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 423,000 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.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Resolution Slam

I work best under pressure. So, rather than work on the minimum six poems I needed for the slams over the last month, I squeezed four of them into the last week, and two into the last 20 hours before I needed to leave; staying up to 4:00AM the day before tweaking lines.

Procrastination is a religion.


It was in the shower the next morning that I had the brilliant idea to write a slam poem specifically aimed at arch-nemesis and über-rival Christopher “Death Monkey” Lane. Good Morning America was on television and I could hear political ads playing. I love mudslinging ads. I love slam poems directed in good humor at someone in the audience. I love Christopher Lane’s reaction to the stunts I pull. Voila, the Election Year Mudslinging. Genius.

Whenever I leave Phoenix, it’s like I’m busting out of prison. Seems fitting that one passes two prisons (a juvenile hall and a federal prison) just before losing sight of the city and heading into the “master planned” town of Anthem, a suburban prison (the Nazis had master planned communities too…).

Reached Sedona and master Lane. We ate at an Indian buffet, talked poetry and politics then headed down to the Write Here Writing Center, in the back of Sedona Books and Music. It was an excellent place to cool and chill. I met Rochelle Brener who will be interviewing me next week for an upcoming featurette in the Kudos newspaper that serves 18,000 readers in Sedona and the Verde Valley. Cool for me.

Lane and I haven’t faced off in a slam bout since the 2001 Flagstaff Slam Team, either in a practice bout or at the Slam Off itself. So the smack-talking between us started weeks ago. I even convinced my mom to send him an email with the gist of “Hi. My son is going to kick your ass tonight. Sincerely, Sylvia.” The fact that she did it proves she rocks and Lane’s reaction was hysterical. Imagine getting smack talk from someone’s mother.

After I got the details down, I squeezed out the gem of a poem "Election Year Mudslinging" in about 30 minutes. The piece almost wrote itself. What made it brilliant, in my mind, was that I planned to read the piece with the semi-accusatory voice we’re all used to on political ads. I had to duck out a few times to work on the sound I wanted for some parts without him overhearing.

We headed back to Lane’s, picked up his fiancée Akasha, and headed north for the bout. I was itching to bust out the new piece.

The old crew was there, everyone ready to slam. The über-amazing full-of-love Suzy La Follette, Dom Flemons much improved since I first saw him, Cass Hodges deep-down my secret favorite, Logan Phillips back from Mexico with a full beard, Brent Heffron in his first slam since last April.

The feature, Krystal Ashe, a former Slam Master in Chicago and now living in the Bay area, arrived a little late after driving seven hours. She came in to the packed house during the second performer of the open mic and Kofonow put her after the first round, with the house already geared up.

Everyone was on top of their game but I was only gunning for Christopher Lane. Suzy la Follette did a great piece about being made into an action figure toy, a lesbian with a strap-on. I’d buy one for all my friends. Lane’s first round piece was also brilliant, a humor piece toying with the idea that if men could get pregnant, we’d make it a sport. He went way over time and lost a good 4 points.

I pulled the wrong love poem for round one. I had meant to pull a new love poem "how once was", but instead grabbed "i smelled you on my skin today." it's a good poem, but i had read it in Sedona at the Butterball Slam in November and I wanted to do a new piece.

Round two was a little more perfect. Lane went toward the end, doing his "Can you spare some change" political poem. After a brief respite from Dom Flemons, i got my chance to bust out "Election Year Mudslinging." Pure genius in the rotation.

Best night's sleep I had in weeks.

The next morning, Lane and Akasha went to Flagstaff to see their midwife. I bounced up the same time and went to Snowbowl. It'd been months since I'd seen snow so i took the long road at full tilt and ran around in the snow. Such a boy.

I headed to Barnes and Noble. It's always uncomfortable to go, after all that drama with Lisa. Her engagement wasn't really a surprise and I doubt I'll see her again, but that fear is there. I always hope she'll be cordial, want to chat, maybe about her engagement, etc., but I'll never know. I bought "Worst Case Scenario Handbook: Parenting" for Lane and Akasha, Al Franken's "Lies, and the Lying Liars who tell them", and Chuck Palahnuik's "Lullaby."

