have you ever?

have you ever eaten
sweet potato

baked in its own skin, taken straight from the oven
still warm.

rough on your mouth
at first,

but then,

sweet

soft flesh,
opening orange
on your starved tongue

no fork
no knife
or plate,

not dressed up as anything
it is not.

hands taking what they want,

this gift.

— have you ever?

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Image by Ela Haney.
{Unsplash}.

there is beauty all around us.

this morning, i baked a tray of lovely sweet potatoes.

a poem found me in the soft, orange flesh.

swimming in deep water.

at the leisure centre

through the revolving doors

i walk

i wear my favourite jeans

the ones that lift

and support

there are parts of me

that need help

staying up

even after all these years of

strong

i come from a place only i know the scent of

i strip away

my coat

my shoes

i am on holy ground

a rain damp hat

knickers

too

everything that hides

me from the truth

of other bodies

them from me

me from you

i walk on feet

afraid

naked

almost

still

our eyes find each other

in all this wetness

and

we talk

we are strangers

in this great daring thing

together

we throw words to each other

like bright balls

catch and throw

catch and throw

your turn now

now my go

can i show

you

a little bit more of

me

when last has a stranger seen

the pale

of my skin

the dimples on my thighs

that grew with my pregnant

belly

but never left

twelve winters my hands have

felt them every night

just before i yield

reproving

as if my whole life is held

hostage

by the plumpness of my legs

that have carried me

bravely

through doors

and

far away from war

when we have finally shown

each other

enough

we undo the babysoft skin

of our courage

and

leave

revolving outward

into winter

later

quite by chance

we see each other in the

bread aisle

fingers carefully looking for

something sweet

our eyes do not meet

for more than

a second

they can’t

we are wearing far too many layers now.

— swimming in deep water.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Stefano Zocca.

woman, unhooked.

a man once told me,

if only you were smaller

i could love you — more, perhaps, if there was less

of you.

and if only i had seen

just

how

thin

he was,

in all the wrong places, and

just

how

little

there was to him, and his love,

perhaps

i would not

have lost

so much

of me.

but i was young, and i was soft

in all the right places, and

so i took every one of his words,

and i wallpapered my thighs,

and my hips, and my breasts, and my soul, until i was completely hidden, and it was the 6th day and it was still dark.

and later, others came, and said

you are too tall, and

i cannot see myself

when i am next to you,

and can’t you see that there has to be less of you and more of me, for the bible tells you so,

and

you

must

obey.

until they grew thicker — the layers — until they were walls.

and all i knew was how to live smaller, but never small enough.

until one night i heard my body weep, a year ago, or forty, or it might have been in the beginning when blame fell like blood on the first woman’s shoulders, and i said, no more.

no more will i carry this, and you had better look out, i am here now, and i will throw down this weight, and in the dark i ran my hands over my arms and my legs, and my hair and my toes. and i felt all the things that were stuck there, their hate and mine.

stuck, in all my softness, and i felt my belly — this ripe, round, roof, over this holy space within me that grew a whole child, and you dare say that i am not enough? and i said thank you for this — this life, and for his — this fresh, new life and i said thank you to my heart for beating, and beating, and beating, and never giving up on me,

despite my trying.

and i whispered love to my lungs for the breath, always the breath, that i now find in sacred stretches, and other holy places in the back of my eyes, where they could never, ever see, and i felt my breasts — full of beauty that gave life to a child, and they are not here for your amusement, and neither am i, and i have had enough.

and i ran my fingers over my skin, and my bones, and my past, and my hopes, and i unhooked every thing there — every word and everyone, until there was only

me

left.

here, in the light, and it is good.

— woman, unhooked.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Kourosh Qaffari.