This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 670,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

"When She Asks About the Photo ..." by Christopher Fox Graham


When she asks about the photo
do not tell her that is her great-grandma
the woman she just met weeks ago
for the first time
the woman whose name she shares
whose blood beats in your mother's heart
in your heart
and in hers
who held her weeks ago
taught her how to pet a dog
gently
so he would not nip at her fingers
who gave her Teddy Grahams
in a Ziploc bag
when she asked you, daddy, for a snack
she was always giving that way
do not confirm who the woman in the photo is


she already knows
because her heart beats the same blood
as your heart
as your mother's
and great-grandma's

blood knows blood
despite the distance between computer screens
DNA is a helix handshake defying the digital
wrapping through history 
but she will ask still
and you will tell her


When she asks why great-grandma is in the hospital
do not tell her great-grandma is dying
the woman she just met weeks ago
you knew she was dying
that's why you went
why you boarded the plane with your mother
and your daughter
drove across the wide open
that is Montana
sailing the seas of field peas, mint, lentils, flax, safflower
to the wheat fields that made your family


her dying
is why you came
so they could meet
Sylvia Rebie, meet Athena Sylvia 
four generations 95 years apart
say hello and goodbye
in the same breath
one of you beginning
one of you nearing the end


she doesn't ask why we are here
why Montana is
why Arizona is away
why your wife stayed there and did not come
your wife, she cares too much
would want to help
but there is no rescue here, no salvation
you want this to burn, to hurt, to cut deep
to scar over
you want to bleed into this soil, this farm, this homestead
these Redfields


leave part of you in this dirt
where you never lived
but to where you are bound
and when they ask
this is where you are really from


we are here to say goodbye
your daughter does not know this
it's why great-grandma asked us to come
but your daughter does not know this



your daughter only knows the green
open fields with no fences
dogs playing fetch, gophers evading
pronghorn leaping over fences
deer that rarely see cars on these roads
flowers whose names you do not know
but would if you had grown up here


your daughter would run for days
if you were not here to chase her
across the ranches and farms
that have fed your family
that shared the same blood and womb


so you pretend you're not here
for the reason you're here
wasting breath fighting fate

instead
listen to the stories
ask about the photographs
accept the books she wants you to take home
take photos of them together


so years from now
when she asks about her name
why she likes puddles
how she learn to pet a dog gently
so he would not nip at her fingers
you can point back to this and remind her
of her legacy



let her earn these memories
let great-grandma laugh with one more great-granddaughter
so no hill can hinder that sound 
echoing from horizon to horizon
it's why Eastern Montana so is perfectly flat


just over the border
Death glows in the red sunset, 
waiting
but in Montana, 
even Death 
must take his time


When she asks about the photo
do not tell her without speech
that is someone she knows 
dying
you don't have to
you are sobbing 
without speech
words evicted from your throat
she knows this burns, 
this hurts, 
this cuts deep
because you left your blood and tears in the soil
at the homestead,
in the Redfields
where you are all really from
she learns shared blood makes fathers cry

but she doesn't know Death
he is still just a red sunset
instead she knows the green
the wheat fields
the dogs, the deer, the red barn
dancing at her cousin's wedding
the old woman always laughing
she is where your daughter is really from


When she asks about the photo
don't tell her that is family
dozens bound by wombs and rings
don't tell her great-grandma is there 
beneath them
in the soil next to Papa
where you are all really from



don't waste breath fighting fate
her heart beats the same blood
but now she knows 
where she is really from



"Dear Daughter" by Christopher Fox Graham

 

Dear daughter,
for the last three and a half years 
you, your mother and I have been 
a trifecta of awesome
you the cataclysm
your mother the emergency response
and me the PR department

