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, April 28, 2009

Old bar poetry

An older poem I found scribbled on a notepad, probably written at Szechuan Martini Bar. Chris Bailey must have been barkeeping ....

Watching the to-and-fro dance of barkeeps
knowing too intimately the intoxicating brilliance
of slurred words and slow eyes
We are such fools with our poisons
paid for at these neon tombs
alcohol apothecaries promise honesty
in concoctions named for pop culture references

Light up another deathstick
get something on draught
and talk to me of God
you have my undivided attention
if you buy the next round

The barkeep knows me by name
because I tip well and order simply:
local brews and screwdrivers

I laugh when he does
at the kids with fake IDs
who can't get the months right
or spell their last names
and the barflys who raise hell
just like last week
and the tourists with the new names
for the same blend of liquids
all asking the same questions
he answers differently every time

I don't listen unless the musician is orginal
if I can here it on vinyl
I don't want your version
Tell me your stories
make me wonder about the world
no which album you're covering
and I promise never to scribble down Jabberwocky
and claim it as my own
I don't come here to meet people
just old friends
share a pitcher and here a tune
jive to a poem that ripples the untouched drinks
Remind me that I'm human
and the next round is on me
remind me that it's good to bleed sometimes
why heartbreak builds character
why poverty with joy
enriches more than lotteries
show me that I'm not alone in my rage
against the futility of words
why old lovers, gray-haired and slowly dying
are worth envying
more than night clubs and blind loins
kiss my ears with long, slow lyrics
punk rock kýrie eléisons
written on buses on over cheap wine
while the smell of long-lost lovers
drowned you in memories
show me the lives I could have lived
had I not been born this man
Own my imagination
I give you passage to take the helm
teach my student ears your scripture
Show me that my debts are unpaid
unless I move another
Reteach me that we are all poets
yearning to speak free

Monday, April 27, 2009

She tattooed me

I love Becca because she's my punk rock dream girl. Two weeks ago while drunk at a house party in Flagstaff at 4 a.m., she graffitied my shoes.

What seems apropos is that I feel somewhat punk rock wearing these shoes, but Becca always bests me. No matter what crazy story I have, hers always seems more awesome, more natural, and more sincere. Having her graffiti on my most punk rock of my punk rock shoes feels like she's welcoming me into her fold.

The older we get the closer our two paths seem to merge. Unusually it's me bringing her as a Parvalus into my traditions, cliques and social circles; it feels welcoming to be on the receiving end as an Erus.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Sex of Sax

Flamenco riffs
and the sex of sax
evaporate off dancers
drunk on volume
hips make love to harmonies
enviously ogled by Guinnesses
in the shadow of flat-brimmed hats
while wood block keeps the beat
the prayers depress against glass
downing draughts fresh from the tap
while lovers old and new
handshake eager glances
in sweaty anticipations
funk swaggers in
knowing it attracts
every belt buckle to join
leave your skinny ties at the door
and spin a stranger
beneath low lights
absorbing the aroma of saucy Merlot
a Cabernet who talks too much
a dirty martini
who’s talked of leave town for years
black leather bedecked paisanos
sweep young ladies to the floor
recollecting the world’s wayward memories
of a time before world wars
when Sicilian and Genovese clubs
brought forth fast-moving feet
into a new incarnation
of hippies born too late to know this
Español flows wine-soaked from an Anglo’s lips
and all the while,
the sax wails its sex lamentations
and old men serve attention without intention
as they wish they could do in younger days

My Best Day in Months

Manifest Destiny and I spend two days in Flagstaff last week. Two days of poetry, booze, conversation, wandering and passing out at odd places. The best part of it all was spending 11 hours with Becca Allen who, incidentally, looks far less goofy in person than on my camera phone.

My Best Day in Months

when I said it was my best day in months
I meant it
despite the drunken stumbling
the late-night cold
and breaking a lock to a public building
an hour before dawn
just to find a place to sleep

it was a good day
because so much of it was with her
swallowed in the warmth of her smile
as she tripped over herself
like always
unable to keep herself upright
I admire her clumsiness
because of its familiarity
the way she could hardly
keep her feet beneath herself near me
our twin orbits
pulling each other's equilibriums off-kilter
so we seem to slide into each other
as we have in the years of our courtship
that's what I call it anyway
she'd say were lurching toward insanity
as we bicker and part ways
for months at a time
only colliding together
when she chooses to miss me
never soon enough
never often enough

