Anna, means grace. (It’s time to say goodbye).

I lit a candle for you, today.

Only one. If you live right, one light is enough.

Every time the tiny flame sputtered and died, I lit another. It still burns, even now, as I write with the sun almost at your door, and the moon, at mine.

The candle’s light kept me company as I peeled carrots for lunch—I know you’d appreciate that—the spirit keeping vigil whilst the hands are busy with the ordinary task of preparing food for a child. You were always so good at that. Filling tummies and hearts.

Remember how you showed me how to peel a potato so that the peel was almost as thin as tissue paper? Your face a study of quiet pride as your knotted fingers struggled not to yield to arthritis. I remember.

And how you used to walk with me to the other side of town, whenever I came to visit in the school holidays, just so that I could see the museum for the hundredth time. If you only knew the joy that gave me. The escape from the agony that was school. Of not fitting in no matter how hard I tried. Although, I think you do. You, were always my safe place. I remember.

And how you used to lift me out of that ancient cast-iron bath? The water never stayed warm in it. The blazing heat from the gas-heater warmed that small bathroom and small children too, on those icy nights.

Now, the flesh has faded from your bones and you are the one needing strong arms to hold you up and Winter has come, once again.

And I am not sure my heart can ever be warmed up again.

The years have been kind to you. But, time? Time, has been cruel. It has taken so many people that you have loved. And how you loved! I hope that they are all there, waiting for you when you walk through that door.

I hope.

Do you remember how I loved to play in the shade of the old Cape Rough-skin Lemon tree outside your kitchen door? How I loved that tree. And those lemons. And nobody could make lemon curd like you could. If I close my eyes, just like this, I can taste the sweet tartness on my tongue.

And when you were the first to look cancer in the eye and I gave you a card that said ‘Don’t give up’. As if you would.

And then, when it was my turn to face a doctor’s words, you gave it back to me. ‘Don’t give up’, you said.

As if I would. With your stubborn Irish genes in my DNA.

And now, here I am. On the other side of the world. I picked up my roots like a skirt and stepped gingerly onto another continent. Home, but not quite. I wonder if the women in my bones remember that their blood was once a part of this land. Do they remember me?

I am home, but not quite. Just like you.

And as I give my son his lunch, I teach him about nouns and how they name things, like ‘Ouma’.

We haven’t talked about adjectives yet, but I have so many that walk hand-in-hand with you, my Ouma.

Strong. Brave. Gracious. Wise. Loving. Loyal. Courageous. Faithful. Funny. Beautiful. Kind. Hopeful.

Soon, you will leave this place. It’s ok. I know that you’re tired. It’s been a long, hard season for you, and they are waiting.

They’re all there waiting for you. And I hope that there is a lemon tree. And new, strong bones and blue eyes, bright with new life.

And I shall be ok. It will hurt like hell. I cannot lie. It will be a searing pain that will leave a mark, but I shall be ok.

You know that.

I lit a candle for you, today.

It still burns as I wait.

The moon is here with me and so is the light.

…and I shall wait.

It’s ok, now. You can take off this life. It’s a bit frayed around the edges. You’ve worn it well.

But it’s time to go home, soon.

It’s ok.

I’ll see you on the other side.

— Anna, means grace. (It’s time to say goodbye).

© Liezel Graham 2019.

two sparrows’ worth.

do you remember

that dream?

.

the one that you held so

. tenderly

in your hands.

.

for a long while

you looked at it every day.

. breathing life into it

as often as you could.

.

until,

it got too hard

. to hope

for more.

.

and so,

after a while

you folded it up

. neatly.

like something no longer needed.

.

. but that’s not true.

is it?

.

i know.

.

it might be a bit dusty now.

. forgotten things often are.

.

and

. fuzzy

and

. frayed

around the edges.

.

that book you were going to write.

. remember?

.

that trip,

to see how the light

caresses the lavender fields of

. provence.

.

the marriage,

that has

slowly

stopped

breathing.

.

that house,

with a garden

big enough for children to build dreams in.

.

the

baby,

that you hear

when it’s still, at night.

. not yet there.

perhaps the time was never

. right.

or so you told

your broken heart

with the red moon

of

each

new month.

.

until,

it was safer to put it away.

.

it’s ok.

.

i know that, too.

.

but,

let me tell you

. dust,

is no match for courage.

.

and that’s all you need, really.

. two sparrows’ worth

of wild courage.

.

and

if standing in front

of

that

locked door,

feels hopeless?

. i’ve heard it said that

even if you’re down to your last coin.

.

. especially,

if you are down

to

your

very last coin.

.

. the last

of what you have to give,

often opens heaven’s door.

.

but you have to try.

. there’s no giving up.

.

so, go on, up you get!

.

listen.

do you hear that?

the rain is falling

. softly.

and you,

have some dusting to do.

.

—two sparrows’ worth.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

Photograph by Ricardo Esquivel.

every woman who heals herself.

Recently, one of my micro-poems was given new life by the wonderfully talented artist and illustrator, Kimothy Joy.

The image has been flying around social media and I am both pleased and humbled by this.

Here’s to healing — men and women, so that we don’t pass on unresolved hurt and pain to our children and through them, our children’s children.

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