I cannot predict you
nor aid in the recovery
like your mother
I merely tell strangers, “it could be worse
“be thankful this is as bad as it was 
“this is the damage you can expect to see
“now, go and tell your relatives you survived
“warn them of what's on the horizon”

for three and a half years 
you have been the center of our world
now, two planets will emerge from the darkness
twin stars rising above the horizon 
a pair of orbs to orbit alongside you
I am sorry you are no longer solo
but I am not sorry you are no longer solo

your mother is doing all the labor
I only assisted
I am the RBI
Mission Control
riding shotgun on this out of control stagecoach 
off the cliff of having twins

You have not gained competitors
nor enemies 
but co-conspirators
allies in your little girl revolution
fellow doombringers
heart pirates
hunters on the savanna
warships in a squadron
raining down hellfire at range

Athena wasn't alone either
after she sprang fully arm'd and armor'd
from the mind of Zeus
Hera bore her siblings, too
you will be a trifecta, granddaughters of Chaos

We have gone from trio to quintet 
we do not count by even numbers in this house
me alone, then your mother and you
then the twins
We are a Fibonacci family

we do not yet know who or what they will be
but if, like you
they are equal weights of metric-level amazing
I can only imagine you'll love them as much as we do

they will not be strangers
but as more you, than I am
after all, they're only half me,
half your mother
but you and they share more DNA
and in the end the three of you are more the same
than I and your mother are
keep this in mind
they are not opponents to counter
but allies to co-opt
so do not be jealous
we are having them 
because you are too awesome to be alone
they exist because you were a victory
that needed replication
they are your echoes
evidence of your success

you are first and always will be
I love you singularly for all the days of your life
instead, imagine them in their differences as 
sidekicks
wingmen
your accomplices
Jedi padawans or Sith apprentices
the double-barreled Boomstick
to your Ash Williams
Companions to your Doctor Who,
yes, my blue pickup is the TARDIS

but when in time
your mother and I spent our last
and we are no more
when we are ash and worm's meat
you and they will be what remains
not echoes
nor sequels
nor reimaginings
nor remakes
but the copyedited versions of our rough drafts
new testaments to the old religions
you are the sins forgiven
the word made flesh
the dreams come true
the better versions
of what we wish we were


Sunday, October 3, 2021

New Mexico poetry slam icon Damien Flores features at Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Nov. 13

After the successful return of slam poetry to Sedona in October, the Sedona Poetry Slam proudly welcomes New Mexico slam poetry icon Damien Flores to the stage on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Performance poets will bring high-energy, competitive spoken word to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre starting at 7:30 p.m. with Flores performing between rounds.



Damien Flores

Flores is an award-winning poet, comedian, author, actor, educator, & radio broadcaster from Albuquerque, N.M.

A two-time National Poetry Slam Champion and two-time College Unions Poetry Slam Champion, he has published three books: “Junkyard Dogs,” “El Cuento de Juana Henrieta,” and “A Novena of Mud.”

Flores and his works have been featured in several anthologies, magazines and newspapers, including Albuquerque the Magazine, Bomb Magazine and El Palacio. He is a past presenter at TEDxABQ, was twice named Poet of the Year by the New Mexico Hispano Entertainers Association and received the Lena Todd Award for Creative Nonfiction from the University of New Mexico.

He produces the monthly open mic and slam called Poetry & Beer as well as the regional invitational Southwest Showdown Poetry Slam and the local ABQ Slams Championship Tournaments. He is also a Radio Free America DJ & hosts the Spoken Word Hour on 89.9 KUNM.

Anyone Can Compete

A poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays, judged by the audience. Anyone can sign up to compete in the slam for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. To compete in the slam, poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted. The poets are judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. Poets come from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona and Cottonwood, college poets from Northern Arizona University and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School. All types of poetry are welcome on the stage, from street-wise hip-hop and narrative performance poems, to political rants and introspective confessionals. Any poem is a “slam” poem if performed in a competition. All poets get three minutes per round to entertain and inspire the audience with their creativity.

Mary D. Fisher Theatre is located at 2030 W. SR 89A, Suite A-3, in West Sedona. Tickets are $12. For tickets, call 282-1177 or visit SedonaFilmFestival.org.

