Adhaan.

my eyes find hers.

i say,

one more push!

you’re almost there.

as women have done
for years

since time began, and

suddenly!

a rush of life.

my hands hold

hope,

slick with blood.

i wipe nose and mouth,
look for tiny breaths,
a whisper on my hands.

she cries.

i smile, but
still

no words fall from my tongue.

not yet.

eyes wide with wonder,

he looks at me,
i nod.

and

there
beside the bed,
a new-born father

finds,

perfectly folded,

his daughter’s tiny ear.

bends down
holy,

softly whispers
ancient words filled with God.

— adhaan.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Charles Deluvio.

I shared this poem in my writing group this morning and I thought I would share it with all of you over here, too.

The Adhaan (Adhan) is the Muslim call to prayer which a father whispers into the right ear of his newborn baby as soon as possible after birth.

I once delivered a lovely Muslim couple’s first baby and this was an incredibly beautiful rite to witness.

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

my mouth can change the world.

if every peach skinned morning,

just as the new light holies me,

i decide

to keep all my words skin soft
and warm.

a prayer, perhaps

if you believe.

but, also if you don’t.

it works either way.
just like love.

i might remember this,

that i have so much kindness
in my mouth, but

there are days it doesn’t get used at all

and heaven sits on my shoulder all day,

a sparrow,

waiting to be set free.

— my mouth can change the world.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by James Hammond.

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

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.

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

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.