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.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Take the wheel and drive

Take the wheel and drive
to a city I’ve never heard of
in a country nameless in my geography
I want to be a forever-stranger
except in your arms
call me whatever you want
drive so fast the cities I’ve always known
disappear into the rearview
I’ll gladly forget them all
if you never want to see them again

Take the wheel and drive
ignore the highway signs
the exit signs
keep driving till the world we know
starts fading fast
take me to another place
where only you and I know our language
a land with a new horizon

Take the wheel and drive
so fast the sun rises in the west
and the world starts over
with all new players

I’ve seen this country
and there ain’t nothing new
just the same towns as 10 miles back
with new names but the same old characters
we’ve seen the stages here
and grown tired of the play

take the wheel and drive
let’s find a new country
without borders or barriers
that still uses stars for compass points
though we don’t recognize the constellations
we want a two-lane path
with no lights as far as the eyes can see

get the keys,
fill the tank,
take the wheel and drive
let’s find where last road ends

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How would Jack Bauer free Tibet?

Why is the world picking on the People’s Republic of China leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing?

For a country with 1.3 billion people to protect, feed and force into sweatshops to manufacture Western goods — such as your shoes, watchband or every plastic thing in your kitchen — you have to admire the PRC’s efficiency.

Production quotas and six-day, 12-hour work days get things done for those proud Americans with five-day, eight-hour workdays and addictions to “24.”

If Jack Bauer knows the world is harsh, shouldn’t we?

From the state of China’s perspective, what’s the harm in oppressing a nonviolent ethnic minority here or there, crushing unarmed student protestors or blocking Google searches about “Sedona vortices” to keep the peace?

Independent thought and differing ideas cause problems, plain and simple.

Political dissent and free speech must be restrained and controlled for the state to flourish. Hence the reason Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, whose theft of American liberties is only topped by the sheer, kneejerk brilliance of turning it into an acronym: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.

Seriously, that’s what it stands for.

Imagine being in the room with the guys during the six hours it took to come up with that title not realizing the Bush Administration official who said, “Hey, now, make it an acronym,” was just kidding.

In 2005, Reporters Without Borders’ Annual Worldwide Freedom Press Index ranked the PRC 159th out of 167 countries.

The Chinese Communist Party restricts most access to news deemed a threat to national security.

Few Chinese have met Westerners.

Right now, the average Chinese have access to state-run news which tells them Tibet was never independent, asked for PRC support to resist Western imperialism in the 1950s and wants to break away, due to a secretly militant and nationalist Dalai Lama.

History gets fuzzy when it keeps changing, much like recollections of past ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends change when your current partner asks for details.

The state of China and the Chinese people need to be treated as two separate parties as we approach the games.

Most Americans these days don’t want foreigners to confuse their ideologies with those of President George W. Bush, thus the reason some Americans wear red maple leaf patches when they tour Europe.

Hate the war, love the soldier.

The Chinese see images of foreigners the world over trying to douse the Olympic flame or statements like, “Our government should boycott the Beijing games …,” however, the state of China carefully neglects the context of “… because the Chinese government has oppressed, silenced and killed Tibetans for 50 years.”

Protesters would do better to silently protest the passing Olympic torch with signs reading “Question Your Government” and “Dissent is Necessary,” “Demand Free Speech” — of course written in Mandarin — and hope to get caught on camera.

“Free Tibet” bumper stickers help pay manufacturers to make more “Free Tibet” bumper stickers but do little to actually free Tibet.

One-sixth of the world’s population wakes up with a photo of Chairman Mao on the mantle. They support their government because there is little or no access to the outside world.

Bitter street protests in San Francisco or Paris make rabble-rousers feel self-satisfied, but to the average potential Chinese dissident watching on television, the Western countries seem like tribes of self-righteous jerks, which helps neither Tibet nor the average Chinese.

Rather than boycott the games, more Westerners should go. For many Chinese, the 2008 Olympics may be the first face-to-face contact with Westerners.

An old friend of mine returned to Sedona after a few months in the Far East. In China, he was asked bluntly and naively, “Tiananmen, did that happen?”

For Westerners, the oppression in Tibet, the massacre of students in Tiananmen Square and Beijing’s efforts to limit free speech and dissent are old news. To the Chinese, they are rumors desperately seeking confirmation.

The right words at the right time could do more than a full day of tear-gas-filled fun on the Champs-Élysées.

Communist China is a doomed creature, whether it happens in the slow progression toward capitalism or with a violent overthrow by the people.

Either way, this summer’s celebration of the best achievements the human body can perform could be a tool to show the Chinese what’s possible from free minds.

Ask yourself, “How would Jack Bauer free Tibet?”


Deciphering Sedona is published every Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News. To comment, e-mail to cgraham@larsonnewspapers.com.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Results from the Old Town Poetry Slam, held Saturday 11 April 2008 at the Old Town Center for the Arts in Cottonwood, Arizona.
Photos byJon Pelletier/Verde Valley News

Invocation: Christopher Fox Graham "Welcome to the Church of the Word"

Sacrifice poet: Shama

- - - - - Round 1 - - - -
Manifest Destiny, 3:42, 23.8 after 2-point time penalty
The Klute, 2:39, 25.5
Mikel Weisser, 1:16, 20.3
Carl Weis, 3:11, 23.6 after 0.5-point time penalty
Fun Yung Moon, 3:03, 27.1
Apollo Poetry, 2:33, 28.1
Tufik Shayeb, 2:49, 26.0
Bill Campana, 2:15, 23.9
Than Ponvert, 0:48, 17.5