The upcoming poetry slams of the season will be held Saturdays, Jan 15; Saturday, March 5, featuring Bernard “The Klute” Schober, of Phoenix; April 23; and May 14.

The prize money is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

Email foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up early to compete or by the Friday before the slam or at the door the day of the slam. Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

For more information, visit sedonafilmfestival.com or foxthepoet.blogspot.com.


What is Poetry Slam?

Founded at the Green Mill Tavern in Chicago in 1984 by Marc Smith, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport designed to get people who would otherwise never go to a poetry reading excited about the art form when it becomes a high-energy competition. Poetry slams are judged by five randomly chosen members of the audience who assign numerical value to individual poets’ contents and performances.

Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe. Slam poets have opened at the Winter Olympics, performed at the White House and at the United Nations General Assembly and were featured on “Russell Simmons' Def Poets” on HBO.

Sedona has sent four-poet teams to represent the city at the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C., Boston, Cambridge, Mass., Oakland, Calif., Decatur, Ga., Denver and Chicago.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sedona Poetry Slam returns to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 2


After an 18-month hiatus, the Sedona Poetry Slam returns for its 13th season Saturday, Oct. 2. Performance poets will bring high-energy, competitive spoken word to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre starting at 7:30 p.m.

A poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays, judged by the audience. Anyone can sign up to compete in the slam for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize. To compete in the slam, poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted. The poets are judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. Poets come from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona and Cottonwood, college poets from Northern Arizona University and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School. All types of poetry are welcome on the stage, from street-wise hip-hop and narrative performance poems, to political rants and introspective confessionals. Any poem is a “slam” poem if performed in a competition. All poets get three minutes per round to entertain and inspire the audience with their creativity.

Mary D. Fisher Theatre is located at 2030 W. SR 89A, Suite A-3, in West Sedona. Tickets are $12. For tickets, call 282-1177 or visit SedonaFilmFestival.org.

The upcoming poetry slams of the season will be held Saturday, Nov. 13, featuring Damien Flores of Albuquerque, N.M.; Saturdays, Jan 15; March 5, featuring Bernard “The Klute” Schober, of Phoenix; April 23; and May 14.

The prize money is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

Email foxthepoet@yahoo.com to sign up early to compete or by the Friday before the slam or at the door the day of the slam. Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

For more information, visit sedonafilmfestival.com or foxthepoet.blogspot.com.


What is Poetry Slam?

Founded at the Green Mill Tavern in Chicago in 1984 by Marc Smith, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport designed to get people who would otherwise never go to a poetry reading excited about the art form when it becomes a high-energy competition. Poetry slams are judged by five randomly chosen members of the audience who assign numerical value to individual poets’ contents and performances.

Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe. Slam poets have opened at the Winter Olympics, performed at the White House and at the United Nations General Assembly and were featured on “Russell Simmon’s Def Poets” on HBO.

Sedona has sent four-poet teams to represent the city at the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C., Boston, Cambridge, Mass., Oakland, Calif., Decatur, Ga., Denver and Chicago.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

"They Held Hands" On the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks

"They Held Hands"
For the 200 people who jumped or fell to the deaths
from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001,
and the 2,977 victims.


On a commonplace Tuesday morning,
not unlike that Sunday morning
60 years before, destined for infamy
they held hands as they fell

It was a working Tuesday
a date on the calendar
a morning like the morning before
but now they found themselves
standing on the window sill
of the 92nd floor
overlooking the city
and they felt weightless

They were not thinking
about the cause-and-effect history
of textbooks and CNN sound bytes
they weren’t debating the geopolitical ramifications leading up to that morning
he had decaf
she had a bearclaw and an espresso
and they talked about Will & Grace

jets impregnated buildings with infernos
and now the fire was burning
and the smoke was rising
and it was getting hard to breathe
even after they smashed the window out
the inferno was swelling
it had reached their floor
their stairwells were gone
and the options now
were to burn
or to fall

when the human animal realizes death is inevitable
psychologists say we want control
over those final moments
choosing suicide over surrender is a healthy reaction
because we choose to accept annihilation
rather than letting it choose us

