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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Poets Needed for GumptionFest 3

Poets, contact me ASAP at foxthepoet@yahoo.com, to let me know you play on performing. There will not be a single poetry stage this year; poets will be filtered between musical acts throughout the day. Depending on the stages and musical acts and the changeover, poets will perform between two and five poems per slot.

1) This will give poets more freedom to see the rest of the festival as the only need to be at specific stages at their specific times.

2) It allows poets to come and go from the festival as they please. If you work late or work early, we can accommodate your schedule.

3) This offers multiple performance opportunities.

If you want to perform, give me a heads up. Poets will be welcome to show up and perform the day of GumptionFest, but these slots will fill up quickly. If I have a heads-up, I can save you a slot.

GumptionFest 3
The Good, The Bad and The Gumption
Saturday, September 6, 2008
A celebration of local music, poetry, films and art
At venues along Coffee Pot Drive, West Sedona, Arizona

Friday, August 22, 2008

Swallow a Fistful of Dynamite

give me a fistful of dynamite
and I’ll swallow it whole
hold the blast deep in my belly
and explode words as sunlight
I’m dying in silence
so detonate my insides
and shake the world to the floor

the drink settles poison in my liver
wraps liquidity into between my cells
drowns the conversation between them
and the deafening paralyzes fingers
unable to speak
I plod through days
wondering why nothing brilliant happens
and minutes slip away into weeks and years

profundity has no place
when beer and booze
fuzzy the navel to the brain
erase the images of days
and leave me slumbering long after
dawn turns into day

I’m tired of the killing

clear the slate
become tabula rasa
and let the fingers do the talking
that they long to
when not holding a pint or a smoke

free the mind
bark down the noise of bullshit
and let the unimportant slide
we can become bodhisattvas
without knowing a lick of Sanskrit

the perfection of poetry
waits the measure of patience away
if I let inhibitions fade into mere vocabulary
and trust in my innards to resuscitate
the art inside waiting for the rest of me
to unlock the gate
and pour it out
spread the blood and ink
across the pages
dabble fingers in the mess
and pull out the beads
to rearrange what remains
into what should be

the banyan tree becomes whatever I choose
rest my feet beneath the keyboard
and meditate with digital characters
elucidating what needs illumination
not fretting about the details
or the perfect presentation and posture to earn a 10
those who need to understand will
and those who don’t will find their way
if they seek it

it took the open road
to find my way home back into me
the self I lost behind somewhere
between old houses and new
somewhere in the strife
I’d forgotten to become what I wanted to become
and fell down around lesser ones
it took 10,000 miles
to come home again
realize we’re not place or substance
we’re just the skin we hold
and what’s held in by skin
beyond that, it’s just this century’s tunics, sandals and leggings
and whatever false impressions we concoct
to make us worth more than we are
we’re scared to discover
we’re not that far away from single-named savanna migrants
trying to stay one step beyond the reaper’s grasp
the trappings of kingship, feudalism, cell phones and starships
paint pretty pageantries but don’t change the details
that we want to feed, fuck, and father something beautiful
before the hunter hunts us down to the ground
for the last time

knowing this isn’t the same
as comprehending it
and fearing it isn’t worthwhile either
awareness of our nature
removes the filth from our skin
so we can spend our time doing more
than watching the fluff
that takes up our time

I’ve always known this
but forget for years at time
suffering the amnesia brought about by the game
and I knew it was just game once
I saw it when I was too young to know
just thought the universe had a set of rules we’d learn
though no one acted right, like they’d learned them
and as a boy, I couldn’t comprehend
how people so much older … and taller than me
didn’t see the rulebook
the clarity came when they said I was “gifted”
through tests I didn’t understand
and still conjure mean more to others
than they ever should to me
they said I saw things clearer
and ignored the details that merely painted the walls
but didn’t change the house
everything looks different through my eyes, they said
and I understood
only when trying to live an adult life
with rules and regulations designed for people
who wouldn’t survive without them

the world looks different to me
than I think it does to others
there’s no way to tell, really,
but somehow, in the back corners of my mind
it makes sense they way it is
and nothing needs deciphering
life, death and the days between,
the mathematics of moments
equal an equation that it seems I only know
the variables drop to zero
with regular variation,
yet others seem to think mysticism will change the result
I haven’t the heart or care to correct them
because unstringing mangled matters bore me

