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, September 9, 2010

The Poems I Performed for Tonight's FlagSlam feature

Seven Years of Solitude

Seven years of solitude
one-night stands
and last names lost to the wind
I wrote them in chronological order
carved their names in the sand
rewrote our mythologies
into my own fictions
to win 10s from strangers who preferred verses
rather than the cut and dry facts of thrusting hips
and white lies to strip cotton from our skins
before clothing ourselves in dawn-lit shame
of till-we-meet-agains

I found her literally in my own back yard
spreading dandelions along her path
on highways and backcountry roads
from the tundra to Sonora
fallen into disuse by travelers —
save Kerouac scholars

she called herself a hobo,
always homeward bound
but yet to find a doorstep to call her own
she came to kiss the red from the rocks
paint her lips with this Martian dust
swirl pirouettes in the vortices
verify that stars here match home
and chase down crash-landed aliens
looking for a one-way trip home to Perseus

she broke me open like an egg
scrambled my contents with her garlic smile
smothered in maple leaf syrup
and salted to taste

she coaxed herself inside
to better hear the word
by smiths more crafted than me
pressed skin to skin
and melted my insides into cheddar
smothered the sheets
in her unrepentant smiles

she is joy
unpasteurized, caffeine-free, antioxidant-rich
if it could drip from its source
sculpt itself into flesh and skin and bones
camber its soft exterior into curves
tender to trepid fingertips
hesitant to brush capsulated ebullience
lest it evanesce into vapor
like the morning fog
she zipped herself up behind a smile
radiant as auroras
to stay warm in the Yukon

we knew from the first kiss
the impending expiration date
I could only hold her so long
before wanderlust reignited her blood
pumped visions of highway sunsets into her aorta
pulled her sticky sunrise from my bed
I held tightly to dreams
that I would foresee us waking unshared unemptied
in the decades to come
but behind shuttered eyes
one loses the path of footsteps
roads meander as they must
not as we desire
and mountains have yet to yield to men

we were doomed to end
from the first morning we shared
each time we pressed hips and lips
I tried to capture the details
with scientific precision
to reconstruct the crime scene of her illegal emigration
from the homeland I built
she could have packed and parted a thousand times
without a second thought
or smile in a stranger's rearview
after her outstretched thumb purchased passage
yet I found her bedecked in my socks
or shirts or shorts and boxers after a time

I would have shed my skin to keep her warm
if it would have delayed her departure
a few hours more

she left me thrice:
to smell the stories wafting on Diné desert
see tors resistant to harassing winds —
play in a park where symbols of peace
were even written on the stones —
pioneer the plateau seared asunder
by patient waters that still run wild
too oblivious to laugh at our cages
knowing that they too will one day fall
Ozymandias could not conquer the sands
Hoover cannot break the canyon's will
though the crest once offered us a view
down to the moonlit sea
all endeavors come to an end
despite the glory
of their lofty dedications

each time, the gravity of our weight
pulled orbits back to the same ellipse
we shared atmospheres
and now with her light years across the plain
it's harder to breathe the air
before I knew her grace

in the winter nights
with the rest of the house bursting with life
lovers pressing tender touches
uncaring of audiences
friends rehashing old wounds reopened
musicians repeating tunes remembered by fingertips alone
I long for her pride
I languish for the smell of her with days trapped in hair
I yearn for the exhilaration of her tender brilliance
dropping falling stars into my exosphere
to scar the surface
leaving us again in the naked ecstasy
when the world faded away
leaving us alone with our uninhibited vices

the nights seem colder
and my limbs never warm enough to sleep through the night
awake with dreams unremembered
each one leaves a passport of her absence
the way she alone could seem to fill the bed with her laughter
as I left her in the mornings

our last day
remains wickedly vivid
how I longed to break my fingers and toes
to render my hands unable to labor
feet unable to leave her
knowing that as the door closed
when I next returned
she'd not greet me with outstretched arms
and leopardic leaps to pin me beneath her passions

