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.

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.

how to believe in yourself.

of all the words

in the whole wide world,

and there are so many,

the ones

that you

allow

to live

inside your head,

are

the

most

dangerous words

in the whole wide world, so

you

must be

very careful

whose words

you pick up

with

your

bare

hands, and give a home to.

and some words,

especially stray ones,

will try

to make

you

feel

small

and

unimportant, but

you are not small.

you,

are so big

with kindness, and

you,

are so strong

with compassion, and

all your beautiful dreams

have made you

so very tall.

isn’t that amazing?

how big you really are?

so don’t you believe,

not even for a minute,

that you

are not

enough

for your life.

go,

and search for new words,

big words,

happy words,

words that smile at you

when you find them.

eat them up,

one by one,

until the inside

of your heart

is full of you.

—how to believe in yourself.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Orlando Vera.

Never forget how big you really are.

For someone very special down under, but for all of us too.

liezel

when she takes me back.

…and then there are days, and nights sometimes, where healing, is lying down on my yoga mat in a dark room and going back,

.

back, as far as the child within me wants to go, and i let her decide where we stop and linger for a bit. i have learned to trust her with this most important thing, and

.

sometimes we walk through my father’s vegetable garden and he is there and the sun is hot on my skin and the cicadas are shrill in the heat of the afternoon, but we are happy and content and i ask him the secret to growing strawberries that are sweet like syrup and how-do-i-know-just-when-the-corn-is-ready-to-be-picked, and show me how to read the clouds that gather over the karoo landscape, and he tells me all the hidden things a gardener needs to know, and it is like the rain that falls from a broken cloud and floods the dry earth.

.

but sometimes, we stop where words are like acid and my skin burns and my heart melts like lead over a hot flame and then it cools into a different shape, and all i can do is stand there with my hand on her shoulder — the child who i once was, and i tell her that it’s ok, it’s ok, you are going to be ok, just you wait and see.

.

…and please let these words fall off your skin, please don’t let them cling, and yes, there is pain and it is not just your heart that hurts, his does too, but he does not know how to undo the deep tracks left in those new fields, and pain that is given no name, loves to marry anger and none of this is your fault, and .

it’s ok to let the tears fall, even now, let them water your skin, and your bones, and the dry earth of your heart and it is never too late to let them come, and just you wait, you will see.

.

it will all be ok.

.

and then we come back and we hug and say goodbye, for a while, this is hard work — too hard for every day, and she leaves quietly and i get up and read bedtime stories to a heart that looks at me with love, and i get to kiss a soft boy-cheek goodnight, and somehow,

.

somehow, it is all ok, and somewhere i can hear her laugh.

.

— when she takes me back.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

Photograph Pixabay.