there’s loneliness in knowing the quantities and qualities
of the decimal places
but counting out pi wastes time
though it’s impressive at parties
finding the math between the numbers
the words between the characters
the language of movements and pauses
entices my interests
but I’m playing 3D chess with checkers players
and no one speaks the language
reciting verse in an unknown tongue does nothing
but make my mouth sore

time counts on it the cycles
and we seem to think we matter in moving forward
but it seems some days
that the seconds write pages
that I can flip to forward or back
depending on circumstance
relive as though for the first time
conjecturing it’s a ball in space
rather than an unwavering string we slide on
back and forth as needed
reencountering friends long gone
and details seemingly forgotten
faith in fate fits when you’ve skipped ahead
to see how the chapter ends

all that will be will be
and all the was has been as meant
while the details make for conversation
to those paying attention
the poetry will spill in the lucid moments
for those not yet along for the ride
to catch up when their time comes
or the moment suits

explode me into sunlight
and detonate my insides into shards of glass
to shimmer through the night for the rest to follow
wherever I’m meant to go
the right words become a yellow-brick road
but it takes a tornado to clear the countryside
of all the old familiar places
leaving us with clearer paths to see
and abbreviated mysteries to decipher

make a highway of me
transform me into a ribbon of starlight
dreamers on the roofs of cars
can trace with extended fingers
to illustrate to lovers
how constellations are born
these words that spill
from sober mouth and hands
trace paths skyward
letting awareness reflect back
to what we are
beneath the bullshit
of Old Religion dread of death
or its New Age regurgitation
placed it in a tie-died coffin and paraded for profit

close the door
let the belly bleed itself dry
and put fingers to paper
without pushing the pencil where it’s unwilling to go
a good poem, with honesty up its sleeve
one that can squeeze your doubts out
for the world to read unhindered
is a Ouija board anyone can machinate

if your poems don’t shake you to your core
expose the nakedness sheltered behind small talk
quake your fear out in exorcism
then try again until you’d rather cover the page in fig leaves
then let another person read it
vomit out the sins that pin feet to soil
and turn paper into a confessional
a stage before thousands
a Gideon Bible in hotels worldwide
cut out the tongue that holds words behind teeth
swallow a fistful of dynamite
and become a second sun to light the way

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hunting UFOs

she asks me just to hold her and
a bear I become
wrapping these lithe arms
around her smallness
as if to keep out the cold

she stands five feet one
90 pounds when soaking wet
and I feel like her father might
if we were related by blood
but she’s already born a daughter and
I’m the one without family

she just asks me to hold her
and we lean against the car door stargazing
she believes the stars are UFOs
hiding between clumps of clouds
rolling hazily eastward
I tell her she’s drunk and silly
she swears she’s not
three beers and the way she slurs “swear”
prove my point, but I let it go

she just wants to be held
I do my duty:
hold fast and believe her
I spill stories of Saturnites
playing tag with satellites
creating new constellations
for attendant astronauts and
the Earthlings gazing skyward
watching secrets disappear with stars
behind the clouds

in the meandering,
minute hands gain momentum
reverse themselves and recycle
as her Venusians dogfight in the darkness
dodging glittering C-beams
near the Tannhäuser Gate
she drifts away in my arms
for the first night’s sleep in years

this champagne shoulder romance
is what we dream of before we learn better
the way we’re taught as teenagers
to shimmer through our glass selves
pour the vintage that remains
serve ourselves brimming with what-could-bes

in another life
we’d calculate love in the metrics of these moments
measure twice, cut once
erect a card house biography
of children and picket fences

in another life, perhaps, but
she and I took more scenic routes
with more complicated cartography and
find ourselves in the here and now

we choose roads to travel and
no one remembers the path back
it’s a long way down and
we don’t have time to rise again

so I hold her, like she asks
let the rhythm of voice more than words
soothe her into neverland dreamscapes
anything poetic at this hour,
in her state
drops its grammatical wings,
loses its rhythmic luster,
weaves through the haze and
drips through whatever color sky she’s imagining
confusing and conflating with her subconscious
so that she can’t decipher
her words from mine