it was a good day
because for a few sweet hours
I felt hers
sprawled out her bed
as she picked up her laundry
or became familiar in her shower
with all the solutions and cleansers she uses
or as she gave me 9 gigs of music
knowing my lacking taste
I felt hers
for the first time in years
I would those moments last for years
if I had the power
but lacking anything beyond memory
I catalogued all the moments
as best I could
knowing I'd pen poems like these
for each one worth remembering
taking snapshots every few seconds
whenever she flashed a smile
over her boyfriend's shoulder
yes, he was there, too
oblivious to the details of our history
the living-room floor half-nude wrestling
the wine-fueled sleepovers
when you drank too much
and I forgot my name
the first time we fucked
mid-party with 70 friends
watching our foreplay
she kept her mouth silent
and I offered no insight
into our closeness
she consistently called me "friend"
though I interpreted it as "lover"
and hoped no one understood our dialect
with the same fluency

it was a good day despite the broken heart
of seeing her happy
with someone who wasn't me
but all my sins
made this inevitable
someday, when someone mistakes
all my poetry too seriously
my sins will become infamous
in the annals of romance
catalogued and cross-referenced
but for now,
my sins are still unfinished
I have dozens more love affairs
to trainwreck into oblivion
more relationships to ruin
more unkind words
spoken at just the wrong time
to demolish some sacred moment
my love is nothing if not entertaining
to those not caught in my crosshairs
with friends like me
who needs enemies?
so I can’t blame her
for choosing a better option
than what I could muster at the moment

it was a good day
one that made me want to be a better man
for a thousand different ways
I can't express to her with my succinctness
but it drained me of illusions for days
as if I could see the future
just a few moments ahead
and more aware of the beauty around me
the small things I used to embrace
years ago when I called myself "poet"
for the first time:
the flight of dragonflies
making love in the morning
the heady residue
in a pint of beer
the echo of small talk
in a crowded bar
as I scribbled this down
the feeling of being crestfallen for far too long
I've never felt this broken before
not this broken for this long
with no seeming way out

I needed to fall
have my wings clipped
suffer for my vanity
my unwillingness to forgive
my pride, which will one day
damn me to a sudden death
I want to live a cliché life sometimes
the 2.5 kids, housewife,
boring but steady job
and a dog bearing slippers
with all my potential poetry
locked in the closet of my mind
and no recollection of artistry
because this life is too hard
the loneliness, the hangovers
the desperate lurch from paycheck to paycheck
breaking me beneath its boot heel
wondering if today I'l pay for food
or car registration --
but I have to quantify this pressure
lest my mother again mistake these complaints
for suicidal thoughts
and I get another late-night call
to explain that poets only kill themselves
when they have nothing else to write
not when they're writing it all down --
I have no recourse but to endure
pray for better days
to celebrate surviving poverty
and I hope she's there
with open arms when I rise up
eager to hold me again
and recall this as just one good day
after so many piss-poor ones

this was a good day
because she was in it
and tomorrow is another chance
to see her again

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Results from the Old Town Poetry Slam

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
Sevan Aydinian, 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
Sevan Aydinian, 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 - - - -
Sevan Aydinian, 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 Sevan Aydinian

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

Easter benediction

I wrote this poem for and about Random Acts of Coffee. As the curtains opened at the Old Town Poetry Slam that I hosted, I stood with my confirmation Bible, a t-shirt bearing a praying mantis with its arm crossed above the word "atheist" and read this:

"Welcome to the Church of the Word"

In the beginning,
there was darkness
then spoke the Word
it was noun and verb
a subject and its action
a declaration of self-aware existence

whatever you may believe in or don't,
the universe spoke the first poem:
"I am"
and the art of existence detonated in a whisper
stretching its arms and legs across billions of light years
to the edge of the cosmos
leaving us in its wake to interpret
"I am"
is simple creation
it is cause from nothing
it is sound and fury
we spoke the same words
when we danced in half in our mother's womb
the words "am" and "i," waiting for a poet to pronounce them
you were that poet
and you answered with conviction, with sincerity:
"I am"
and your cells detonated in a whisper
stretching your fingers and toes into the poem you are now
comprised of 100 trillion cells,
each holding a different word,
and waiting for you to assemble them into your life story
begging you to speak

welcome to the church of the word
we are here to worship poetry
not what the words on paper
divorced from life and breath
not an abstraction
not the poet
but poetry
it is scripture that changes
with every voice on this microphone,
that builds a different temple in each of your minds
your interpretation becomes your own rabbi,
your own guru,
your own shaman,
your own saint

those of us who spit verse on this microphone
are just believers like you
who feel so moved by the word
we can no longer hold it in
who value notepads more than money
and holy ink more than heaven
because it is the word that will save our souls
now when we can relate our experiences
not when we die

every poem we write
is an echo of "I am" declaring itself in a new way
welcome to the church of the word
here, the only sin is silence
here, the only salvation is speech

understand you are blessing the generations
to come after you
the word does not promise immortality
but it does promise eternal life
teach a child the sacredness of poetry
and they will teach a child the same
influence the next generation
and you will live forever

welcome to the church of the word
by being here, you are converts
when you leave here, you are evangelists
when you return,
we hope you will want to join us
and preach your story
to enjoy life everlasting
welcome to the church of the word