I met this amazing poetess named Danielle (her stage name was Sandia), the very same night Lisa and broke up two years ago. She and I went on this amazing date at the Morning Glory Cafe. Live music, and then we all made sandwiches and got a little loaded. I walked her to her car and said goodbye, but i was too much of a wus to ask her out for a second date. So I stopped in to the Cafe, bought a hemp sandwich, and made small talk with the owner who remembered me. She is a little crazy, but intuitive. She suggested that i wasn't "big" enough then, but i am now.

I ate for lunch downtown and added special notes to the parenting handbook.

By chance, I caught up with Lane and Akasha at the Campus Coffee Bean, made a little chat, then met Brent Heffron at B&N. After a bit of the talky-talky, we started the night.

The first bar we hit has always been one of my Flagstaff favorites. San Felipe’s is a little preppy, a little posh, but i like the bright shiny colorful things.

And therein, amid the bright and shiny, was Eliena, über-amazing from the smile to the attitude. She is a dance student at NAU and moved her body like art. She walked like she was telling a story. Cute, sweet, took command of the conversation like she had written it before we got there. She also had the best story for how her mom named her; She-ra's best friend. Remember She-ra, Girls' reply to Boys' He-Man? That rocks. She's a heartbreaker.

We bounced to Uptown Billiards for round two. The bartender had my same birth date, even year, so she and i traded quips about our respective personalities. Too weird.

My ex Emily Lyons met up with Brent and I for a few games of pool, a few more drinks before we bounced back to San Felipe's for another round. Emily Lyons kept stealing my drink, claiming I had had too much (this will be important later).

The final stop for the night was the Monte Vista. Here, we did more of the drinky-drinky. I love the dark velvet lighting of the space. For Karaoke, Emily Lyons did, perhaps the worst rendition of Danny Boy I've heard. All in fun though.

Meanwhile, of all the people I thought I'd never see again, I ran into Emily Markel. She was shooting pool with her new beau, and we made the talky-talky, but I don't really remember much at that point.

We also hooked up with Emily Lyons's friends, a gay boy with glasses and a cute Asian girl whose names totally escape me. Swap stories, trade laughs. Might see more of them in the future.

The drive home was my personal highlight. Emily Lyons sat on Brent's lap, on the verge of queasy. But as she got out, she paused by the tree in her front yard and doubled over. It's so funny to be on the other side of the drunk curtain for once.

Slept on Brent's floor.

A foreign bathroom is always a unique experience. The water pressure, the temperature, it's all like being a kid again. Especially when hung over.

Nice drive home. Had plenty of time to clear my head. I am going to enjoy moving up to Sedona.

Lane was surprised to see me, on time and sober. The hiking party consisted of myself Lane, Akasha, and her 1-year-old niece Zowie, and crazy fun Carl, who is at least 60 if not older. We hiked Doe Mountain., west of Sedona. The five of us, marching in a line; two hunters, a pregnant woman, a baby, and wise, wacky, slightly crazy old man, felt very tribal.

Akasha took me and Zowie to meet with her younger sister, (and Zowie's mom), Hannah for lunch at Natural Foods. Afterwards, I met with Mary Guaraldi who worked with me on some of my pieces and my breathing (i get too tense in my shoulders and upper torso).

I reworked my new piece, "hit me running" and primed it for the slam.

I didn't expect them to show up (he had to work and I didn't think she'd make the 2hr drive alone), but my two best friends from Tempe, Michael "KuK" KuKuruga and Nikki Kaufman grabbed seats in the back. That made my day.

The Slam's feature was Krystal Ashe fresh from a show down in the Valley

The slam was slated for 12, but got pushed to 15 because of the way the newspaper invitation worded the event. Lane is tough with the rules and doesn’t play favorites, but the article seemed to indicate that anyone who signed before 6:30 could have a go. 15 it is, then. The first slammer was Logan Phillips from Flagstaff, followed by Tony Carito from Sedona. Not a big fan of Tony. He does improv performances, but has a fake ring to him and stands out as being way too pretentious. His work (i wouldn't call it poetry per se), doesn't have any honesty to it. Next was Corbet Dean, who after throwing a fit about Sedona and boycotting an event, felt okay coming up to compete this time around. Up next was Dom Flemons. As I've known him, I've become more and more appreciative of his work. He does enjoy performance. Following him were Eric Larson improving performer, but he needs to stop pacing back and forth), R. Scott, Robin Anderson slowly becoming one of my art heroes, Reese Lebard who should never be allowed on stage ever again, Brent Heffron slamming for the first time in a long while, Akua from Phoenix, Rebekah Crisp who is also improved a great deal since her first slam last year (and may be my new landlord), Autumn Garza (who may have been drunk), Sharky Marado a blue-collar slammer from Flagstaff slowly coming into her own. Pulling up the last was the unsinkable Bill Campana, then myself. For round one, I busted out "Election Year Mudslinging",, just to get me into round two. A went a little long, and though I scored a perfect 30, the time penalty dropped me to a 29.0.

