you watch for it, wait for it,
front door open, a hungry view
to the street below, the tree at the bottom of the garden, now full of a pink summer, a whole year has grown, and do you remember when love walked in on soft feet, floor boards creaking in the afternoon light, a second chance, your hands so full
of the newness, the choosing of you
over and over.

— then.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Noah Silliman.

for e.g.

Image by Noah Silliman.

how to love like heaven

all day i stay hidden.

hiding from the pain that climbed into my head whilst i was sleeping, settled itself comfortably behind my eye, an old foe and how familiar we are to each other, by now.

it settles a mood on me—grey, a storm fills my mouth, and what falls from my tongue has sharp edges, howls.

i try to shape my words carefully with soft hands, call them love, but

i fail.

i am not always what i want to be.

in the late afternoon, he bursts into my bedroom, climbs onto my lap, spills his long limbs all over me, his boy hands on my cheeks, eyes finding mine,


is your head sore, mom?
i think you are grumpy and cross because it hurts.
it’s ok.
i still love you.

all the things we have taught each other, always his eyes are on mine, searching for the way home, true north, grace.

his hands still full of all the things that smell like heaven.

— how to love like heaven.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Annie Spratt.

Image by Annie Spratt.

ken jy my

vertel vir my hier waar ons sit,


mekaar se vrees ontbloot.

flardes, flenters

gebruikte liefde, oud

en stukkend aan mekaar verkoop

as iets wat dit nie is nie,

nooit sal wees nie, nuut

en wit.


ek en jy.

en ken jy die roep van die tarentaal

as die karoo son sak vir haar nag se dwaal

na die donker anderland.

en ken jy haar stem as sy weer

verlig, vlerke stukkend


na haar sterre dans?

— ken jy my?

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Foto deur Evie S.


Foto Evie S.

the secret life of things

at the bottom of the field which held my father’s crops,

the bees lived.

hives of faded wood hugged the river, owned the sun.

secret things happened here.

when the frames were full,

he would harvest the warmth of summer.

forearms straining under the weight of a chipped enamel basin full of a season,

he would leave it on the kitchen table.


that hidden things eventually find their way to the light.

wax shaped, moulded into tight pieces,

stuffed into the furthest corners of my mouth,

honey filling the cracks of a childhood, dripping

from my lips.


that there was sweetness, too.

— the secret life of things.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Damien Tupinier.

Today, is World Bee Day.

I remember the white wooden
hives at the bottom of our field.

I remember the chipped enamel basin full of summer’s sweetness.


Image by Damien Tupinier.

womb | words with elizabeth

she tells me how she knocks on doors,
for a thing that she cannot

only knows that it is familiar,

covered her with shame,

this fetal need, this

hand-me-down pain
from all the women before,


that it never leaves.

quietly gnaws its way
through her, and that

a mother is not formed
by labour, by

spilling blood, by


sometimes there is no room
inside for anyone else, long

the cord is cut, the joy
grown old.


standing there,
nine years old, she is (still)

hoping for a place at the table, but

like before.
like before,

she hopes,

never gives up.

what does that even mean,
she says.


she has wrapped herself
in steelwool, pulls it

over her shoulders

every day
for all the moments that run

into a life, but

at night
she sheds it, knows

in the dark, in the quiet

she must soften
breathe, or

else, she will walk
with the same limp, hold

the same barbed wire
in her mouth.

she hopes, she says

that it is ok to feel this as loss,

that it is ok to mourn
every empty

that was ever put before her.

knows, she was made for love.

made to be filled with it,
brimming over
until she groans with laughter


the fullness of it, sticking
to her heart, sticking
to her ribs,

all the roundness of it,
in her veins, she has

tasted it once, maybe
twice before.

she remembers.

she was made for all of this.


she is allowed to hold out her hands,

with thirst,

with hunger.

made for eating love.

nothing else.


there is a womb with her name on it, but it is not here.

— womb | words with elizabeth.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Serafima Lazarenko.

when you are found

when you are not looking for it, not searching for it

under any circumstance, yet


it finds you

in all the places where you hide,

seeks out all the cracks
with patient hands,

every scar,

fills them up, falls
into your hands

wet with life,

clings to your skin,

all the drought that has shaped you,


— when you are found.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Danielle Dolson.

