on the inside (i am outside).

i wish that i could say

that i have

all the answers.

.

or perhaps,

. just a few.

that would be good.

.

that i have

. somehow,

grown fat with wisdom.

.

i have neither.

.

. all i have in my hands

are words.

.

. and none of them are smooth.

.

they are hungry words

that know how to search

when the lights have gone out.

.

they are strong words

that know how to break down walls,

one stone at a time.

.

they are brave words

that know how to open windows,

when all the doors are locked.

.

they are tender words

that know how to soothe what is broken,

because they remember.

.

. because,

i remember

. what it is to need water

and hope.

.

and i have

somehow

stumbled right into the middle of my life

still carrying a bag of questions.

.

. rebellious ones at that.

or, so i have been told.

.

not fit for one who stands in the shadow of the cross.

.

. my coat,

is too bright

or too faded

or too there-is-something-not-quite-right

and

we can see right through that cloak

and

she does not fit in,

. here on holy ground.

.

i know.

. i know.

.

but i can pour shame

onto paper

in

the

shape

of grace.

.

and i can string words into lights

that stubbornly lead the way out.

or up,

. if you believe.

.

and

this relentless unmasking

of flesh

and

bone

and

heart

and

soul

into words,

. is all that i have been given

in exchange

for

all

that has been taken.

.

and still

it is not enough?

.

.

—on the inside (i am outside).

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

The Decision.

‘Did I ever tell you about the time I gave myself away to a broken man?’ She asked me one icy afternoon when the skies over Glasgow were mourning the loss of Summer.

The tea grew cold as I waited for her to return from where she had retreated to inside her head. I had known her all my life—our friendship, a tapestry of dark and light. When she finally looked up, her eyes were wet with tears. My heart broke for her.

‘I walked away from everything that I had. Everything that I felt was no longer enough. I sacrificed it all and I gave myself to him in pieces. One heartbeat at a time. I thought that I could save him. That I could rearrange all his fractured pieces into something new. Heal him. You know?’

She stared out of my kitchen window at the rain falling in grey sheets over the Old Kilpatrick hills.

‘I realised too late that he would cost me something that I could never get back. I almost lost my life bleeding from trying to put the splinters of his life back together in the shape of a man. It’s an impossible thing to do. A broken man who doesn’t want to heal, will cut you until you die.’

I reached for her hand across the scrubbed pine table. Our eyes met and I nodded.

‘I know’, I said, ‘I’ve known for a long time. But you can walk away from this. You have to leave him there. Leave him where he walked away from you. He didn’t deserve you. Still doesn’t. You are worth so much more. You have lost so much of yourself because of him. Don’t let him steal the rest. You have your husband back. You have to choose where to plant your love. Here, with a man who adores you; who would give up his life for you, or in the past with a shadow who never had any intention of loving you. The choice is yours.’

She smiled her beautiful smile at me and for a moment I saw myself in her eyes. A tapestry of dark and light. A friendship of pain and joy and all the other moments that made up our relationship. Yes. She had a choice to make.

A shaft of afternoon sunlight broke free from the grey clouds. The rain had stopped. Briefly. It would fall again. But for now, the light was breaking through. And it was good.

—The Decision.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Daja.

I haven’t written a flash fiction piece in a while. I hope that you enjoy this.

liezel

a new year’s song.

the year is dying in my hands

and

. i am filling my apron

with a feather

. for hope,

and

tiny bits of tumbled sea glass

. for courage.

.

.

when the waters rise,

. they will not wash over me.

.

.

a pinch of faith,

. you only need a little,

and

a quilt of mercy

to warm my heart

.

that

at

times

has

loved

so coldly.

.

. i will guard the spring.

.

guard it fiercely,

so that only

love

will

flow,

. but i know

that i am cut from rough cloth

and

grace

is the bread that keeps me alive,

.

and you.

.

so

i will give

. and give

. and give,

until

we cannot see

who we once were,

. for all the love.

.

that,

is how they will recognise us.

.

.

the broken ones.

.

not the knowledge.

not the perfection.

not the raised eyebrow,

.

but

the

love.

.

it’s how i recognised you,

when

all

i had known was failure.

.

you loved me first,

and

never

stopped.

.

and i will not worry about

my hips

or

my wrinkles

or

my yesterdays

or

my tomorrows.

.

i am held.

.

and because i am the one,

.

that

one,

.

who deserves an entire parable.

. yes.

.

the one

who wanders

and

strays .

into thickets

. and

thorns,

where others see the danger,

i will remember that i was searched for

. over and over,

every time

and

i too will

. search

when others get lost.

.

i will not be the pointing finger,

but

the open hand that says,

. here i am.

.

let me be

a light in a glass jar,

. shining

in spite of it all.

.

.

—a new year’s song.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

.

.

Photograph by Martí Pardo.

.

.

Friends,

.

.

I wish you a peaceful, spacious

new year.

.

.

Know that you are held

and that though they may rise,

the waters will not wash over you,

.

.

liezel

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

(the world is weeping) and there is tender work to be done.

you can bring

someone

a basket of hope,

soft and fresh.

.

.

but

you

cannot

make

them

eat.

.

. a broken heart,

is not easy to feed.

.

.

and,

watching the light

fade

from the bones

of someone

you

love,

.

.

can shrink the heart.

.

.

yes, it can.

but,

you must not give up.

.

. we,

are the light bearers.

the ones who chase darkness

from corners,

as we help

search for lost coins. and lost dreams. and lost

hope.

.

. we,

are the ones

who

plant

mustard

seeds

in dusty soil, and .

tell terrifying mountains

to move.

.

.

even

though

our

voices

break.

.

. we,

are the ones

who

carry

water

in buckets

for those

who are

too tired

to hope

for a harvest.

.

. we,

are the reminders,

with life on our tongue.

.

.

the ones who

whisper,

.

. i know this road, too.

take my hand.

i will not leave,

you.

.

.

so,

don’t give up.

not now.

.

.

roll up your sleeves.

straighten

your

bruised

heart.

.

. listen.

.

.

the world,

is weeping, and

.

.

there is tender work

to be done.

— (the world is weeping) and there is tender work to be done.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

.

.

Photograph by Rene Asmussen.

on being the holy broken.

you wonder

if it is worth

living your life

cracked

wide

open, whether

.

.

wearing your heart

on your sleeve

and

all your

hopes

carried in

unclenched

hands,

is ever safe, where

.

.

all the world can

see, and

all the world can

say

what they feel

about the tender courage

that has

taken

root

within you.

.

.

it will not be easy.

no.

definitely not.

there will be pain.

it is a new birth,

after all.

.

.

but, you must not

curl

inward.

.

.

lift your head.

unfurl your spirit.

reach upward.

live outward.

.

.

you are the holy broken.

.

.

the one holding the light.

.

.

and if you show your scars, people will come

and sit with you,

and they will listen.

.

.

and this

is how we heal each other.

by living gently,

and walking vulnerably.

unafraid of opinion.

ready to wipe away

tears

and

fears

and

other darkness,

with the light

shining

from

the cracks

in our bones.

moved only by the spirit.

.

.

so, yes—do it.

live your life a white dove

on the battlefield.

.

.

cracked

right

open.

.

.

it will all be ok.

.

.

—on being the holy broken.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

.

.

Photograph by @luizclas .