i cannot see beyond the trees today.

i have lost so many things;

misplaced so much,

that my hand will not let go of his.

not yet.

— let me hold your hand a little bit longer.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

I wrote this poem after a walk in one of our favourite woods this morning.

Today, is nine days without my brother and this afternoon, in a phone call back home, I listened to my Mom’s heartache at trying to find her way around a new normal without her son.

Learning to let go is a hard thing.

x

Photograph by Lisa Fotios.

let me show you how to let your heart walk out of your mouth.

he tells me how men are made.

first, by breaking everything gentle that ever had a chance to grow towards the light.

as if a man was never grown below a woman’s heart.

then, by searing

the scars with

white-hot

shame.

there are things that he still cannot

say.

his words own him.

but sometimes at night he allows himself to feel everything

that will not leave

his mouth.

it lives there.

large and silent.

this, is how men are made

by other men.

later, i tell my son

who still has sunshine and softness living inside his mouth, that

all his words are naked when they climb up his throat.

they are not to be dressed up,

before they fall like stars

from his tongue.

this is how his heart will walk out of his mouth, one day.

i am building a man, too.

— let me show you how to let your heart walk out of your mouth.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Kat Jayne.

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.