if my whispers
emerge from the lips of caterpillars, centaurs
or long-dead relatives
and she smiles in her sleep
then I abdicate them to her kingdoms
retire into verbal amnesia and
hunt more words to blanket her body

she wakes with warnings
that she can’t get used to this
can’t let herself slip and fall into me
my warm limbs lacking intention
soft fingertips content on hands and hips
without delving beneath elastic
or diving into moist places
she can’t afford to fall into me
the tumble could be too deep
to find her way out again

she doesn’t want this husk of a man
I tell her, with all my broken parts
sheltering secrets and enigmas
behind verbose shrouds so
I relaunch us skyward
lose touch with again with this sudden gravity
stretch languid limbs into ether
hold her like the last lungful of oxygen and
return to stories in the stars

we tumble through jump gates
scattering ourselves into stardust
sightsee nebulas in colors
unimagined by even science fiction writers
we become skywalkers
making first contact with
whatever fantasies I can conjure
dropping through the exosphere like angels
on worlds that will be long extinct
before the rest of our race follows us here
we moonwalk above Endor
among flocks of creatures
that ride alongside like dolphins
surf stormfronts in gas giants
that could swallow Earth whole
play leapfrog on asteroids so light
we only weigh a fraction of an ounce
all the while painting word pictures
to describe everything that catches our eyes
she still swears UFOs are chasing us
so she asks me to not let her go
so I do my duty:
hold fast and believe her

even with all our words
we don’t talk about the elephant in the back seat
the night I wasn’t there to hold her
the night she wishes she could delete from the calendar
and remember only as a never-was
transform into corporeal fog
but tangibility bleeds his face through her eyelids
leaves greedy fingerprints
on the crime scene of her body
so she drinks to forget
drinks to sleep without dreams
or the need for pills
to prevent nightmares
of hot breath on resistant skin
fingernails clawing into her bones
leaving scars on the marrow

he inhabits all the shadows
in the dark corners of the Earth
so she longs to sail among stars
far above all his hiding places
where she can always see the sun
dance on the rooftops of clouds
spread her arms wide and glitter as starlight
though she mistakes them still for UFOs
even though I can see through the haze tonight
cast eyes upward on what she wants to be
there’s no point in correcting her
because she chooses to be earthbound tonight
now, she just wants to be held
so I do my duty:
believe her
and hold fast

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Citizen of the Irish Diaspora


Alun, Karl and I went to see the Irish fusion rock band Kíla, which inspired this poem.

Citizen of the Irish Diaspora

From the black stage rising like an altar
700 Irishmen who daily breathe in Dublin air
the length of a jig from the G.P.O.
wait for another revolution
in the shadows of 1916
700 free Irishmen
stand amidst the dark and sweat

a Guinness passport disguises me:
the intruder, the social tourist,
the American, whose Irish blood
thins the memory of Gaelic,
of Cromwell, of the Famine
that sent my grandfathers
to manifest their destiny
I hide in the dark of the crowd
only lit by refracting stage light
sliding between darkened bodies
as an ethnic chameleon
a cultural vampire returning to the source

two weeks in this country
but tonight, now,
she will welcome me back
as a prodigal émigré
but I don't know this yet

from the stage,
a postmodernist pagan altar
prum-ba-bum
prum-ba-bum
drumming beats
pound to Earth
prum-ba-bum
prum-ba-bum
in your toes
in your chest
prum-ba-bum
prum-ba-bum
move your feet
remember
prum-ba-bum
prum-ba-bum
Finn McCool
Brian Boru
prum-ba-bum
prum-ba-bum

the bodhrán races a rhythm
making stillness impossible
700 Irishmen and 1,400 Éireann feet
rumble the floor
down to the wood beams
into the asphalt of this dirty old town
into the soil and stone down to the Liffey
700 moving bodies
and me between them, a shadow
close enough to speakers for the beats
shake history off my skin
but I stand motionless
an American island in an Irish Sea

the bodhrán hits its peak
and at once, seven voices
join the chorus
tin whistle cuts the atmosphere
ripping angel screams from the air
with hummingbird speed
uilleann pipe beats its way through
skin, tissue and bone down to blood
with closed eyes,
through the mist
in the polls of beating blood
my veins warm with the victorious footfalls
of an ancestral memory
the angst of 530 Irish generations
remembers this tune
born in the Bog of Allen
orchestrated the Wicklow Hills
tempered on Inishmore
battered to its core on the coast of Galway
refined on Dublin's dirty streets
while King Sitric reigned

my chest drum knows this tune from memory
while my errant mind
lost in its own arrogance
tries to decipher lyrics I couldn't understand
even if sung in English
all the lads in arms reach
comprehend that language and ethnic history
are mutually intelligible dialects

