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.

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

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 .

on samaritans and being the light.

what if,

we became

the light

in the dark

for

the ones who are lost,

.

.

who can’t find their way home,

no

matter

how hard

they try,

or pray,

or believe.

.

.

because sometimes,

faith

can

blister

and

crack,

and we all need to be covered

with

the coolness of

mercy,

when the fire

burns

too

hot,

.

. sometimes.

.

.

what if,

we became

the hansels

and

the gretels

with our hands

full

of

crumbs.

.

. and, crumbs are enough,

to lead

the way

out,

.

.

of where we

too, once

had

to

cast

our

eyes down,

to hide from the things

that snarl and that bite.

.

.

let’s feed

the hungry.

we don’t need that much.

.

.

really.

it’s been done

before

with

the smallest of numbers.

.

. even threes and fives

are seeds

for

hundreds.

.

.

let’s be the salt

and

the hands that

hold

up

exhausted arms that just can’t anymore.

.

.

let’s

look

for tired feet

and dirty feet,

and yes,

they need it most,

to

wash, and

.

.

let’s search

for smouldering hearts,

that are ready to give up,

and

let’s

gently

blow

life

back

into

the cracks.

a holy resuscitation.

.

.

let’s be the ones

who

unbruise,

and

unhurt.

.

.

who

pick up

and

carry

and

bandage

and

stand,

when it matters,

.

.

and

doesn’t it always?

.

. matter?

.

.

that

somebody

chooses

to stand

with

the outcast

and

the outnumbered,

.

.

in spite of

the holy

guidelines, and

.

.

they

have

been

wrong.

.

.

in spite of love.

.

.

so, here’s what we do,

.

.

let’s

be

the renegades

and

the shepherds

and

the cupped hands

holding

water, and

.

.

perhaps then

we might

see

that there is no

piece of paper,

degree

.

.

or decree,

that could ever

carry the weight

of

this wild samaritan

love.

.

.

—on samaritans and being the light.

.

.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

.

.

Photograph by Egor Kamelev.

advice to the drowning.

on a cold, winter’s day,

a man

carrying a heavy load, lost his footing and

fell

into a deep, icy

river.

exhausted

from the

cold

and

the weight he had been

trying

to hold

he struggled to keep his

life

above

the

blackness

below.

on the banks of the river

there were,

fortunately

for him,

several others

willing

to help.

and a rope.

‘keep your head above the

dark and look towards the light’

and

‘i am praying for you. this battle is surely

spiritual

and you can,

indeed,

you

must

win this fight.

have you tried fasting?’

and

‘this despair is all in your mind,

just think positive.

do not give in to the

negative thoughts that are

swirling,

they are false

and you have the power to

overcome

this water’

and

‘i fell into a similar river once,

the water was warmer

and

not

quite

so

deep,

but i got out.

and

so can you.

if you try hard enough’

and

‘i shall throw you an apple and

some

organic carrots.

eat yourself

from out of

that

dark space’

and

‘what weakness is this?

i wish that i too had

the luxury

of

letting go of my

load.’

and

‘if you only knew how many

people all over this world

have prayed

for water

like that

which you are

so

fortunate

to be in.

so

just

swim.’

but

the man

was tired.

worn out.

ashamed.

defeated.

and

nobody

had thought

to throw

the rope,

and

so,

surrounded by

advice,

he drowned.

and all the helpers

walked away

muttering,

carrying their

thoughts

and

prayers

and

holiness

to

find

others

more worthy

to save.

— advice to the drowning.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

#WorldMentalHealthDay

on why i write.

all

the tears

of my

foremothers,

spill

hot

relief

onto the pages

that i write.

i weep in ink.

— on why i write.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

These last few weeks (on social media) have been really hard.

I have wanted to cut myself off.

From the anger.

From the heartache of women who remain, unbelieved.

I have, instead, decided to write even more transparently — even more bluntly, than ever before.

There are women, who share my DNA and those who are my sisters by the sharing of hearts, and wombs and fears — women not known to me, but whose stories share the same ancient refrain.

Whose voices need to be heard — need to be honoured.

This, is why I write.