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.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"There is a Girl in Your Country:" an open letter to Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada

This poem obviously alludes to Shane Koyczan's "We Are More," performed at the opening ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and The Klute's "Canadian Dawn." The references are meant for Azami. If you do not catch them, do not fret, you are not meant to.

There is a Girl in Your Country by FoxThePoet

There is a Girl in Your Country:
An open letter to Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada


Dear Prime Minister of Canada
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, PC MP


On behalf of your neighbor to the south,
we surrender.
Since you set ablaze our White House in 1814,
we have tried to resist you
we have mocked your accent
rejected your poutine
stolen your best actors
filmed Oscar-winners in Vancouver and called it Seattle
and neglected to learn the geography of your provinces


that ends today.
invade us,
we now offer no resistance.
bring us your socialized health care
your mandatory two-week paid vacations
your high literacy rate and clean streets


we will begin adding extra “U”s to our words
pronounce Honour, Colour and Armour
as they are intended
we will adapt our tongues to “A-Geinst” and “A-Boat”
remeasure miles in kilometers
pounds in kilograms
turn our thermostats down to minus-15,
in Celsius, not Fahrenheit
and adapt our skins to the inevitable northern winds
soon to blow hence,


just to show you we’re serious
we’ll even submit to two years military conscription
— even through Canada doesn’t have the draft —
our kids would do better building Third-World clinics and schools
rather than blowing them up


send your Mounties south
we’ll great them with open arms,
our citizens will drive just below the speed limit
and start smoking copious amounts of marijuana,
but do so responsibly
as you so nobly taught us


we will begin shortening our sports
from four quarters to three periods
for nostalgia’s sake, baseball will stay at nine innings,
but we’ll concede to call it American Cricket.


Dear Prime Minister Harper,
welcome us as your brothers and sisters in the Commonwealth
put in a good word for us with the Queen
we will rename the U.S. Congress
the Parliament of the United Provinces of Southern Canada —
it was due for an overhaul anyway —
and spend the next decade learning how that shit works
let us keep Governor-General Obama during the transition
until Her Royal Highness appoints a new French-speaker to the post


By first prefixing the pedestrian “USS” with the regal “Royal”
the Royal American Navy will begin renaming warships
and sail home to merely protect our shores


The Royal American Marines will inscribe
“Toujours fidèle” beneath “Semper Fidelis”
on all their stationary


in revenge for Terrance and Phillip,
we’ll execute Trey Parker and Matt Stone to make amends
but since capital punishment is banned in Canada,
we’ll sentence them to creating tourist videos for the CBC


Once your conquest is complete
once our schools have risen to your minimum standards
once “Bonjour!” and “Hallo” is as common
as “Howdy” and “ ’Sup dawg?”
then I ask one favor
one small request in payment
to the unconditional surrender
of our bald eagle sovereignty
to your maple leaf dominance:


with the border fluid
and immigration law a mute point
I’m searching for someone


there is a girl in your country
she is easy to overlook
because she stays in the shadows
avoids the cameras on busy streets
though you can find her at festivals
dancing barefoot at the center of the world
as though the stars forged visas from heaven
slipped passed the earthly border guards to stand in the plazas
sleeve their glow in human bodies around her
and dance until the setting moon revokes their passports
calls them home to press their lips into constellations
you will not know she is here
until someone asks later if you saw the midnight sun
swirling the street in the afterglow of the stage lights
I’ll admit I’ve never seen an aurora
but I imagine it feels like her laughter
and I know why polar bears and icesheets
stay north of the Arctic Circle
because that’s as close as they can get to her


do not stake out hotels
thinking she’ll slip in some night
she can sleep in ditches,
on strangers’ rooftops,
the beds of pickup trucks
or backyard trampolines,
anywhere she can find 10 square feet
and quiet until the dawn


instead, you can search for her on the wide open Trans-Canada Highway
somewhere between St. John’s and Beacon Hill Park
I know it’s 8,000 kilometers,
so keep your eyes peeled
if you see her, it’ll be by outstretched thumb first
I know Canadian winters can be harsh
but you will identify her by her smile
because it will keep you warm no matter the season
now, her unpasteurized joy will take longer
first, she’ll get comfortable in the seat,
ask you your history
and wait for your story


speak slow,
tell your story as best as you can recall
she asks many questions and will cross reference your answers
she will forgive a faulty memory
as long as the words as spoken sincerely
and know that even if she’s not listening to your every word
she’s interpreting the sound of your voice
so be honest
do not lie to her
she will see your fabrications before you can erect them
sweep kick them out from under you
and leave you splayed out on the floor
before the lies can even leave your lips


she will play the role of stranger
drop lines of prepackaged wisdom
play her preshuffled hand of cards
but this is still her shell,
her way to test your defenses
judge whether you’re worth a second try
here, I can offer no advice
— she still gauges me with every phone call —
the game has no trick to win it;
it’s a measure of character or honor
something no one can give you and none can take away

