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.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Maple Leaf Heart

Maple Leaf Heart

She blindsided me on an idle Tuesday
like the "Wear Sunscreen" song warned
with the way relationships should begin

somewhere between kisses and climax
I start humming the Canadian national anthem
like I was born with a Maple Flag tattoo
scarred beneath the skin
"Oh Canada, our home and native land"
and I wish I known her years ago
before my knees broke beneath my ego

decades before I met her couchsurfing
she came out of nowhere
climbed into my bed and rested in my earlobes
so that when she asked
"what are you thinking aboōt?"
I'd pause on the lips of her Toronto accent
and wonder what makes Yankees and Canucks so different
blindsided by her tomboy tongue
my hesitation left her the space and chance
to slip her arms beneath mine and hold me tightly

I blame Canada
for erecting a border between us
that took years for her sneak across
and find me
remind me that after all my selfish one-night-stands
I might be worth loving for more than a drink
sober and sensual I want to explore her coastlines
chart the cartography of her ancestry
until it begins to blur with mine
find what lurks north of the islands
that disappear on maps
she's unexplored country
diving southward beneath waistlines
to illuminate all the secrets I've kept hidden
color them beneath auroras
in the land of midnight sun

she holds me without the shame of being in my arms
loves my languid limbs
that ache in daytime jobs
just to hold her again

she wears my shirts
as though I bought them in her anticipation
and I bury my face in her neck, her belly, her thighs
teach her that poet's prowess
lie not in speaking a thousand different tongues
but how we use the one with which we're born
in the most artful of silent articulations
making moist her hips from the waist down
where she speaks in only nouns and moans
in the vague attempt to hold her here for another day and another and another

whatever sins and salvations my tongue and lips have learned to speak
I can only embrace her beauties so long
before the road calls her from my bed
to two lanes of blacktop to the next city
the next adventure
the next story I can only imagine
in passing postcards
delivered after she's already moved on

I want to smuggle myself northward
swear allegiance to a new flag
reshape my heart into a maple leaf
so she'll know me by touch alone
as a Canadian countryman
fall asleep in her arms again
and learn to speak all the words
in an accent I used to mock her for
count my miles in her kilometers
and retire into the Saskatchewan countryside
forgetting the names of my old 50 states
tell children in ages and ages hence
that the Grand Canyon was once in my backyard
but barely deep enough to hold
all the poems I've written for their grandmother
who slumbers in the hammock outside
dreaming of the life we shared in a place called Sedona
where turquoise fell like rain
dreams flowed like the waters of Oak Creek
and I longed for a lover called Azami
though her name waited 30 years
to find itself spoken on my lips
worn raw through kisses down to the bone
so deep I can't seem to recall
how I lived so long
without her to hold me
in the shadows of the northern lights
stretching out fingers toward
her dirty bare feet still damp in midnight dew
asking me to follow her on yet another unplanned road
to a destination we can only imagine
and whose name we don't care to learn

her Yukon arms and Labrador legs
are the only borders I recognize
and ones I never long to leave

I performed this poem on Oct. 10 at the FlagSlam. There are obvious elements of Billy Collins' style, specifically
"... her dirty bare feet still damp in midnight dew /
asking me to follow her on yet another unplanned road / to a destination we can only imagine / and whose name we don't care to learn ..." that remind me of "Nostalgia":

by Billy Collins

Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.

The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.


ATrueNorseman said...

I really like the connections here, the innuendoes. They actually come off suddenly and with surprise, which is great! And the love poem (without saying love, per say) really comes across well. Surprise, passion, anxiety, it's all there. There are a couple cliche images towards the end of stanzas that are a bit annoying though. To end a stanza like that, kinda weakens the whole thing. But you may not care :), and so what huh? Either way, it's always pleasant to get another poem from you in the ol'inbox. keep it up!

YokoPyro said...

I really like the extended metaphor of maps and borders. Wonderful work!

CrashHooligan said...

This is really beautiful and honest. It's not sappy or desperate, just honest sounding.