The cuts were fierce, dropping out Tony Carito, R. Scott, Robin Anderson, Reese Lebard, Brent Heffron, and Autumn Garza.

For round two, I read another new poem "spinal language". Despite my hope that my third round poem would have the biggest impart, I got most of the compliments for this poem.

Cuts for round two were Dom Flemons, Sharky Marado, and Logan Phillips.

This left only 6 slammers, including Corbet Dean and Eric Larson. I was extremely pleased that Rebekah Crisp made the cut, proving that she is moving forward in her performance. Bill Campana performed "Rulebreaker". I had hoped that he would have performed a new piece, but only because I'm so familiar with it, and I think he's gone above and beyond with his more recent work. Bill scored a 29.9, as did I with "hit me running". Edging us out was Akua with a perfect 30.0. That left Bill and facing off with a haiku bout. I won the toss, and Bill's testicle haiku whooped mine (i think because I said "I will" instead of "i'll" and the judges counted 18 instead of 17 syllables. Akua didn't have a victory poem on hand, so she did an old favorite.

Every time I'm in Sedona, I fall more and more in love sweet, young Lyrica. I think i may marry her. Flirty-flirty, talky-talky.

Later, at the campfire, the night's survivors talked poetry, drank cheap beer, and faded out. Nikki, Lane, KuK and I endured longer than the others, and turned in around 4:00AM. The five of us (Akasha was already asleep) slept in their tiny trailer in Oak Creek Canyon. The next morning, KuK and Nikki left early, so Lane and I had breakfast at the Garland's store down the hill. We read over the surveys from the night before, made the talky-talky, then I took off for the valley, having decided to move to Sedona by mid-March.

My poems from the Sedona Slam Jan 30th, 2004

creative

"Election Year Mudslinging"

Christopher Lane
claims he’s right for America,
but what is he really hiding?

do you think you know
the real Christopher Lane?
since Mr. Lane moved to Arizona
republicans retook the white house
and both houses of congress
since Mr. Lane moved to Arizona
3 million Americans have lost their jobs
the economy has faltered
and we went to war in Iraq
where are the weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Lane?

Christopher Lane won’t tell you
about his connections to Enron
the dot-com bubble
the space shuttle Columbia disaster
the earthquake in Iran
or the breakup of Ben Affleck and J-Lo
what are you hiding, Christopher Lane?

Christopher Lane went to china last year
he claims it as a vacation
was it really?
or is Mr. Lane a dirty red communist?
what is he really hiding?

Christopher Lane seems to ask a lot of questions
he has a poem called “how many more?”
and one called “can you spare some change?”
and his first book was called,
“who is your god now?”
Lots of questions, Mr. Lane
but I think the American people
deserve some answers
why won’t you answer the questions, Mr. Lane?

lets look at some comparisons:
both Mr. Lane and George W Bush are from Texas,
both Mr. Lane and Jeffrey Dahmer wore tennis shoes
both Mr. Lane and Unabomber Ted Kazinski
lived in a trailer in the woods
both Mr. Lane and Napoleon stood 5 foot 7 inches tall
both Mr. Lane and Adolf Hitler had facial hair

so why would you trust Mr. Lane?

what are you hiding Mr. Lane?
why won’t you answer, Mr. Lane?
it’s time to get tough, Mr. Lane
and answer the real questions of America:
who is really financing the NORAZ Poets, Mr. Lane?
where is osama bin laden, Mr. Lane?
how did you vote in the 2000 election, Mr. Lane?
will the Mars Rover discover water and the evidence of life, Mr. Lane?
did you put the Bop in the Bop-Shu-Bop, Mr. Lane?
do you “got milk”, Mr. Lane?
what was Willis talkin’ ‘bout, Mr. Lane?
where were you on the night of November 31st, Mr. Lane?
what is the square root of
twelve-thousand-nine-hundred-eight-three, Mr. Lane?
why won’t a woman sleep with me, Mr. Lane?

until Christopher Lane answers these questions,
America can’t trust you –

but who can they trust?
who should win this slam?