So on one side
is unbearable heat
roaring flames
acrid smoke
and screams of the suffering
On the other side
fresh air
suicide is the final act of free will
that keeps the consciousness intact
even as it is destroyed

but they were not thinking about psychology
they were not thinking about terrorism
the debate about responsibility,
retaliation,
wars, flags, and Patriot Acts
can wait until September 12th
this morning belongs to them
because they did not have a tomorrow

the true terror of that morning
is to know what they were thinking
as they decided then whether
to burn
or to fall
now, imagine having that conversation
with the stranger
sitting next to you:
The barricade at the door is on fire
the extinguisher is empty
we are blinded by the smoke
and on the windowsill of the 92nd floor
we wait until flames lick our clothes
before we lean forward
and choose that moment to fall
others who fell were scrambling
or screaming or on fire
but we held hands as we fell

survivors of falls from extreme heights report
that falls are slow-motion transcendence
and the experience is almost “mystical”

I don’t know if they felt “mystical”
I know it takes

1 …

2 …

3 …

4 …

5 …

6 …

7 …

8.54 seconds 

to fall 

1,144 feet





just enough time to say a prayer
or regret a memory
or ask forgiveness
or say goodbye

or wonder 
how the sky

can be so perfectly blue

on such a beautiful morning

Friday, August 20, 2021

In memory of my grandmother, Sylvia Rebie Redfield (December 14, 1925 - July 28, 2021)

My mother's mother, Sylvia Redfield, great-grandmother to my daughter, mother of 7, grandmother to 14, great-grandmother to 15, died just before 8 a.m., Montana Time July 28, 2021, at a hospital in Glasgow, Mont., at age 95.

Photo by Jennifer Ray Photography

My mother Sylvia Redfield Elliott called me from the hospital.

She was diagnosed with cancer this spring, which is why I and mom took Athena Zelda Nebula Skye Sylvia Diana Fox Graham to Montana in June, so she could meet her namesake.
Grandma Sylvia told me four things when we embraced for the last time:
  1. "I'm happy you came" 
  2. "I wish I had gotten to know Laura better" (she only met my wife once at Christmas in 2017 and once when when we went to pick up a table, when she was still pregnant.)
  3. "I'm happy I got to meet Athena" 
  4. "Take care of that little girl"
She also said not to look at her because if she saw how I was crying, she would start crying too. 

Athena only has good memories of Montana, the wide open spaces, the dogs, and great-grandma. 
She was funny, always laughing when she told stories. 

They met at the USO. 

She never gave her number to anyone, but on her last day volunteering there, and my grandfather's first day visiting (he was a veteran of both the US Navy and the US Army, which is a story in itself), she gave him hers, figuring nothing would come of it. 
Athena met Sylvia for the first time in June and helped make wedding mints.

He called so many times to ask her out the next day, she said, that her sister just told him to come over in person. They married Dec. 6, 1947.
Frank and Sylvia on their wedding day
Grandma shows my mom the wedding dress in June.



Frank and Sylvia with their first of seven children, Georgia.

She loved literature and poetry, her favorite poet being Langston Hughes, which she said no one would expect given that she was a "little white girl growing up in the segregated South, "but she said his work spoke to her. She gave me her hand-annotated "The Selected Poems of Langston Hughes," which she had re-read many times (she had bookmarks at "Sunday Morning Prophesy" "Freedom Train" and "I, Too"). This was a handwritten Hughes poem in the book:



She had an English degree, like me, from Bucknell University. She liked reading my poems and watching me perform slam poetry. 

Over the years she sent me dozens of books on all sorts of topics and children's books for Athena.
The small town of Opheim, Mont., will be dedicating its library in her name.
Like Athena, she loved puddles.

May you never have to explain to a 3-year-old why you're crying.