I couldn’t have loved her better
goodbye was always on our lips
but when the last one came
it broke me down the middle

in the center of my city
tourists who came for millennial stones unbroken
saw us cleave together our last moments
and for the first time, she shed tears
broke open her dam
to cleave the street beneath us in two
in a way only the canyons know
the red rocks above trembled in dread
conjuring that winds and creeks had taken their toll
but she, unleashed, could finally break them into red sand
washing them like blood into the seas

there, at a crossroads I could recreate from memory
she said I would not cross the road with her
I was unable to follow
could not take her trek homeward bound
because I had never been
she carried my heart across the asphalt lanes
tied up in her pack
beneath snacks for the road
betwixt books and rolled socks
she carried it in secret
which I knew as she walked away from me
along a stretch of road
that seemed to widen for miles
until I lost her behind what could have been her next ride
or mere passersby
stained with her goodbyes
I watched until she was vapor and wind
red hat and pack
and then a mirage
as if she never was
but the hollow in my chest
beat her empty echoes with thumps in rhythm to her wandering footsteps
I send out platoons of foxes to find her
seek her out even in cities unknown to their habits
hoping their spying slyness
can catch her eye

now I seek out hitchhikers
the way addicts itch for a fix
I want to ask if they've seen her
if I can glean some knowledge of her whereabouts
and if they haven't yet
if they would pass on a message in my absence:
when the first winter breeze
blows in from the north
I will strip naked wherever I am
in the midst of Times Square,
the hollow of empty woods
or in my own living room
let her cold kisses caress all my sharp curves
feel her twirl around all my edges
inhale her joy so deeply
the atmosphere in my lungs turn to ice
all my pores will rise into goosebumps
to return her ten-thousand kisses
send all my silent words northward to find her
along whatever road she finds herself
wrap the embrace of breath around her
so she feels my arms again
even if just once more
even if just in dreams
even if she never knows

An Open Letter to Dave Matthews
Fuck You, Dave Matthews

This is an open letter to Dave Matthews,

for those of you expecting the typical "ode to a musician" slam poem
this would be the point
where I would insert biographical references
of the Johannesburg-born guitarist,
raised in New York
who finally left South Africa to avoid military conscription

or obscure clues to his professional history,
like his honorary doctorate from Haverford College
or the anti-Apartheid theme of “Don’t Drink the Water”

this is the point where you’d expect me
to weave the names of his albums into the poem
as if I was “Under the Table and Dreaming”
just about to “Stand Up” “Before These Crowded Streets”
like I do “Everyday” before I “Crash” into “Busted Stuff”
but “Remember Two Things,”
and no they’re not “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King”
this is not one of those poems
and two:
fuck you, Dave Matthews
and not for the same reason we all hate
Hootie & the Blowfish,
no, this is personal

the month I turned 18
I heard “Crash Into Me” for the first time
with lyrics so sharp they stung

for those of us
too shy to talk to girls
all tied up and twisted,
it was our ballad,
our song,
it gave boys like me hope
that even awkward outsiders
could find the right girl
even if we felt too creepy
to stand the sight of ourselves

you expressed our dream
asked on our behalf
in way only you could
that they forgive us in our haste
yes, we were peeping toms
watching through the window
asking them to overlook our failures
and for both our sakes, to just
crash into us
just hike up their skirts a little more
and show the world to us

you said what we couldn’t:
“I’m lost for you;
I'm so lost for you
Touch your lips
just so I know
In your eyes, love, it glows so
I'm bareboned and crazy for you
When you come crash into me”
we felt creepy,  
but you made it sound sweet

Dave, you were king of the castle
we were the dirty rascals
and that song was our secret
I knew what the words meant
while everyone else just heard the melody

and then I met her
she loved that song, too,
and I don’t know if she felt like the girl inside
winking at us in the bushes
or she was outside with the rest of us
feeling awkward, too,
but she hiked up her skirt
and showed her world to me
and while that song played
she wanted to crash into me
wanted me to come into her in a boy’s dream

she was sweet like candy to my soul
sweet she rock
And sweet she roll
she wore nothing at all
but she wore it so well
we were tied up and twisted
they way we ought to be
I was her Dixie chicken
she was my Tennessee lamb
and we walked together
down in Dixieland
just like you said we would

but Dave,
fuck you,
that song only lasts 5 minutes 16 seconds
the longest bootleg I can find
is 8 minutes 23 seconds
and that’s not enough time to love her
she’s worth decades
but no one makes CDs that long
and I can’t put it on repeat ...

she’s too smart for that

if you had written the song to last a day
I might have held her longer than a year,
she’s tied me up tight
tied me up again
she’s got her claws into me, my friend
I’ve got my ball
I’ve got my chain
her wave crashed into me
and I’ve gone overboard

I’ve lived that boy’s dream,
I made it real and now she’s gone
you gave me hope,
but fuck you, Dave,
you never said what happens when the song ends
Just that into my heart she'll beat again
now whenever I hear those opening chords,
the song just crashes into me
knocks me overboard
leaves me drowning
in a girl’s dream