Christopher Fox Graham
he’s good for America,
he’s good for Arizona,
and he deserves at least a 9.7


“Hi, I’m Christopher Fox Graham,
and I approve this message.”

"Spinal Language"

For Christmas
give me a tattoo
deeper than skin
on the bones of my spine
onto the surface of every vertebrae
in every human tongue
tattoo their word for “poetry”
so that no language feels foreign anymore;
so that each human voice
can speak a word in me

let Arabic and Hebrew
sit side by side without throwing stones
let Cantonese and Hindi characters
link hands to hold Swahili and Hutu in a hammock
let Basque and Zulu finally touch lips Vietnamese
while Navajo rests it’s head on the shoulder of Malay

we speak six thousand tongues
but i’ll endure the pain and the time
so no human voice can speak to me
without being felt
down to the bone

let African syllables
share space with European articulations,
Asian morphemes,
and Aboriginal pronunciations,

line them up and engrave them
like an organic barcode written in Braille
readable by the worms that will one day convert me back
to the religion of dust and ash
that we believed in once
before this cult of flesh and blood
brought us out from clay
to play brief characters in the rain

let them taste the flavor of our words
let them consume poetry
and give it back to the soil
so the earth can feel the weight of our words
and not forget us
when we extinct ourselves
like the species before us

carve the last word
in morse code
at the base of my spine
so that I can hear the rhythm of the word
in my hips when i sleep
.--. --- . - .-. -.--
let dots and dashes spread
across all my bones in a virus of comprehension
so if i lose my voice
I can still speak a word
by tapping my fingers,
pounding a drum
or changing the rhythm of my heartbeat
to speak with my blood

imagine

six thousand tongues
playing my spine
in 33-part harmony
making a symphony of me
with a melody that reverberates
up my spinal cord
echoing louder and louder in the tunnel
amplifying the compounding music
all the way to the base of my brain
where it detonates
and resonates inside my skull
ricocheting
six thousand new expressions
for the same word
with the voices of six billion singers
into my six trillion thoughts
until I can take no more chaos
and their song explodes from my lips

offering the world
a moment of synchronized understanding
of one song
of one voice
of one man
for one instant

before the world blinks
loses focus
and listens to the echo
slowly fade away

"Hit Me Running"

don’t sell me funeral plots
on late night television
if the end is already in sight

am I supposed to pull the sheets up to my neck,
count to zero,
smile, and cease?

no

keep your pills, in all their pretty colors:
celebrex, propecia, allegra, lipitor, zanex, viagra
keep them for scrabble
keep your rogaine, your facelifts
keep your death insurance
keep your graveyard reservations

hit me running.

let me go down swinging

make it a sport:

give me a ten-minute head start
and an obstacle course.

place Suzy la Follette on the far side of a mine field
and whisper, “she wants to kiss you”

target me on my feet
dodging doomsday’s in slow-mo bullet time

let me duel the grim reaper in a poetry slam

but let me lay where i fall
let the buzzards and coyotes
pick apart my bones
don’t stuff me and sew me up
waste my estate on alcohol for my wake
not formaldehyde
instead of wood for a coffin,
build me a funeral pyre
and set me ablaze like a pagan-warrior-king
sing songs,
roast marshmallows,
get drunk,
and recite your poetry
by the time we’re done
the grim reaper will beg for a vacation

i don’t have to win,
but let me believe I have a chance at immortality
even if the probability is one a billion.
those are good odds
if I’m the one

those who believe in death will die first

if I believe I’m going to live forever,
if I believe I can fly
I just might

so from the chickens before me,
sucking in their pot-bellies,
grooming their comb-overs,
I’ll craft wings from their plucked feathers
reach cruising altitude alongside Icarus
but outrace the sun

light doesn’t have the speed to catch me

these lungs won’t stop breathing,
these cells will break open replacements
this heart will beat out of sheer will
to last longer than timex or twinkies
and endure eternity
just to see how this story ends
and whether
the hero gets the girl
or a bullet to the brain

