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.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"She Would Have Been Three," March 31/31 Project

For Doc Luben's March 31/31 Project
No. 5

She Would Have Been Three

By Christopher Fox Graham

she would have been three
I’m guessing
I never wrote things down in a calendar
especially dates I slept with someone
I do keep a list of names
I’m one of those
because lovers’ last names are too often forgettable
call them notches in the bedpost if you must
judge me, Philistines
pretend you don’t have a similar list
hidden in shoebox
written in code in a diary
or recounted in living memory
leaving no trace should death come suddenly
we’re all whores
those who aren’t,
are virgins, saints or liars

I am no saint

she would have been three
not sure of the months
I never understood at what point
a child is no longer counted in years
as if there’s a threshold
when time stretches into longer periods
I am 372 months now
I would have been 348 then, give or take

she would have been three
could have been mine
I was not her your only lover then
I was a name on your list
a notch on your bedpost

I only heard what happened
secondhand years later
flush of fluid
damage within
a loss, the swallow
a haphazard explanation
a medicalized synonym for bad plumbing
to seemingly make the justification less crushing
“your pipes, dear, just can’t hold water
must have been the installation”
you always bore a tough exterior
but fragile around the edges
I knew how to hurt you
with flippant words about how you waste your time
knowing now
if I could unsay those things
knowing what time would mean later
I would chew them back into my tongue
spit them back into my bowels
until they dissolved into my blood
and I could bleed them into a sink

I would do this

but breath has a way of mixing with air
to make itself irretrievable
hiding as ninjas among other atoms
of nitrogen and oxygen
if we only lived in vacuum

I can not ask if she was mine
I was never meant to know
told in secret confidence
why you had grown so distant
in vino veritas in nox noctis
he assumed I knew
had already heard through gossiping grapevine
understood the absent months
the quiet reemergence
the unanswered messages
ignorant of the earthquake that flattened your city

I can never know her name
ask if it was Rachel or Penelope
I always loved your name
the way it rolled of the tongue
like it was made to live there
explore the space between us
did you name her for your mother
had she been born
instead of bled
nine months whole
instead of shattering brevity
you would have told me
father or not

she would have been three
standing knee-high now,
with my eyes
or those of a stranger
but your smile

she would have been three
but in her absence
I have no name to call her
so in mind when I imagine
all she could have been
and that she could have been my daughter
I know the name I would have chosen

I call her by yours

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