Love Like A Scar: Part II
She Bit Me In the Face
When She Says, "Don't Move, Trust Me," Don't Fucking Move

she cut me above right eyebrow
scar shimmers still fresh red
she is always with me
below the surface

in decades hence
when the biographer asks, tape rolling,
who marred my brow,
I plan to lean back and with straight face
declare the flesh wound
a sniper bullet
from the Euro-American War of 2035
as I dashed from demolished home
to cinderblock shelter
carrying Mighty Mike McGee B-side bootlegs

or maybe Battle of Satin Hill shrapnel
during the Second American Civil War
dodging landmines on the eastern front near Kansas City
rescuing a microphone once used by Derrick Brown
molecules of his saliva clinging to the mesh
long after he is but two stars left of the North American moon

I saw draftee boys drop like flies
to restore the Republic
while I was on a mission to clone the lost poets
into Founding Fathers and Mothers
so they could draft a new Constitution
that could be read in 3:10
and yet bring a tear to the eye

the biographer will write down “madman”
because fiction will have overtaken me by then

the truth of this scar
is hard to explain
but humorous to declare:
“my girlfriend
bit me in the face”

it was no unrestrained passion
nor a tryst turned to domestic violence
but rather innocent:
she, perched above me
on a Saturday afternoon,
so eager to cuddle
she could not wait to hold me
she told me not to move
as she collapsed wrestling match-style

of course,
I moved

and tooth struck brow
tearing open skin

she cut me
leaving a mark of her inhabitance
proof she reached deeper than touch
left residue no shower could flush away

if lightning strikes me dead
between back door and laundry room —
or Babel reprises
and one Tuesday morning
we forget the sounds of English —
or poems worldwide
so intensely hold human passion they spontaneously ignite
explode all the words they’re unable to speak
burn notebooks and shoeboxes to cinders —
if memory just ... evaporates —
I’ll still have the scar
evidence for the Grand Jury
that I was guilty of loving her
my carefully constructed alibi evaporates in the face of habeas cicatrices

more than poems or photographs
the scar of her marks me
in mirrors,
in the reflection of car windows
the snap of portraits
the mark a centimeter wide
that could tear open like a zipper
on a beaten-up, used childhood toy
and spill out my stuffing

I am unable to amnesia her away
when Alzheimer’s settles in to play a hand of bridge
nurses and other patients will quietly ask
“Mr. Graham, how did you earn that scar?”
and I’ll repeat the details as best I know them
a thousand times,
each one again anew

no matter how misanthropic I may become
as these hands wrinkle in the coming decades
this mark whispers witness
that I was touched once —
let a lover past my front stoop
through my bedroom doorway
where she evaded resistant arms
wrapped her Canadian limbs
around my torso
and got so close
that she even tried to eat me
swallow me into her — right eyebrow first

even rendered mute by death
my corpse will speak to strangers
that she visited this skin
touched this household of dust and ash
saw the mask that I hid in
tried to open me like a can of soup
to spill out my brain and ego

she wanted nothing
but for me to hold fast and trust her
and I could not
this mark proves my doubts manifest
leaves me to forever contemplate
my near-impossibility to love someone else selflessly
the cut a battle wound
no less serious than seppuku across the belly
a shotgun blast to the ribcage
I failed in a split second
and the path of blood from bed to sink
still stains the tile grout
reiterating every morning to my toes
the eschatology of our love affair

these arms still reach out to empty air
still beg the dawn that her absence is conjectural
I haven’t washed my sheets since she left
in hopes that the smell of her in the bed
will bring her back like a bloodhound
searching the crime scene for the victims

I’ll go mad some morning
and take chisel to the tile
attempt to chip out each cell of hemoglobin
force them back into the wound
pick out all the solitary strands of her hair
embedded in the carpet
and glue them back together
use all the collected powers
of every clairvoyant and bullshit psychic in this city
to pull me back through time
return to that moment
and tell that son-of-bitch in the bed
that "when she says 'don’t move'
"you don’t fucking move
"you let her collapse into your arms like she meant to
"you hold her so tight, it hurts to exhale
"because you're pushing her heart millimeters away from yours
"you stop thinking about whether she might hurt you
"because even if she does,
"she's still here"

and as the future-me
begins to back away into the shadows
he fades away into nothing as they taught us
in all proper science-fictions,
the past-me and she
will swing arms wide into ocean waves
wash over and crash into each other
until the sheets are drenched in salt and seawater

this tiny cut
this scar to remember her by
will be last thing to fade
supernova-ing into the ash of angels
disappearing in a twinkle like forgotten star
without even a single pair of lovers on summer grass
somewhere in the galaxy
to note its passing
and wonder, “what was that?”

1 comment:

Arash said...

Wow, you write great poetry.
I have a blog of my own and I would appreciate your opinion on my poems.

Keep up the good work.