a happy dance and a big reveal!

So… it has been months in the making, but I can finally share the cover of my first poetry collection.

Originally due in May, but life happened and 2019 turned out to be a profoundly difficult and heartbreaking year for me.

But, as the saying goes—better late than never!

‘Stripped’ is a collection of poems that I have shared here and also on my blog.

There are a few new poems in, but most of them will be familiar.

It was quite difficult to decide which poems to include, but my vision was that my first book would be a collection of poems that gave a voice to ‘unbecoming’ all the wrong that you were taught about love, your true worth in relation to your body image and finding your place in this world, to learning to live life with rebellious joy and growing into your own skin—learning to love yourself and finding the ‘beauty in the struggle’.

I am now working on my second collection, which will have a more spiritual thread running through it. I will also include my poems that have more of a nature theme as faith and nature walk side by side for me.

I shall keep you all updated on when the book and eBook go live on Amazon, but for now… I am (finally) able to do a happy dance!

Thank you for being present on my page, for reading my poetry and for your deep courage that you share so bravely, here!

You are all just lovely!

liezel

the woman who laughed in colour.

today i saw a woman

.

in an orange jumper

and

a red floral skirt

.

creased

.

from all the living she had already done by

noon

.

brown hair unbrushed

.

rebelliously

wild

.

and when she smiled at me

the soft skin around her eyes

showed me how much

she loves to laugh

in colour

.

at life

.

a history lesson in joy

.

and for a moment she was

the most beautiful thing that

i had ever seen, and

.

i wonder if she knows this

when she looks at herself

in the mirror at night.

.

— the woman who laughed in colour.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

Photography by Kate Kozyrka.

.

Today at the library I saw a woman in a wrinkled, rumpled outfit, no make-up and with her hair unbrushed and a little wild, but when she smiled at me she lit the room up, and her smile was like an explosion of colour, and I hope she knows just how beautiful she is, and how her face spoke of her love for life, and it was a pure, intoxicating thing to witness.

.

liezel

captive

i have tasted this poison before.

still i lift the cup again.

— captive.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

This is the second micropoem in my #HealingTheHurtChildWithin

series.

I don’t think that I need to elaborate on this one.

If this is you, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Sometimes, if we haven’t healed, we keep returning to the thing that holds us hostage.

For some of us this is an addiction—be it alcohol, food, sex, drugs, gambling… for others it is choosing a toxic relationship, or the same types of toxic partners because it’s all we know.

Perhaps it is choosing the same addictions or behaviours that owned the ones who love(d) you.

I would love to hear your insight into this,

liezel

Photography by Johann Piber.

fear has a hungry voice.

the fear that owns you

has a hungry

voice

falling

from

your

lips

when you are not looking.

— fear has a hungry voice.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

This is the first micropoem in my #HealingTheHurtChildWithin

series.

‘The fear that owns you…’

Childhood trauma or hurts that you have not dealt with, becomes another voice that lingers in the background.

It often speaks in anger, or in fear, when it shouldn’t.

It doesn’t speak up when it should.

It ignores things that it should not overlook.

It is easily triggered by things it shouldn’t be triggered by.

It says ‘yes’ when it wants to be loved, and ‘no’ when it is afraid of being loved.

When it speaks, it often leaves you wondering ‘why did I say that’ or ‘why do I react this way’?

It is a voice that is hungry—hungry to be loved, hungry to be found ‘enough’, hungry to be seen, hungry just to feel some sort of confirmation that there is still life and that it is worth living.

It always has a root.

I am still very aware of this other voice of mine. Healing has not been an overnight thing for me.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments,

liezel

Photography by Evie Shaffer.

a series of micropoems dealing with childhood trauma.

I have been working on a collection of micro poems that focus on the effects of (unhealed) childhood trauma, and disordered/chaotic relationships with primary caregivers on a child, and how they might affect the adult later on, and the way that these early traumas might then cause them to relate to relationships, love, (potential) addictions, their ability to handle conflict, and how they might as adults with deep emotional scars, negotiate their place in the world.

As always my poems are written partly from a personal place, and partly from my professional experience in mental health.

There is no right or wrong to my words, other than personal truth based on introspection, however there is nothing new under the sun and if you should find yourself in my description, please do look out for my posts in the next couple of days.

They be will short, sharp and sometimes bittersweet, but always I hope, a springboard for deeper reflection and healing.

