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.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Manifesto of an Addict" by Christopher Fox Graham

you see I’ve got a problem
I’m addicted to that one thing
that everything that true thing
every moment I’m looking for another fix
wandering from here to there
trying to get just one more hit
you see I'm addicted to humanity
it’s just this power that overwhelms
this power that draws me in
I don’t know what it is
I can’t escape
humanity has me addicted
every time I kiss a girl
talk to a friend
hear the story of a stranger
I get just that much more addicted
and it’s just that much harder to break myself away

when a 75-year-old black man
tells me how he earned a vicious scar on his face
from a near-lynching in 1952
just outside Birmingham, Alabama
I get more addicted
his story
that human story
draws me in

when a mother of two
tells me what it was like
to explain her boys
that daddy is never coming home again
because semi-trucks don’t leave survivors
I get more addicted
her story
that human story
draws me in

when an elderly Jewish matriarch
tells me what was like
to grow up in a Polish concentration camp
to see her family get shot
then rolls up her sleeve to reveal a tattoo of
carved in the flesh
of her forearm
her story draws me
in every gesture
every feature
every wrinkle crease earned through survival
draws me in
like a moth to a flame,
like a comet to a star

I can’t escape
I tried once
I tried to withdraw once
ever gone through human withdrawal?
I left the world for a day
and it almost killed me
I couldn’t function
I couldn’t act
I couldn’t breathe
I couldn’t walk
I couldn’t talk
do you know what it’s like
for a poet who cannot talk?
a poet who cannot talk
who cannot write
is dead

I had to come back
my addiction keeps me alive
do you know how easy is to get this stuff?
they don’t even sell it
they give it away
I can’t round a corner without getting another hit
and it’s killing me

if I could break his addiction
I could live forever
but what would my life be like without my humanity?
they say we’re all made to die, does that mean we’re all addicted?
are you?
are you?
are you?
I am
I my love my addiction
I want to experience the stories of everyone
because what differs us is just time and space
I want to know what other possibilities my soul had
before it chose this time
this space
this body to occupy
I want to know
I want more and more
I want to do the lines of every human face
I want to walk the features
memorize the names
live the stories that of every human who ever lived and I still want more

I want to feast with Gilgamesh
I want to besiege Troy
I want to drink with Alexander
I want to walk the halls of Camelot
I want to meditate with Buddha
I want to pray with Mohammed
I want to burn with Joan of Arc
I want to ride with Crazy Horse
I want to stand in the streets of Hiroshima with 140,000 other human beings
and feel the skies turn instantly
into the wrath of God
and want to sacrifice myself on Calvary
and become your Messiah
because God
if there is one
was just the first addict

I love being addicted
even if it’s going to kill me
I ask for more
I beg for more
I would sell my soul for more
but what makes this addiction my curse
is that I’m just one man
and I don’t have much time

Christopher Fox Graham © 2000
I guess I never posted this poem online before. Originally just a solo poem, I performed with Nick Fox and Chris Lane as a three-man group poem at the 2001 National Poetry Slam in Seattle.


evapl said...

Christopher: I love the raw feeling to this poem. Thank you for sharing it. However, I feel I must point out a rather serious error which you have made. You used the phrase "Polish concentration camp". There was never such thing. All the concentration camps were Nazi-German concentration camps. Even taking into account a measure of poetic license, this is simply wrong. Please correct this. I'm sure you will see that changing it does not compromise the poem in any way. Thanks, and I hope to read more of your work.

Christopher Fox Graham said...

The line references where the camp was, not who ran it. I think any student of World War II knows the Nazis ran the camps in German-occupied Poland. The woman in the poem was a Polish Jew from Kraków, Poland, who was first in the forced labor camp of Majdanek, near Lublin, Poland, then Auschwitz, Poland, which she survived. She was never in any camps in Germany.

deWoldan said...

Christopher ... Presumably you have a wider audience in mind, not just students of WWII, and for most people these days the events of 1939-45 are as unfamiliar as daily life in the Middle Ages. So, the majority of readers will incorrectly understand a 'Polish concentration camp' as being a camp run by Poles. Why defend something that is so misleading? Why avoid honesty and not call it a German camp, exactly as it was? And, of course, saying that such camps were in Poland - geographically - is itself incorrect, as any student of WWII will tell you. A large part of Poland occupied by Germany was incorporated directly into the Reich, so was called 'Germany', and a rump was called the Generalgouvernment. Those parts of Poland occupied by the USSR they declared to be integral to the USSR since Poland had ceased to exist. Even if this were not relevant, you would not call Guantanamo Bay 'a Cuban prison' nor 'a British camp' the camp set up by the Germans on the Channel Islands. The first is clearly 'an American prison', the second is obviously 'a German camp' and by the same logic Majdanek and Auschwitz are clearly and obviously 'German camps'.

Christopher Fox Graham said...

Again, the women is the poem is a real person not a metaphor for all Jewish victims of the Holocaust. She was in Polish camps. While the Nazis were adept at massacring civilians from France to Romania, the woman in question was specifically in camps in Poland. Whether the Soviets or Nazis acknowledged Poland's de jure sovereignty mattered little to the de facto existence of Poland to the Polish resistance and the allies. To change Polish to German or Nazi would remove the specificity of her narrative from the poem. The poem is about connections to other people and their stories, not a history lesson. I also don't mention the years or "during World War II" or that she was in the camp just for being Jewish. The historicity is implied in describing the woman and her story.