if you don’t have it,
you can drop her at the next stop for gas,
and thanks for the lift,
but if she sees it,
she knows you’re worth more than a ride


she will start to unpeel herself like cloves of garlic
each one covered in its own thin armor
let drops of stories unshelter their instruction
she’s taken the hammer and nails of her ambition
and realized potential to build bridges
for the rest of us to walk across



and somewhere between Havana and San Salvador
on the Black Rock City playa
over a bento box lunch in Sapporo,
her joy will hit like a hidden tsunami
you didn’t see coming
sweep you away from shelter or shoreline
as those waters fill your lungs
you’ll wonder just how you were so oblivious for so long
how could you have not felt the energy she bottled


in her stories
she will teach you that borders
are lines drawn by men in office buildings
who live a fluorescent fiction of a world still flat
men who believe maps and flags and anthems
mean more than blood and handshakes and laughter
men who’ve never dreamed beneath stars she counts nightly
men who’ve never felt the first kiss between sun and Grand Canyon
shake morning reds into the eons-old stone

men who’ve never heard peasants thank Dios
for a vote that finally counts
in a country that is finally theirs


in these life stories of her travels
you’ll understand why she cast off worn shoes
to walk barefoot in the dirt
and spin fire from her arms in the desert
but leave no footprints to follow
just the earthquakes and scars
in those of us who ache for her return
the way zealots pray for messiahs
in their late night confessions the day before martyrdom
she’s a first-aid kit for boys like me
who didn’t know they were broken-hearted before her
she moves in like chess pieces on a board of checkers
brings a Howitzer to knife fight
lets loose a Pamplona herd in a china shop
but will offer to sweep up afterward


I’ll admit her tomboy tongue blindsides on idle Tuesdays
as if the ancient six-day week cleaved open just for her,
added one more day and said
“fuck the mathematics of calendars”
if she could sleep for days
cuddled in a boy’s arms
she’d surrender the world
but the urge to burn and rage at end of day
pulls her back into the dreamlessness
there are too many stories to live
too many fingertips to touch
tornadoes can’t stay stationary either despite the scenery


if you can’t find her on the road
you can search the boxcars,
ask hobos about a girl made of hula hoops
whose pulse thumps in rhythm to railroad ties
pickup all the hitchhikers you find
and en route between points A and B
subtlety ask if a dark-haired, brown-eyed dancer
with weathered hands and a black bandana
has recently shared a meal with them
offered to manufacture a tutu or
sew leg warmers from leftover sleeves


know that in summers she melts into the woods
to reforest what we clear
make amends for civilization’s sins
with a shovel and bag of saplings:
maybe this one will grow up to be a peace table,
this one a roof for a homeless family,
two lovers will kiss beneath this one,
and their grandchildren
will be buried beside its roots


Yukon men won’t admit it
but they came century too early
and weren’t looking for gold
they came to clear the roads for her
give the earth a wound for her to heal
to train her surgeon hands


if all else fails,
you can coax her into the open
by leaving out a plate of melted cheese and fresh garlic
I guarantee she is unable to resist them
it make take years, so make it fresh every few hours
and she’ll track you down one day


once you find her
give her a warm bed
with no annoying alarm clocks
keep her unchained and unlocked
left free to roam or return on her whim
she may pilgrimage to ashrams or overlooks
or cathedrals cut into stone
awaken the third eye in prophets and psychics
who’ve never looked too deep but foresaw her coming
she instigates greatness in those too afraid to birth it themselves


she may still wander away in the day
call down the sun and the moon to dance at dusk
beg Orion to share her arms
and press her lips against new strangers


but if she leaves you, do not chase her,
she befriends guerrillas and revolutionaries
who give her sanctuary like she was a daughter
they will fight to keep her unyielding
know that she growls back at coyotes
chases them from her playgrounds
and though she may ache for warm limbs beneath bedsheets
she can find midnight outdoor air just as soothing
she’s too fierce to hold on to too tightly
she can bite open a boy she loves from the eyebrow down
so imagine what she does to transgressors


I will not fault you if she leaves
just let me know where you last saw her
point me in the general direction of her last appearance
she’s worth the pursuit
whatever you may think of her
she is more


Dear Prime Minister,
if you vow to search for her
if you promise to give it your all
you can have this country
take whatever you want from it
import our monuments like the caesars did obelisks
rename our parks after your heroes
impose your laws or revoke ours
redraw our states into a grid
or the image of Pikachu
it doesn’t matter to me anymore
just demolish the borders between us
erase the lines that divide


leave the office building
to share the blood and handshakes and laughter
without the nomenclature of nations
dream beneath her stars
feel the sun kiss canyons and mountains
give us the freedom of movement to find each other
because whatever you believe I think of her
she is more

1 comment:

SedonaMike said...

wow. that's a long piece.