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.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Nika Levikov video of "My Country"

For the past two weekends, my friend Nika Levikov has trekked down the hill from Flagstaff to Sedona for poetry events. She read a few poems at the GumptionFest IV pre-party at Ken's Creekside, then read the Cabaret Tent at GumptionFest IV Day One on Saturday.

This last weekend, she came down to keep score at the Sept. 11 slam I hosted at Studio Live.

We hiked to Devil's Bridge the next day.

Among the components of our friendship is critiquing each other's poetry. My favorite slam poem of hers is the identity poem "My Country," which I was glad she performed at both GumptionFest and as a calibration poem at the July 17 slam.

My Country
By Nika Levikov

Babushka likes to tell me about communism
the days when Ukraine was Russia.
The Soviet Union,
a name that has prevented me
from understanding who I really am.
Who I really am?
and sometimes I fear that stories
are the only things left to give me an insight.
Papa would always tell me how he dreamed of leaving.
life was rough and somewhere out there
was an easier path
and that was really all he said,
his words flowed from his mouth like Matryoshka dolls,
never opened
and the layers upon layers of stories
he chose not to speak of.
And here I am, sitting in front of these faces
trying to explain why I must go there.

Dedushka laughs,
aside from my youth he says,
there is an identity that stays with you
before any Russian label.
And they aren’t ready for you yet.
They aren’t ready for you Jew.
They can see it in your face,
it’s written in your hair
and can’t you see how the letters are bolded across your jawline?
Jew, and they will hate you for it.

But I’m wondering how long
can you hide me from the ignorance of other’s.
How long papa,
will you shelter me from the judgment
that has slept under your very pillow
since the day you learned the meaning?
And can’t you see, mama
I’m not afraid anymore.
my only fear
is never getting the chance to understand,
to see you streets where I am certain
the sun still casts your shadow.

I want to go there
and feel your sweat, papa
that leaked from your hands
as you stood in line for days, waiting for your freedom.

I have heard other stories
and I am convinced that my eyes will burn
from shattered hearts still hanging on windowsills
and my ears will scream,
from the sound of tattered orange flags
still flapping from the signs that say “welcome”.
but I am also convinced,
that beauty thrives here still,
in the language whose voice cascaded over every Russian text,
in the dance
that has always broken free from Russian song.

mother, I come for you
and I do not forget you.
my family, born from you
my traditions, my tongue awakened by your distant breathes.

I want to see you.
I want to sleep in your skin
till the culture of my ancestors
becomes the air I’m breathing.
in you, rests a side of my family I have never known
and please, let me get on my knees,
bury my hands in their soil
and say “esvenee, esvenee mena”
sorry, for not having come sooner.

mother, I may not have been raised under your skies,
but I don’t think it’s too late to start learning.
to learn about your language, your song, your food,
and your independence.
I know that you will accept me
regardless of the blood that flows
with rituals of a different kind.
you have always been a part of me.
so I guess this isn’t an act of rebellion
against my family,
this isn’t for the justification that I am who I am,
I say to the world,
to my family,
this, is for my country.

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