Perhaps we can find some healing together,

liezel

Photography by Lisa Fotios.

honey and water.

she said, this man makes me

feel so alive and he is everything

that i have ever wanted, but

still he is not enough, and

still i need more, and

i don’t know what it is, and why do i always have this thirst in the middle of my heart, and how

do i fill it,

if not with love?

and i said, as gently as i could, because some words are spiky and need to be unwrapped with gentle hands, and

i asked my friend, with the father-shaped hole in her heart,

do you know the difference between honey and water?

do you know that there are men who will pour you cups of honey and oh, it will be so sweet on your tongue and you will feel all your holes fill up with golden stickiness, and

for a little while,

perhaps if you are very lucky,

and if you learn this lesson quickly, then

you will only believe this for a short while, and

you will think that honey is

liquid

love,

but it is not.

and it will never be enough.

because honey

will never

quench

your

thirst.

and you need to wait for a man

who is running water,

pure and full of life, who

will pour himself out, and into your cupped hands, and over your head, dripping down into your bones, filling up that thirst in the middle of your heart.

flooding it with the one thing

that always gives life, and

only then will you know the difference between words that fall sweetly from the tongue, and

the men who use them, and

words that will make an ancient thirst go away, and

they are not the same thing.

honey and water.

and what you should really know, is this,

it is not the man

who should heal your heart, and

only one man is shaped like your father, and

no other man can do that,

fill that hole,

and

fix that hurt.

although some men will try,

if their hearts are big enough for two, and

if they love you enough.

but it is not fair to expect a man to lie down in a hole made by another, so that you can walk across him to the other side, and

you have to find your own way out of that hurt, and when you finally manage to swim to the edge of that hole, and

you finally manage to crawl your way out through the mud, only

then will you know the difference between honey and water, and

you will know which men bring life in their hands, and

which men don’t.

and you will never confuse

them again, and

you will teach your daughter

how to sniff the air for the scent of rain, and you will show her how to walk away from things that do not flow over her thirst with life, and

she will know how to swim

to the edge of her pain, and

she will grow strong from climbing out of holes that were made by others, and

she will stand on the edge of that which wanted to drown her,

but couldn’t.

and water will run down her limbs, and drip from her skin, onto the dry dusty ground, until

everything under her feet blooms green.

and this will be your gift to her.

— honey and water.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Nicholas Githiri.

somehow, i have kept a child alive in the dark and please don’t tell me how to be beautiful.

the light has woken me early, but the night that was only 380 broken minutes long, has left me tender and not yet ready for all these new hours that stretch lazily ahead of me, like a languid cat already seeking my attention, and i have pulled myself back from sleep 3 times in the name of all that is holy, so that i can put a needle into my sleeping son’s finger to check that there is enough glucose and insulin for him to wake again in the morning—not too much, and not too little, the porrige must be just right said the baby bear, and there was juice and a biscuit in the dark hours, sit up my boy and drink, you are too low, and with eyes closed he hears my voice and drinks, just like a long time ago, and still i manage to keep him alive, and isn’t this a miracle i whisper to myself, and just right is what the magazines say i must be, and not too hot (how dare she…) and not too cold (she’s really let herself go…) and there are women who were not even conceived yet, when i said yes, and they, these lovely, shiny, unlined and untested women, are telling me how to erase the gentle rise, and fall of my body’s topography, and that i should feel shame at the contour lines that snake over my womb, and someone with teeth as white as revelation is telling me how to pretend that my hips never held a heartbeat, and that my breasts were never a source of life, and this is how you shine if you want it all she says, and who doesn’t want that? but this morning i will settle for coffee and a slow-burning hope, and i unroll my yoga mat and i unfurl my limbs and my heart gently follows, and somehow i have kept a child alive in the dark—can you believe that? i ask the pretty girl—and please don’t tell me how to be beautiful.

just don’t.

and now the morning light has climbed in through my window like a bold, teenage lover, and it falls softly on my skin, and i can see all the pretty young women, and all the men who tell us how to be acceptable and everything they’ve ever dreamed of, and i can hear them as i fold my body down, down, down towards my feet, and i can hear their hunger, and it is no longer mine, and somehow i have kept a child alive in the dark, can you believe that? and this, is enough.

—somehow i have kept a child alive in the dark, and please don’t tell me how to be beautiful.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Arthur Roman.