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.

(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.

housekeeping.

i woke up this morning

to find

that all the

worrying things

in my life

had already

settled

themselves

down,

in my mind

for the day.

there they were,

seated in the most comfortable chairs,

completely at home.

bickering amongst themselves,

clamouring

for my heart’s attention,

who was more important?

who deserved more attention?

who wore the scariest mask?

i tried to show them the morning light

dancing on the wallpaper,

but,

they preferred the dark.

let’s have some tea,

i said,

a sweet start to the day,

but,

they only drank the bitter waters of ‘mara’.

i tried to show them

pictures,

beautifully framed,

of all the good memories

from the past,

but,

they had images of their own,

not yet developed.

negatives,

where the light

appeared

dark,

and i struggled to

discern the real

picture.

so, i left them there,

in their front row seats,

grumbling for lack of attention

and

i went out,

seeking

peace and promise,

and

somewhere

between

my boy’s laughter on the playground swing,

and giving an old book from the charity shop

a

new

home,

and an old lady’s

petal pink smile

in the dairy aisle,

and sipping spicy, chai tea

in the warmth of

a tea shop,

i walked right into holiness.

mundane grace,

found me

and

smiled at my

unwelcome guests,

laughed at their

false bravado,

and

their dwindling shadows,

and

before i knew it,

light flooded into the corners

where fear likes to

lurk,

and happiness,

kicked melancholy

right out of her favourite seat.

what a commotion that was.

and hope,

sweet

gentle

hope,

walked right up to despair

and said

out!

now!

and,

that was that.

party over.

here and there,

a handwritten promissory note

of future doom

still flaps about in the breeze,

but,

the windows are open

and

hope has a broom.

and,

she’ll take care of those.

she likes to keep things

clean.

— housekeeping.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

It’s been a funny old day.

Perfect for mental housekeeping.

Fortunately, hope, likes to keep things clean.

self (worth).

does the sparrow

count

her worth,

in seeds found,

at the end of the day?

a tallying of

numbers

lining up

with avian goals

to achieve,

until

the figures

nod

approval to

her

existence,

or does she simply

rest,

content,

with full belly

in her warm nest,

a life

lived.

— (self)worth.

© Liezel Graham 2018.

I have been working on my internal dialogue — the driven personality that seeks to find (my) worth in what I do.

A counting of what I can tick off my to-do list at the end of the day and only once that list is long enough, full enough, allowing myself the pat on the back, the well done.

when joy, was a dead bird within my chest.

i woke up

this morning

with joy, a

dead

bird

within my chest.

she just lay there.

curled up,

a weight of

dead

feathers;

throat silent.

and i wanted to

mourn her,

rail angrily against the

poisonous

seeds

that had stolen her.

cancer.

depression.

death.

fear.

anger.

loneliness.

foreignness.

distance.

and all the

dark things

that go

bump

in the night.

but my words

were

gone.

stolen.

so i sat with her,

cradled

within my hands

gently whispering

all that i had left,

i am sorry.

i am sorry.

and slowly,

the liquid morning

light

fell

just so

onto her face,

and elgar’s

enigma

covered her body

with a gentle

blanket of cello,

and the

cool

autumn breeze

from the open window

ruffled

the fine down

on her breast,

and she remembered.

all the good things,

all the beautiful things,

all the hopeful things,

as the warm tea from

faraway places

warmed her throat

until

her voice

returned.

and she shook

her feathers

and inclined

her head

as she ate

hope

amongst the thorns.

—when joy, was a dead bird within my chest.

© Liezel Graham 2018.