December 14, 1925 - July 28, 2021

Sylvia Rebie Redfield was born to Rebie Sylvia (McElwee) and Frank (Schleif) Slife on December 14, 1925 in Atlanta, Georgia. She passed away July 28, 2021 at the age of 95, in Glasgow, Montana.
She grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Sylvan Girls High School. 

She graduated from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with a major in history and political science and a minor in English. 
She had always wanted to be a teacher and taught at a country school in Norcross, Georgia.
While volunteering at a USO she met Frank Redfield, Jr. who was in the Army at the time. 
They dated while she was finishing college and were married December 6, 1947.
He moved the city girl to the country in 1948, and their first child was born in Glasgow in 1949. 
Later in 1949 they moved back to Atlanta where Frank was a policeman and Sylvia was a housewife — adding four more children to the family. 
In 1956, they made the permanent move back to Opheim to run the family farm. 
They eventually added two more children.
In 1987, Frank and Sylvia became snowbirds, spending half the year in Chandler, Arizona. 
Grandma and her three sons, Myron, Les and Alan, from left.
While there, Sylvia volunteered at a school and a hospital in the Patient Pride program and in the pharmacy where they loved her organizational skills. 
Sylvia moved back to Montana permanently in 2018 when her health started to decline, first living with her daughter, Lisa, and then with her son, Myron and Alice Redfield who were excellent caregivers.
Sylvia touched the lives of hundreds of children through her leadership in 4-H, Sunday school, Bible school, story hour, and as the favorite substitute teacher at Opheim School for many years. 
She was an excellent cook and shared not only with her family, but also with friends, relatives, neighbors and lonely GIs from the Glasgow Air Force Base (home of the 476th Fighter Group, 4141st Strategic Wing, 326th Bombardment Squadron and 91st Bombardment Wing from 1957-1976) and Opheim Air Force Station (home of the 779th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron from 1951-1979).

Sylvia was a life-long learner and loved books. She always had a book in her hand or by her side and was often reading two or three books at a time. 
She kept a record of the books she read and that total reached over 2,500 books. 
Grandma with my aunts Lisa Theiven and Alice Redfield, and uncles Myron Redfield and Alan Redfield on the floor of the Montana House of Representatives. Alan served two terms as the District 59 representative from 2013 to 2021. Behind them is the 1912 Charles M. Russell painting "Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flathead Indians at Ross' Hole." Note the snarling dog above the speaker's chair - Russell hated the speaker of the house at the time, so he painted the dog to growl at him.


She volunteered at the community library and worked in the school library and had her own library at home. 


She donated books to the Opheim School library as memorials for community members who had passed away and has donated around 250 books. 


She was thrilled to have the library dedicated to her memory.

She was a woman of faith and a Bible scholar and was very active in the United Methodist Church including being a lay pastor. 

She was also a member of Eastern Star, WIFE, United Methodist Women and the American Legion Auxiliary.
She loved life and always had a smile or an encouraging word. 
She loved babies, music, dancing, poetry and a good joke.
She was preceded in death in 2004 by her husband of almost 57 years, Frank; granddaughter Erin Sheer; infant grandson, Lane Redfield; as well as her parents; sister, Mary Evans and brother, Bil Slife.


Grandma's coffin made by my uncle, Alan Redfield, engraved cross made by my cousin, Logan Redfield.

The cross being prepared by my cousin Logan


Survivors include her seven children: Georgia (Hank) Sheer, Lynn (Al) Cherry, Alan (Laurie) Redfield, Les (Lisa) Redfield, Sylvia Elliott, Myron (Alice) Redfield and Lisa (Marty) Thievin; 13 grandchildren [Jason, Zack, Jodie, Katie, Chase, Haylee, Tatum, Christopher Fox, Nicholas, J.T., Ryan, Logan and Cole]; 15 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.



The library in Opheim, Montana, has been renamed in honor of my late grandmother, Sylvia Redfield, a lifelong bibliophile and one of the most well-read people I've ever known.