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Staring at the Milky Way with One Eye Closed


Staring at the Milky Way with One Eye Closed
26 Sept. 2006-15 May 2007

Staring at the Milky Way with one eye closed
details in the clouds of shapes elude pinpointing
the brightest ones egotistically outshine their humble siblings
burning their age-old sociology over distance and time
only now reaching my half-blind awareness

if I lay still for an hour
the whole sky rotates enough for me to feel
the morning hours away
but for now, the night holds sway
that dark Earth below holds its secrets
coyotes yelp in their hide-and-seeks between the lights
marking the miles between irrelevant cities

I haven’t seen shooting stars in months
and the eager sky readily supplies signal flares on the periphery
as if they lamented my absence too
but in the tender brilliance of falling stars
sending goodbyes to satellites
stereoscopic disability flattens everything into two dimensions

denied depth, the hazy constellations stand near enough
to reach out and reorder as if i spilled them on velvet
i reached up with both hands
and gazed at each one through my fingers
and pretended i was god,
and I remember feeling this childlike before ...

although the days tick by in perfect chronological sequence
the specks above tonight measure the same distance apart as always
and the constellations remain impervious
to our rearrangements, reinterpretations and renamings

you see, I learned all their names once
at the same time I was structuring the proper order of the alphabet

my father, raised in a family too poor to afford telescopes,
would relate the stories of each one as we lay on the roof
cheaper than television
we shared the stars

he explained how geometric shape of hunter, virgin and beast
came to rise from earthly mothers
into Greek mythology
and into the heavenly bodies
we still use to find our way home

what stories he had heard at the same age I was
and remembered until he had a son
and which ones he manufactured at the moment
to keep my childish attention skyward
I’m still uncertain because I lost him years ago

but taken from this soil
and raised into the cosmos for a night
I sailed on the satellite of his voice into the exosphere
as he surreptitiously showed me
how all science fiction writers came to dream their space opera epics
see, their fathers instilled in them
the dream of sailing between
the Dark Side
and the Light

but the distance between stars is not measured in parsecs
but in the imagination of a boy thinking his father is godlike
because if you tilt your head ... just so
and remember that even angels
paint connect-the-dots pictures
the clump to the right in the shape of an arrow
with the semi-circle that arcs out from the side
really does look like a hunter
if you believe the man who tells you it does
and when he asks
if you can see it
for the first time in your young life
the way you see the world actually matters to someone
because it means he's doing the right thing

"Yes, dad, I see the hunter,
it chases through the clouds and gases
hiding in the shadows and staying downwind of his prey
you can tell by the way the Milky Way
is drifting to the Southwest tonight"

and in the stars I had my father
he told me the stories of the placement
and calculated the precise mathematics:
"These two stars will always be the distance between two fingers."
"That constellation is always the breadth of one palm,
if you stretch out your thumb to touch that star first."

the measurements in the heavens never change
because they give us a path home
despite the distance we grow from it
I wish I had known that then,
because I would have told that boy
to place his father somewhere in the heavens
so that he would forever know
the number of steps it takes to find him

but this rotating world
hides the stars behind the sun for half a day
and in the daylight
my father found a place to hide from me
so now I can't even find him in the night

I still have the stars and the stories
but the man who taught them to me
disappeared into them both
so never ask me again why I don't believe in God
look to the stars,
find him,
sketch out what points define his shape
and point him out to a boy still on a rooftop
tell him you can see god
in the geometry of random placement
because to me, today
those shape are just specks
I know anyone can rename the constellations
the measurements above never change
but we don't learn from their loyalty
how to live

so if you find a man who looks like me
with twenty more revolutions on his face
lying on a rooftop, measuring the distance between stars with his fingers
tell him to stop counting
because the mathematics of the constellations never change
no matter how many satellites we send up to double-check
it's the people down below who grow apart
and most never find a way back home

but sometimes there are boys
who remember they way fathers could be godlike
when they were too young to know any better
and on some nights like these,
when that boy, now this poet
gazes skyward with one eye open
he imagines that his father is alongside him
and for a while,
before his vision gets hazy
a certain mass of glowing dots
really does look like a hunter
heading back across the heavens
to teach everything he knows
about hunting stars
to his son

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NORAZ Poets is dead?

I've been told that this has been the Web site for a while now. Is the the last vestige of NORAZ Poets dead?

Good riddance.