Clearing poem: Christopher Fox Graham, "Staring at the Milky Way with One Eye Closed"
- - - - - Round 2 - - - -
Than Ponvert, 0:22, 18.5, 36.0
Bill Campana, 2:15, 23.9, 47.8
Tufik Shayeb, 2:45, 26.4, 52.4
Apollo Poetry, 3:26, 29.0 after 1-point time penalty, 56.1
Fun Yung Moon, 1:48, 25.6, 52.7
Carl Weis, 3:57, 20.8 after 2.5-point time penalty, 41.4
Mikel Weisser, 2:08, 19.0, 39.3
The Klute, 2:39, 27.7, 53.2
Manifest Destiny, 3:05, 27.0, 50.8

- - - - - Intermission - - - - -

Clearing poem: Christopher Fox Graham, "She Wants a Poem About Clouds"

- - - - - Round 3 - - - -
Apollo Poetry, 2:57, 29.7, 85.8, first place
The Klute, 3:22, 27.6 after a 1-point time penalty, 79.8, fourth place
Fun Yung Moon, 2:57, 27.8, 80.5, third place
Tufik Shayeb, 3:10, 28.4, 80.8, second place
Manifest Destiny, 2:20, 28.6, 79.4, fifth place
Bill Campana, 4:00, 22.5 after 3-point time penalty, 70.3, sixth place
Carl Weis, 3:23, 21.4 after 1-point time penalty, 62.8, eighth place
Mikel Weisser, 3:12, 25.5 after 0.5-time penalty, 64.3, seventh place
Than Ponvert, 0:45, 26.1, 62.1, ninth place

Benediction: Christopher Fox Graham, "Imagine a Religion"

Victory poem by Apollo Poetry

Slam staff
Scorekeeper: Alun Wile
Host: Christopher Fox Graham
Organizers: William Eaton, owner of the Old Town Center for the Arts
Christopher Fox Graham, Sedona 510 Poetry

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Free Northern Arizona with a plebiscite

Christopher Fox Graham
Deciphering Sedona
The idea has been thrown around of a Verde Valley independent of both Yavapai and Coconino counties.
We should go further. Let’s declare Northern Arizona independent of Southern Arizona.
The word “succession” has earned a foul reputation ever since Fort Sumter and “partition” implies a hope for an evitable reunion. An “irreconcilable statehood” might be more appropriate.
Phoenix can claim up to New River while the state of Northern Arizona gets everything north of Black Canyon City.
For too long the counties of Northern Arizona have been beholden to Phoenix’s values. We have the water, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelley National Monument, Hoover Dam and the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City.
Southern Arizona can keep the Gadsden Purchase, whose northern frontier is proudly celebrated at a rest stop somewhere between Phoenix and Casa Grande.
Northern Arizona may lose the rights to the Old West battleground of Tombstone and Bisbee, but Western movie heroes always rode off in the sunset in Sedona or Monument Valley.
The division has historical precedent: while the Union split Arizona and New Mexico at the 32nd meridian west of Washington, D.C. — the present boundary, the Confederate States of America split the states at the 34th parallel — placing Sante Fe and Prescott in New Mexico and Phoenix and Roswell in Arizona.
An obvious provincialism already exists in Northern Arizona, clearly illustrated in Sedona’s citizen-local and alien-visitor dynamic.
Those visitors from Flagstaff — “You live in Flagstaff, my kids go to college there” — and Anthem — “You’re from Anthem, that blight of urban sprawl choking the water and life from our state?” — are treated different in Northern Arizona already.
There’s a rash of new states springing up around the globe, from East Timor and Kosovo to peoples demanding autonomy from Basques, Chechens, Kurds, Tamils and Tibetans.
A new state of Northern Arizona could slip in without much of a fuss.
The biggest and most obvious gain for partition from the south is tourism, which we can use to fund roads, schools, emergency services and local government projects.
Ever heard anyone travel from Michigan or Sweden to visit the wonder that is … Yuma?
However, Kingman draws gamblers too broke to stay in Laughlin, Nev., and Route 66 is still a part of the national consciousness although the Mother Road is a worn out, potholed strip of pavement that only photography students from Yavapai College or Northern Arizona University dare travel anymore.
Payson can hold a referendum to see which side of the line it wants to beholden to, but my money is on the northern half. We’re just cooler.
Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 and since 1952 Puerto Ricans have shot down the idea of becoming the 51st state. Maybe they really want to be the 52nd state and are just waiting for a filler in the 51st slot.
Perhaps that’s our destiny.
Besides, having 52 states would be great for playing a deck of cards — Northern Arizona could be on the seven of clubs.
But the primary motivation for statehood would be better planning for water as Salt River Project owns surface water rights throughout the state to keep Phoenix moist. The Verde River risks disappearing so Tempe resident can have a pool and Scottsdale can advertise golf courses in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.
Northern Arizona would also control it’s own transportation projects, namely the brilliant decision to implement road construction on Sedona’s busiest intersection, the ‘Y,’ between Spring Break and Memorial Day.
It takes someone from the Phoenix-based Arizona Department of Transportation to assume that the best time to rip up our most important and heavily traveled thoroughfare is during the height of tourist season.
Combine that with the heavy roadwork along Hwy. 179 at the same time and you can see why locals debate succession.
Even cable guys know better than to work on the line in the middle of the Super Bowl or the season finale of “American Idol” as they’re liable to face the wrath that is a football fan, or worse yet, a 14-year-old girl with a crush on Jason Castro.
Maybe blocking highways in Phoenix makes sense in the spring, but with the lack of an alternate route between West Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek, all the road work does is make locals wonder, “If it’s called ‘tourist season,’ why can’t you shoot the tourists?”
Now we just need a flag.
Deciphering Sedona is published every Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News. To comment, e-mail to cgraham@larsonnewspapers.com.