I will hold onto immortality
by my fingernails and the skin of my teeth
past the all epochs and ages and armageddons
so I can see if the end
begins the beginning all over again
or does the whole thing backwards
or upside down with inverted colors
or just stops
like in the Twilight Zone,
one second before the apocalypse

but my bet is that i
will finally sober up
take my medication
set the alarm
roll over
and turn the television off

All poems
Copyright © 2004
Christopher Fox Graham





Michelle Branch doesn't trust Mr. Lane. But she wants to lick my spine. Then nail me running

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I've been guilty of this before

for Tarah Leija

some dreams taste better on paper
sketched sideways on a bedroom wall
beneath a poster of rock stars you’ll never be,
and the action-adventure flick you’ll never live,
lives lived like airbrushing on a pin-up,
displacing the dips in hips,
misplaced moles,
and a 9-year-old’s asphalt elbow scar
the toys changed in relation to height
from lego blocks to lovers lips
I’ve been guilty of this before
painting feminine heartbeats into the bedsheets
so I don’t have to sleep alone

some dreams are the unique conversation
between a freight train and puppy
that’s how I imagine she kisses
the tossing hips of a hundred latin generations
condensed into the pursing press
an oral tsunami surfing her tongue
looking for a seaside village to annihilate

the army should draft her kiss
have it lead a tank brigade
it should require a full biohazard suit
to avoid complete loss of strength in the knees
or special training to endure it
without getting lost in the middle
it should bear the same warning label
one sees on the side of an hydrogen bomb:
“if you can read this
abandon all hope”

the training manual suggests
that I should lean backwards and brace for impact,
bend as a buddhist and let her wash over me
but I want to resist,
push back enough so she feels my ricochet
send the lip-tip poetry of a hundred million boys
deep beneath the sheets of her skin
to nestle up on a pillow and whisper her to sleep
I want her grandchildren to feel
the swirling tremor of my tongue
in their whirling twirl of their fingerprints
her bone marrow should carve my name in memorial of the subatomic quake
her dna should add a third helix
so that future cells born after it can pass on the memory
whole new mythologies should articulate our tactile conversation
so that when this world implodes beneath itself
the next will speak that “in the beginning was the kiss
and it was good”

but sometimes
my dreams get the best of me
and I lose my now in the what-ifs
of kisses and heartbeats and poster pin-ups
I’ve been guilty of this before

Saturday, February 14, 2004

somehow leftward

it still clings to these fingers
hangs on the strands of my hair
sleeps in the crevasses of my ear
like a drunk who wandered in to a pillow factory
every place in me is soft to the touch
the day after I saw her
in a split second glance leftward as cars passed.
a pocket of air surfs my veins
as a subway car carrying the memory
of the moment when my heart stopped
just long enough for every cell to stop thinking,
glance left too,
and watch her pass

decades from now
when the next filmmaker directs the story of my life
that moment will be the crux of the story,
a slow-mo scene lasting at least 7.5 minutes
a montage flashback of all her kisses
and the naked touch beneath bedsheets
interspersed with the glint of her windshield,
the shine of the black chassis,
her hair moving in the wind from her A/C,
and the bum-da-bum-bum of a stereo song
you can’t quite hear enough to repeat
but enough to know you know the tune
somehow

she was a somehow
a collection of what-ifs and maybes
and should-have-beens
that’s not how we should have lived our touches
and measured our accomplishments

again,
in the future feature film,
those unfortunate missed opportunities
will be reworked by the screenwriters
so that the moments that should have been
were
and the footsteps of her passing
turn to the left, stop, and smile
and welcome me back

my character,
tough as nails,
tall,
strong-jawed,
bigger than life,
and getting paid a cool 7 million for the role
will swing the car into traffic
maneuver the 15 wide lanes,
dodge a bus of ninja nuns throwing grenades
and fly down the freeway shoulder to catch her
flag her down
kiss away every extra in the scene
then propose, wed, and make love
on the hood of the car
(convenient,
that bus of nuns were passing
with a priest aboard)
while the score soars
the trumpets and violins crescendo
and the credits roll
pending the sequel

but reality
is more cost effective
and I kept driving
waiting for that pocket of air in my veins
to dissipate into my blood
or reach my heart and kill me

in the should-be
maybe of us
she’ll be back
but my feet carve the absence between us
she’ll never fill or follow;
the handprints in the air,
moments before she touched me,
won’t be crossed anytime soon
and my cells shed away the memory of her
with every brush of skin against my clothes
how long until they are wiped clean of her lips
and brushed away or painted over
by a new inhabitant of my poetry