I down another Guinness to drown inhibition
I am not a stranger here
to the Irishmen on the dance floor
I'm just like them
for once, my ethnicity is not speculation
and with the right twist of vowels
I'm a linguistic chameleon too

the fiddler changes the atmosphere
playing a languishing ballad
and the simultaneous image
manifests itself without conjecture

somewhere, in hills like those I was born in
a lad like me
remembers a lass he left behind
waving farewell from a coffin ship
remembers how he caressed her once
on the shores of Glendalough
telling her he’d returned someday or send for her
but they both had heard the same before
how time ticks on oblivious to our oaths
the sea dividing Éire from everywhere
is not a chasm easily crossed
by anything larger than envelopes or dreams

America isn't like Manchester
there are no summer vacations
the Dublin docks of the ends of the Earth
Ireland is an island of no return
they know this
yet still dream of ways back from neverwhere
they dream, make love and say “goodbye, for now”
because “forever" can kill when spoken
so now, one stands in amber waves of grain
the other in fields of green fields of clover
and his fiddle says “forever” for them

the bodhrán,
the tin whistle
the pipes
the drums
the guitars
the singer escalate into dance
a jig everyone knows by heart
liquid Irish courage has penetrated my liver
split open my organs with a wash of green

poems yet unborn from my fingers
and those song, burned in cells
and passed on through genes
now meet, shake hands and join the dance

blood and organs take hostage the rest of me
skin, bones and brain
slamming limbs to where they should be
and a ragdoll I become

since my feet touched the soil
barefoot in Ballinteer
I’ve felt drawn home
but until now, the city's indifference has been deafening

the floor is pulling me under
black hardwood makes adhesive
of the beer and whiskey
tightening the floorboards to my ankles
it's getting hard to move my body
hard to move my feet
eyes close and I breathe in
the sweat and smells and wonder
of my brothers and sisters
all 700 of them
I let go of the language
understanding that Gaelic is not a foreign tongue
just a forgotten one my fathers used to speak

the beer and whiskey becomes blood of ancestors
magnetized iron on the floor
pulling the blood of my feet to join
drowning in my history
in a heartbeat
in the speed of the piper’s fingers
faster than in the space between drumbeats
I am swallowed under
the floor becomes glass
my feet leap on their own
legs and ankles dance jigs as if they wrote them
Irish rhythms explode in limbs

I am made of sunlight

from the Donegal to Wexford
the Rings of Kerry to the Hills of Tara
my sonic boom wakes Irishmen from their sleep
"one of Éire’s long-lost sons has come home"

layers of sound rise over the crowd
as if the performers doubled
the Irishmen around me
begin chanting a chorus
with fists raised in the air
and the words find themselves in my throat
I have no idea what they mean
but I pronounce them flawlessly
the Dublin boys near me
who can’t speak a lick of the "country" tongue
know I’m more Irish than they are
and the snakes St. Patrick didn’t drive from this island
are fleeing toward the sea

the crowd dances as one great creature
and limbs find the proper places between strangers
fists and feet, arms and elbows
move eloquently and 701 Irishmen
thrash to the rhythm without touching
we are one Celtic race,
one Irish tribe,
one dancing body
gyrating in unison to the myth and music
poured through the priests on stage

with Gaelic poetry pulsing through us
we spit back 700 years of Irish rage
relive the risings, revolts and revolutions
we push back the invaders and conquerors
who sought to annihilate our words with their own
we take back the island tonight
with words they thought they’d broken
our feet slam the fury of our bloodlines
into the soil for the rest of the world to hear

Ireland’s sons and daughters
are only a song and dance away from home
the mythology that bore us
the faith that sustained us
the language that united us
revive the blood bonds between us still
at last, one of Éire’s long-lost sons
has found he never left home