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.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The cost of dynamite

The cost of dynamite

magic lurks in her shrouded shoulders
that only her few lovers have tasted
although scores claim her lips hold her enchantments
I've been touched by neither,
though her temptations keep me up at night
in the half-conscious imaginings
of our skin dances
her limbs have teased her proximity
and her anticipatory warmth
enlivens our thighs

caged horses feel this way
when they see open fields beyond the fences
but words like these
hungrily dripping ink on untouched pages
are best hidden on the unread bookshelves
lest they betray the thousand sins
we would visit on each other
should the skies ever see them

and to Dante,
who cataloged all our predecessors,
Virgil neglected to reveal the 10th level of Dis
reserved solely for the lustful un-inhibitions
destined to be enumerated in epic detail
by some future poet,
about the nights when she and I
unlock the inevitable collision of hips and skins

evangelical preachers will base sermons on our rhythms
to terrify parishioners toward good behavior
expect presidential campaigns to stump legislation
to combat the passions we would release
and slam poets to spit verses
in pale comparison to the erotic hip-hop hips
of our beat-box breathing

sinners have their new saints
and Screwtape has new letters
to write to Our Father Below

when our moment comes,
expect the fire department
and the local police
to secure the scene
while Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt
thumb wrestle to the death
to secure the rights
prognosticators and prophets will claim
they saw the end coming in our coming
in poetry critics will cite this poem
claiming it a talentless rehash
of all slam poem to have come before

while my reply is simply
that those who must rely on these words
have yet to hear the earthquakes
when she lets loose her inhibitions
to her anticipations
and takes me along for the ride
rocking her hips to the stories
held between her shoulders

dreamers, you have heard us
in all your aimless wanderings
wondering how you could've lived your lives
before you knew of the chemistry
between skins locked
in the exasperated expression
of all that is holy

we are dying, but in our echo
the pageantries of our passions
will spill forth into the divine archetypes
to rebuild a new civilization as yet unimagined

that was just the title,

this is the poem:

in the lonely nights like these,
I wait for a lover I've never kissed
imagining that all these years of waiting for a meaningful lover
aren't in vain
my fear is to look back in old age
knowing that when the time was right
I'd let her slip away into the history and memory
too fearful of giving into the game we played:
always aiming for a checkmate
and afraid to lose I’ll play too harsh
she'll step back from the board
leaving my pieces in forever-stalemate with the absence,
seeking someone less serious and self-absorbed

if one of us can’t win the teasing test
of how far we can push the bounds
then these days and calculations
aren't worth the weight of numbers we measure

and lofty words aside,
I want to drift to sleep alongside her
in awake unashamedly unalone,
the way all great poets seem to do

but I'm too old to write about longing anymore
my poems of unrequited lovers
could kill passersby if dropped from high stories
yearning has its limits
and the ones that should plague my pages
would be best concluded with
“she's come again”

my words and would be better spilled
recounting ways to enumerate nuances
so that thousands could learn them
but so that they wouldn't forget the value of lonely moments
and if some student should find them in years hence
know that longing pains only focus so far
in the prophetic knowledge
that there is a light beaconing the end
I’d rather spend my days penning trivial sonnets at her side
then scribbling the epic of the ages in a studio apartment
made for one

illiteracy is inevitable and in time
all our silly words will become old,
understandable only in classes where academics
teach the ancient tongues of Aristotle and Chaucer

no poem retains its immediacy
when the poet is ash
but descendents can carry the fire
in their blood through the ages
long after the poem is obsolete
and its author is a grad school essay question
in her embrace its locks on
as if to a sinking ship’s life raft,
pen and paper yards away
the greatest poems of my fingers
will dance in her skin
and those that may find their way
through the sheets
to the floor
to the pages
they’ll merely echo those moments
when we erased our knowledge
of spelling and consonants
instead relying on vowels and the language of skins
to speak for us

these verses would I rather have annotate my days
in the press of her breath
and our secret words
would publish the best of me
while all the rest
can take the place when the moment suits
and the critics push aside their trivial jealousies
of not being born poetic
to pencil in a few pages
of their doctoral thesis

for them but me insert bits of profanity
a wayward curse
a gratuitous “fuck”
so they don't choose this piece
for its nonoffensive cleanliness
a well-placed “ass” can ruin a safe poem from publication
pun intended

these poems aren't for them anyway
they're just the thoughts of a boy
close enough to touch her
yet far enough away
to measure her distance from him
in multiples of the length of her shadow
and the geography of heartbeats and unspoken words
erects mountains between us
and the cost of dynamite
is bleeding my pockets dry

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Governor's doublespeak leaves Sedona wondering