life should not last this long

it should stop just short of the moment
when regrets can coalesce
or ferment into a marketable vintage
before we can make sense of the absence within us
somewhere far beyond the reach of our voice
or too fine to be seen with the naked eye
it should stop there
or reset
or pause until the past before it is forgotten
or made unimportant by some other factor
yet here spill nuanced moments of bodies in motion
passing ships in the broad daylight of a suburban thoroughfare
hanging on the lips of lover
who clings still to the echoed skin
of her neck, the dip behind her ears,
the space along her collarbone
and ridge of invisible hairs along her belly
arching into the whirlpool navel I used to sail whispers toward
watch them drop over the edge
while sailors aboard cried out to widowed wives ashore
and pale exaltations for salvation from their gods

dreams deserve to suffer for all the crimes they commit
they should be strung up alongside murderers
thieves and rapists
and be forced to live through what they do to us
eye for a hope, tooth for a faith
lose a limb or pay restitution
we should offer insurance for the cost of the actions
we commit under their spell
like the time we lose thinking
of the should-bes
what-ifs and maybes
and all the wasted poems
on all the wasted paper
wasting away the time of boys that would be better spent
manufacturing automobiles
or growing cotton
or teaching economics
to bright-eyed children who should learn that love
was endangered and went extinct decades ago
due to destruction of their natural environment
and over-hunting by man
and while some lived a while in zoos,
they refused to breed
and disappeared one-by-one-by-one
until they exist now only in museums, books, and memories
of those who saw them once
in a leftward glance

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Potential Stage Names

Long Schlong McDong
Chastitti (with that spelling)
iambic
eGO
Gentleye or Jentleye
Gubernatorial
That-Guy
lyrico
eRECTshun
bestpoetinthehistoryoftheuniverse
Mr. Excellent
Sony McNike
G.I.C.U.2.
Rogaine Revenge
Minoxodytoxicital
Betterthanchristopherlane
Snickerdoodle
Corporate Sellout
Ka (short, unique, memorable)
WhiSomePeopleShouldnotBreed (WSPSB for short)
Brent Heffron 2
Mr. Michelle Branch
& (just the symbol)
The Last Jesus
Cunniling Gus
Shakespeare Reborn
Itoldyou Danger Wasmymiddlename
Tobias Sebastian McLancastershirebergstein IV
Mahatma Gandhi
s p a c e (you have to breathe between the letters)
iamArt
Kooch Jr.
Poster Boy
Al Koholic
Ninja Monkey
Reincarnate This
Kwizzle
Juniper Earthlover Mulberry
www.iamawebsite.com
Fullocrap
mankind's last hope
ð (pronounced as a hard ''th'' as in ''Thee'')
Phil
Imbored @ Work

Mad Mahatma Drinks Me Under the Table

i knew Gandhi back when he was a fighter
throwing fists in dark, low bars
with bikers and brits alike
no one called him "the short guy"
without getting a knuckle across the jaw
he was fun in those days
a raging booze hound, his drink of choice
was a screwdriver, straight up
no waitress could pass by
without him grabbing a feel
ah - what a hell raiser
we called him the Mad Mahatma
he could run a pool table blindfolded,
while reciting the Bhagavah Gita
backwards
they said he was the toughest tiger
this side of the Ganges
and he was

i remember the time we got loaded
and drove halfway to Bombay
in a stolen car with a bottle of SoCo
and three six-packs of Natty Ice in the front seat
there was that brief car chase with the cops
in some nameless suburb
after we ran a stop light
sideswiped a rickshaw
and didn't stop to swap information
if it wasn't for his aim with a .38
into the left front tire of the lead cruiser
we might have served some time
instead of waking up hours later
in the shadow of an elephant herd
eyeing us with contempt
we ate well that night

ah, Mad Mahatma,
the man who mixed raw eggs with his
long island iced teas
claiming it cured hangovers
Mad Mahatma
who busted down a bookie's door
for no more than $37 he was owed
Mad Mahatma
who got me drunk and tattooed
"reincarnate this"
across my ass
Mad Mahatma
where have you gone?
Mad Mahatma
where are you now?
Mad Mahatma
i'm tired of drinking alone

