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.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Poetic Babysitting," by Christopher Fox Graham

"Poetic Babysitting:
How to turn a child into a poet"
By Christopher Fox Graham
for Christopher "You Phonik" Harbster

Before he was You Phonik,
turning straw words Rumpelstiltskin-style into golden poetry

Photo by Saar Ingelbert
Christopher Fox Graham, left, used to babysit Christopher "You Phonik" Harbster in
Chandler, Ariz., where they both grew up.
Before he was crushed by the black onyx

Before earning 10, 10, 10
from poetry slam judges
I knew him as a boy of 10
standing no taller than my waist,

In the world before we knew poetry
he was young Christopher Harbster,
and I, Christopher Fox Graham, was his babysitter
my mission at 17 was to
make sure he could play freely
while his parents were out on the town

As long as ate his vegetables
and was in bed by 8,
I’d earn 40 dollars when they got home at 11

Now the truth is
if you know the man he has become
who stays awake for days
because there is so much poetry
spinning in his head
that he can’t sleep without writing it down
putting him to bed by 8 was impossible
he’d always have another reason
to play hide-and-go-seek
or shoot laser guns
or make forts from the furniture

his parents wanted obedience
but I’m terrible at discipline
and 8 o’clock became 8:30 then 9 o’clock, then 9:30
finally, the rule was: as long as you run to bed
when we hear the garage door open
and can pretend to be asleep
when they go into to check on you
little man, you have the right to stay up
as long as your imagination
can keep your eyelids open
if your dreams can transform this living room
into a battlefield
those sofa cushions into the Alamo
of humanity’s last stand
and the plastic water gun into a laser pistol
blasting away at alien invaders
then the clocks on the wall
are just a few more enemies
we have yet to vanquish tonight
before the Armageddon of your parents
at the gates of doom
brings it all to an inevitable conclusion

now his sister was well-behaved
and would have obeyed her parents’ rules
whether I was there or not
but Christopher was my favorite
because he knew that rules
were made to be broken
which is why he writes free verse
and goes way over time during slams
because, fuck it, the audience needs to hear these words

it wasn’t until years later,
when a boy with a familiar appearance
and an identical name
appeared on a Flagstaff poetry slam stage
and whooped my ass in this game of verbs
that all those years came rushing back
and I realized that giving a boy freedom
can do more to raise him right
than rules, rhetoric and schooling

So I’d like to use this stage and this night
to take credit for gifting him the art of poetry
and announce the CFG Corporation for Poetic Babysitting
parents, for the low, low price of paper and pens
hire me to watch your children
while you enjoy dinner out
your children will learn how to break the rules

“yes, Michael, you can jump on the bed,
but only if it’s the surface of the moon
and you have to do it in iambic pentameter”

“Rachel, you’re right, vegetables are awesome slingshot ammunition,
but aim higher, you have to clear the backyard fence,
and spit lines about flying
from the perspective of the broccoli”

Photo by Saar Ingelbert
Chris "You Phonik" Harbster plays violin in his Flagstaff apartment.
“Julia, your crayon mural in the hallway
could use a little more cerulean blue
those clouds have to stand out in the hunter green sky,”

“Jonathan, remember:
rhinoceroses
with odd numbers of flippers
just swim in circles,
and that’s a haiku”

I’d like espouse my wisdom with words
and squeeze its juice into eager minds
to turn your children into poets like Christopher Harbster

but the truth might be
I was a blank slate before I met him
there was so much poetry in that 10-year-old boy
aching for a page or microphone
that it couldn’t help but to seep out of him
and linger in the air

I must have breathed it in
when I was hyperventilating in those cramped spaces beneath the coffee table
during hide-and-seek

maybe it just spilled out like a blanket
on the sofa when he fell asleep next to me
watching the PG-13 movie
as his dreams gestated into poems
he would later spit on this stage

or maybe the weight of it sank into my spine
when carried him on my back in the yard
because he wanted to get just a little closer to the stars

in his hugs
I felt the tremor in his shoulder blades
that were beginning to push feathers through the skin

now on the right night,
when the lights are dim
and you’re drunk on his verses
you swear can see wings made of words

-- his halo glows a lot like these lights back here --

if I could go back in time
I’d tell that prodigy of a boy:
"you’ll be a great poet one day"

but I know he’d answer:
"I’m just waiting the mics to be hot enough,
now go pave the way for me
I’ll meet you on the stage
when you’re ready"

1 comment:

oviedomedina said...

What a homage.
I sincerly can only say: amazing.