Christopher Fox Graham
Deciphering Sedona
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano visited Cottonwood on Jan. 15 to tell local leaders her plans for 2008.
She also came to say that the impending recession was not her call and that whether we’re in one or not is up to academics to determine.
Apparently, a recession is much like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal — if you can’t see it, then it can’t see you.
No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but the governor’s obvious omission does hold some weight, especially in financial markets where moods of investors can change the future, best illustrated by Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley in “Sneakers:”
Posit: People think a bank might be financially shaky.
Consequence: People start to withdraw their money.
Result: Pretty soon it is financially shaky.
Conclusion: You can make banks fail.
Of course, if the banks are already shaky, then the rationale for denial goes away. The governor, rather than looking like an alarmist, begins to look oblivious.
On Monday, Jan. 14, stock markets around the world crashed in their biggest drops since the economic fallout following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Markets from Mumbai and Hong Kong to London and Paris saw huge drops, some of which froze trading for hours to induce calm.
Imagine 10,000 high-stress, over-caffeinated stockbrokers trying to find something to do before the markets reopen while at the same time trying to find reasons not to kill themselves.
In the bars around the world’s stock markets, I bet pinball games recorded their highest usages ever.
In Japan, the Nikkei Index hasn’t fallen this fast since Ghidorah faced off with Godzilla.
Why did the world go nuts? With the U.S. economy roiling from the subprime housing fiasco, the Bush Administration announced details of a stimulus package Friday, Jan. 11.
Of course, economics looked at the package, then asked if the real package was hiding behind that one.
Call me shocked and awed.
The Bush Administration has been able to hold off widespread criticism of its domestic policies for the last six years due to a mediocre wartime economy, but as the housing crisis and credit crunch strikes hardest at the middle class, expect even die-hard right to turn on President George W. Bush.
Bush lasted longer in office than his father, but will be remembered the same way — as a bad economist.
Oddly enough, if the Bush Administration had stayed out of Iraq and restrained itself to snipe hunting Osama bin Laden in Waziristan, it would likely have enough of a surplus to afford a buyout of the worst mortgages and stave off the fall.
Hindsight is 20/20. That’s what the History Channel is for.
In the meantime, though, Arizona’s governor needs to face the state’s economic situation and offer us more than blase shrug of the shoulders.
If we wanted to ask an academic about the state’s economy, we would have elected one as governor. But we elected Napolitano and she needs to say it like it is.
Once people know they’re in a recession, spending habits change and the economy slowly begins to recover.
If they still think the economy is shiny, however, they buy Hummers and oceanfront property in southern Arizona figuring good times will refill their pocketbooks.
Locally, Sedona businesses are buckling down, while others are changing hands or closing up shop.
Houses that have been vacant and up for sale will likely stay that way a little while longer.
As a city, Sedona’s renewable resource is its landscape, so even in a recession, people will still come, artists will still create and the city’s finances won’t collapse.
So even if the governor won’t say it, pretend like we’re in a recession. Plan for worst, hope for the best.
In the end, what makes governor’s doublespeak ironic is that her ambiguous answer intended to keep us out of recession creates enough confusion and false security to push Arizona into one even faster.
Deciphering Sedona is published Wednesdays in the Sedona Red Rock News. To comment, e-mail to cgraham@larsonnewspapers.com.

Friday, January 11, 2008

New headshot by Ashley Wintermute

Photo by Ashley Wintermute, one of my favorite portraits by one of my favorite photographers.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A game of Red Rover decides next president

Christopher Fox Graham
Deciphering Sedona
Unless you’ve been behind closed doors this week or catching up on all the New Year’s Day bowl games via TiVo, the biggest news this week was the Iowa caucuses.
Every four years, the corn capital of America takes its focus off its native sons Tom Arnold and Ashton Kutcher and turns toward selecting our next president.
Unlike typical blind ballot primaries, the Iowa caucuses are an odd throwback to our agrarian heritage.
The premise is simple: neighbors gather in a town hall, church or farmer Jim’s big red barn and debate which person they like best, like a bad high school prom.
One of the major parties – figure out which one — uses a straw poll, but admission to the caucus costs $35, so candidates often purchase tickets and give them out to supporters.
This is different from buying votes, because, well, they say it is.
The other major party has voters stand in designated areas for each candidate. For 30 minutes, they shout each candidate’s pros and cons trying to coax other voters to leave their group.
Nothing says we have a modern 21st century government like choosing our leaders in a game of Red Rover.
As some candidates’ support drops below 15 percent, they are no longer viable and the former supporters have to choose a new candidate to support and 30 more minutes of “will my candidate make it.”
Kind of like musical chairs.
In the end, the results are supposed to prognosticate the future election season.
The turnout is historically miniscule. This year, 225,000 Democrats and 120,000 Republicans participated, slightly more than 0.15 percent of the country’s registered voters.
In layman’s terms, it’s like determining the end of an hour-long football game in the first 3.8 seconds.
In our microwave society, that brevity makes sense.
Thankfully, Arizona has the foresight to hold its primary on what was once called Super Tuesday, but now Super Duper Tuesday, perhaps the lamest name for a calendar date since Weasel Stomping Day.
The date places Arizona on the “forgettable states” list, when faced with the powerhouse delegate states of California, Illinois and New York.
However, it also means that as candidates skip Arizona in favor of California, we’ll also dodge their negative ads, the slight swelling of anger when they mispronounce “Prescott” in speeches and a deluge of campaign promises that they’ll forget if and when they reach the White House.
“Did I promise Arizona I’d protect its water, or was it Tennessee? It was all such a blur.”
The results of Super Duper Tuesday on Feb. 5 will essentially leave voters with the two major candidates for the long, bitter run to November.
While the particular process of primaries is almost silly, the matter behind it is not.
This presidential election offers female, black, Hispanic, Italian, Mormon, senior citizen and second-generation immigrant candidates — not as fringe choices but as major front-runners for both parties.
But what makes the 2008 election a milestone is not that candidates come from these groups, but that their minority statuses seem to matter so little.
While in past years, a person’s gender or ethnicity was seen as a benefit or bane, in 2008, it seems to be more of a footnote.
While voters and the media note the specific differences, the actual influence seemed to be negligible at best.
Voters at the Iowa caucuses were gleefully choosing from a slate of candidates far different from their state’s demographic, with little concern about that difference.
Whether Iowa voters predicted the future president during their popularity games, they chose candidates based on the content of their character.
The prediction that race, gender and family heritage will cease to divide us less and less after 2008 is one any election-watcher can see coming.
Deciphering Sedona is published every Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News. To comment, e-mail to cgraham@larsonnewspapers.com.