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Hit Me Running

Don’t sell me funeral plots
on late night television
if the end is already in sight

am I supposed to pull the sheets up to my neck,
count to zero,
smile, and cease?

no

keep your pills, in all their pretty colors:
celebrex, propecia, allegra, lipitor, zanex, viagra
keep them for scrabble
keep your rogaine, your facelifts
keep your death insurance
keep your graveyard reservations

hit me running.

let me go down swinging

make it a sport:

give me a ten-minute head start
and an obstacle course.

place a beautiful girl on the far side of a mine field
and whisper, “she wants to kiss you”

target me on my feet
dodging doomsday’s in slow-mo bullet time

let me duel the grim reaper in a poetry slam

but let me lay where i fall
let the buzzards and coyotes
pick apart my bones
don’t stuff me and sew me up
waste my estate on alcohol for my wake
not formaldehyde
instead of wood for a coffin,
build me a funeral pyre
and set me ablaze like a pagan-warrior-king
sing songs,
roast marshmallows,
get drunk,
and recite your poetry
by the time we’re done
the grim reaper will beg for a vacation

i don’t have to win,
but let me believe I have a chance at immortality
even if the probability is one a billion.
those are good odds
if I’m the one

those who believe in death will die first

if I believe I’m going to live forever,
if I believe I can fly
I just might

so from the chickens before me,
sucking in their pot-bellies,
grooming their comb-overs,
I’ll craft wings from their plucked feathers
reach cruising altitude alongside Icarus
but outrace the sun

light doesn’t have the speed to catch me

these lungs won’t stop breathing,
these cells will break open replacements
this heart will beat out of sheer will
to last longer than timex or twinkies
and endure eternity
just to see how this story ends
and whether
the hero gets the girl
or a bullet to the brain

I will hold onto immortality
by my fingernails and the skin of my teeth
past the all epochs and ages and armageddons
so I can see if the end
begins the beginning all over again
or does the whole thing backwards
or upside down with inverted colors
or just stops
like in the Twilight Zone,
one second before the apocalypse

but my bet is that i
will finally sober up
take my medication
set the alarm
roll over
and turn the television off

Spinal Language

SPINAL LANGUAGE
(For Christmas)
give me a tattoo
deeper than skin
on the bones of my spine
onto the surface of every vertebrae
in every human tongue
tattoo their word for “poetry”
so that no language feels foreign anymore;
so that each human voice
can speak a word in me

let Arabic and Hebrew
sit side by side without throwing stones
let Cantonese and Hindi characters
link hands to hold Swahili and Hutu in a hammock
let Basque and Zulu finally touch lips Vietnamese
while Navajo rests it’s head on the shoulder of Malay

we speak six thousand tongues
but i’ll endure the pain and the time
so no human voice can speak to me
without being felt
down to the bone

let African syllables
share space with European articulations,
Asian morphemes,
and Aboriginal pronunciations,

line them up and engrave them
like an organic barcode written in Braille
readable by the worms that will one day convert me back
to the religion of dust and ash
that we believed in once
before this cult of flesh and blood
brought us out from clay
to play brief characters in the rain

let them taste the flavor of our words
let them consume poetry
and give it back to the soil
so the earth can feel the weight of our words
and not forget us
when we extinct ourselves
like the species before us

carve the last word
in morse code
at the base of my spine
so that I can hear the rhythm of the word
in my hips when i sleep
.--. --- . - .-. -.--
let dots and dashes spread
across all my bones in a virus of comprehension
so if i lose my voice
I can still speak a word
by tapping my fingers,
pounding a drum
or changing the rhythm of my heartbeat
to speak with my blood

imagine

six thousand tongues
playing my spine
in 33-part harmony
making a symphony of me
with a melody that reverberates
up my spinal cord
echoing louder and louder in the tunnel
amplifying the compounding music
all the way to the base of my brain
where it detonates
and resonates inside my skull
ricocheting
six thousand new expressions
for the same word
with the voices of six billion singers
into my six trillion thoughts
until I can take no more chaos
and their song explodes from my lips

offering the world
a moment of synchronized understanding
of one song
of one voice
of one man
for one instant

before the world blinks
loses focus
and listens to the echo
slowly fade away

Monday, February 2, 2004

Ex-Girlfriend Haiku #31

all I really want
from you is a reason to
be nice for a change