Image by Danielle Dolson.

real love gets everywhere.

there you are!

i have been searching all over for you!

where have you been, and why is your heart in pieces on the floor?

all the edges sharp and hungry.

there is a lazy, late afternoon sun outside, and listen—a little boy is laughing, riding his bicycle in happy circles freedom at last!

and if you look up, you will see that the sky is porcelain blue—the exact shade of joy, and a
blackbird is singing in the wildest corner of the garden, but here you are—away from it all trying to find the numbers on the broken pieces that make up all that you are.

how to put yourself back together again—that’s what you want to know, isn’t it?

so tell me—is this really about love?

and did you finally allow yourself to fall back into someone’s heart?

how terrifyingly beautiful!

and yes, i see what’s happened.

you kicked off your shoes, and dipped your toes into the cool of the water pooling unexpectedly on the hidden side of your life—the part that you had completely forgotten about, until you stumbled upon it early one evening, just after you knew your old life wasn’t breathing anymore, and then—there it was—a little pond in the middle of your nowhere.

a secret place.

nobody could find you there and and it was a place where you could heal—could show your real skin and speak with your very first voice, the one from when you were still real, and it was good.

and that little pond was full of all the things you hadn’t seen in such a long time and your skin needed to feel that coolness too, that thing that you were too scared to crave, but you were desperate for, weren’t you, and so you threw it off—all the caution you had hanging around your neck in the shape of a key, and that key was so good at keeping things locked, but it was so heavy with fear and disappointment, wasn’t it?

and so you did a big, brave thing and you threw it all to the wind as a gift, and you stepped into love.

but here’s the thing, beautiful one, you love with a heart that remembers things, and you don’t know how to let this new love hold you close without feeling afraid.

that you are not enough.
that you are too much.

that another will come along
and shine brighter than you.

i know what that feels like, and it’s hard to find the right words
to put into your lover’s hands—to explain why you want to run away.

want to hide, before they might, just perhaps in the right light, see that you are not who they want.

and you have been there before, haven’t you?

and you know better than most, that words need to be undressed—completely naked, so that they can talk with their own voice and that is a terrifying thing, isn’t it?

because not everybody likes naked words, some people only know how to run from them.

and in trying to find those words, and in trying to listen to the quiet voice of all the women within you—somehow you don’t know what you are hearing—is it the old ripples of your once-broken heart, or the truth from a thousand women before you, saying ‘please, please be careful…tread lightly’.

and now you don’t know what to do, because you want to be loved and oh, how you want to love, but you don’t know how to put trust together into its proper shape with only the bits of string and the six rusty nails that you have inherited.

i don’t know what to say to you.

for once i have no advice, no words to rub into your fear, other than, ‘give it time’.

your heart will know soon enough—trust its wisdom.

and if it is love—real, live, breathing, hoping, holding, protecting, respecting, carrying, choosing-only-you-over-and-over-love, then your pieces will find their way back carried by another’s hands—if it is love, then this is what will happen.

so here, let’s have some tea together, sweet and strong and in the best cups.

sit here with me—see how the light falls onto the floor and finds its way into the cracks?

it’s like liquid gold.

it gets everywhere.

you can’t stop it if you tried.

if it’s love—real love—that’s precisely what will happen.

to you.
to them.

all the cracks—yours and theirs, will be filled to the brim with each other’s light.

and it will fall from your face and your eyes and your mouth and your words will be birds singing in the light.

you will see.

if it’s love, you can’t stop it even if you tried.

— real love gets everwhere.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Olga Serjantu.

this is for you if your heart remembers how things hurt before and you are standing with your feet in new love, but you are afraid.

this is for you if you don’t know how to trust because you can still feel those old ripples from the other times when you went in too deep and nearly drowned.

this is for you if you are not sure whether what you are hearing is the shadow of your old fears, or the old wisdom of your intuition.

if it’s love it will fill up all the cracks, just like late afternoon light on an old wooden floor, and you won’t be able to stop it even if you tried.