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, September 14, 2009

"To The Girl Riding Shotgun" Sedona Poetry Slam video



To The Girl Riding Shotgun
For Montana and Sarrah Wile


across this home country of rednecks and ranchers
the pages of my ancestry
turn backward to days
running barefoot over vetch and stones
when i stood much shorter
gracing the sweetgrass with elbows and shoulders
instead of the strained fingertips of today
memories flood back when i least expect them
lessons learned, loves lost,
childhood games and their innocence
before i translated the rules
and learned how to break them

the silhouettes of familiar landscapes
eagerly welcome me back as if they're the tourists
revisiting a boy they knew in their youth

these green wheat fields of farmer tans
these western hats signaling oncoming howdys
these selfless smiles from strangers
this countryside
this is home

a boy i knew once lives here
we shared the same name
wished on the same stars
jumped the same cricks together
and left the other behind
when we cut the cord
leaving him in the Rockies
while i wandered the deserts

we see each other still in dreams
and play tag with fawns, calves and cubs
that have yet to learn
our parents play predator and prey

he still plays on the hillsides i long for,
beneath fir trees overlooking the valley that once held me fast
along the yellowstone artery carving a canyon
our ancestors will see from orbit

his house is over the ridge,
somewhere
down this dusty stretch of gravel,
somewhere
in the shadow of flax and sweetpeas,
somewhere
i know the outline of the farm like a thumbprint
can pick it blindfolded from all the others
simply by the sound of the breeze
but the roads still seems unfamiliar
though the map clearly says it's here

and to the girl riding shotgun
all this land is as new
as it seems to me mostly
as i wait for the memories in bottles
to find me lost in this sea of rolling hills
beneath blue moons rising red in the blood of harvest
sometimes we're both awash anew in these fields
National Geographic anthropologists on assignment
deciphering a dialect with a common vocabulary
in others
she is only a passported traveler while i am timeless
standing swallowed by the sunset of red fields
touching my family's livelihood in the grain
reaching roots down deep into the land
that we love as a mother

bud lights, rodeos and Hank Williams
rise up from the soil
in the aftermath of a solid spring shower
as honky-tonk two-steps,
broad-rimmed stetsons
and a vigorous fiddle
shake free the alfalfa baled back home
and for a moment in the dim lights
old men remember being cowboys
while cowgirls look for old wives they will become

to understand montana
you must travel it by road
knowing that distances are measured in days, not hours
every stop is a must-see
because haybales are the only signs of human habitation
no matter what town you visit,
there's always a drink waiting at The Mint,
where the bartenders call you "hon,"
even if they know your name

lost locals identify themselves
by family name first
in the smallest towns
to which your bloodlines tie you
in Montana,
family comes before the man

here, where death and life are cyclical
we learn young to converse honestly
because each visit
may be the last
until the hereafter
words are ties that bind

that boy i once knew
i see now grown up
behind the wheel of every beat-up Ford
that passes us
the girl riding shotgun learns
that the difference between
redneck and revolutionary
lies in the chance taken
by my parents
before i could even spell "poet"

that boy sees me, too
behind the wheel of every out-of-state plate
knowing that this boy looking for home,
somewhere
is on the interstate,
somewhere
dreaming of catching up,
somewhere
where the beer is cold
the jukebox plays only johnny cash
and on the drive back down country roads
the breezes bring back memories
on the parachutes of roadside dandelions

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