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.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"you know, I'm leaving in the morning" by Verbal Kensington and a reply, "famous last words," by Christopher Fox Graham

This week, I took a poem by my good friend Verbal Kensington and wrote a reply. To add a little more fun, I also took her other poems and worked them in.

At this week's FlagSlam, she went seventh, I went eighth, so the audience got the poems right after another.

Verbal's poem is below. In my poem, the original or reworked lines from this poem are in orange, from other poems are in green. The red is from Derrick Brown, one of her favorite poets.

"you know, I'm leaving in the morning."

By Verbal Kensington

"you know, I'm leaving in the morning."

These words drop casually from his lips, unflinching, cascading down his flinted chin to fall at my feet and puddle there, between us. He holds his gaze, as if it could tractor-beam reel me in, but his game is too weak. this line wavers in the silent space between us, and I'm warpspeed shifting my trajectory, all power to starboard, gunning for the cause.

He has no escape plan, he's no criminal mastermind, just a two- penny panty raider, doesn't realize he's tripped the alarm, all that stumbling around in the dark.

So I lean in close, and say listen - Don't mistake my open door for an invitation - don't mistake my nice for naive, cuz I was born on a day, but it wasn't yesterday, and you don't know me. I collect jawdrops and eyepops til my pockets fucking jingle. Smiles cost nothing, so I hand them out freely - but don't forget they are made of teeth. These meateaters are just a tonguetip from savage and you are a sick wildebeast, trailing behind the herd. If you think you can keep up, baby, better pick up the pace.

Don't Look me in the face, and say that you're leaving in the morning - when what you mean to say is that you are a trip which will only come my way once, so I better hop on and ride while it lasts - which I can see won't be long. You fancy yourself a barrelling freight train and you've pegged me for a passenger, when I am a destination. I am not some spit-shined station corridor to be casually passed through, I'm a vast country awaiting exploration my landscape brilliant and beautiful. I'm obviously foreign to you, cuz you're not speaking my language. I'm a menu of good taste offering five-course delight, not some blue plate Saturday night. My ribcage sign flashes neon open, but don't confuse my kindness for a cornerstore - there's a winning lotto ticket ticking countdown behind the counter, but you'll find nothing quick or convenient - though I'm happy to make change.

I know the sign said shirts and shoes, but the best dates show up dressed in sparkling self-respect, and I am the longest day of summer, all lightning and June bugs, openmouth kissing the starshine into latenight conversations, and what you're telling me is, you don't have that kind of time.

Which is fine - but I am no napkin poem, or match book phone number, I will not be crumpled and lost to tomorrow's wash. But I'm sure this bar holds some pretty pink panty waste of a girl willing to jump smiling into your bed of bullshit, but I've always preferred sheets - even if they are only made of paper... and all I know about you is that you're the morning, and I'm not the one-line happy ending to anyone's bedtime story.

"famous last words"

By Christopher Fox Graham

"They couldn't hit an elephant from this distance,"
Union General John Sedgwick said in 1864
seconds before a Confederate sniper
nailed him beneath his left eye

rarely, are last words so profound
or elegantly recorded

and he,
the man at the bar says his:
"you know, I'm leaving in the morning"

it drops from his lips
and I perk up
because we all take a passing glance at a car accident
but rarely do we get to see one happen
and this is her Mack Truck magnificence
about to meet him dressed up in a Bambi suit

I resist the urge to shout at him
"Muddy Waters said it better!"
but I'm not throwing him that life preserver
because this fool chose to jump overboard
and he's about to drown in the gene pool

he thinks himself a cat burglar raiding panties
with a pickup line American G.I.s turned into a cliché
decades before any of us were born
but really, he's the guy who'd sell weed
to a cop
in front of the police station
for the second time

Now she –
I saw her wanted poster hanging in the heart of every public building
with a reward so high
I found a Boba Fett mask and became a bounty hunter

but tonight,
I heard her long before I saw her
her pockets jingled from the jawdrops and eyepops
she collects from boys like me who smile instead of speak
because the right words only come
when we put them on paper
weeks after they're of any use

I will tell her this in person
weeks after it's of any use
Only my hindsight is 20/20.

She'll say honesty is the most amazing flavor she has ever tasted,
but it needs more salt
because she's never satiated
and I'm not sure if this is an explanation or an apology.

my grandmother warned me about girls like her
"Son, if you meet a girl with a cunning cat smile
and a slanted sideways glance,
who plays 10 chess games in every conversation -
don't try to get inside her head,
you'll just get your ass kicked by all the other ideas.
Do your best to win her
and if you're not the right man for her
become the man who is"

"your grandfather did the same"

Sometimes, we have to tear it all down
before we can build anew
I'll use the rain to wash my wounds
until I get this right

now she
is no napkin poem, nor match book phone number
she is a girl who wears Chuck Taylors like the punk rock badass she was born as
and merely had to grow into
a girl who hears the world clamoring, and just sings louder.
a girl equally parts skeptical and convinced, who watches cartoons on a projector,
whose love takes mouths hostage and makes people smile against their will
a girl so brilliant as a verbalistic ninja poet
that the lines of this poem
were all originally hers
I just scrambled egg them into a morning breakfast
served alongside bacon and coffee
that I hope to serve to her every morning until
there is no 'til
until I die
with the kind of joy in my heart my grandfather had
as he slipped away from grandma
knowing he had a winning lottery ticket every day

my grandmother warned me about girls like her
because she was one of them too

If I have to
I'd bring a suitcase full of unmarked kisses and meet her under the bridge at midnight
she'll be wearing the blue dress made from the skies of longest day of summer
pinned to her shoulders by June bugs

between openmouth kisses I'll tell her
"if I was on a freight train barreling past you
I would derail it and spend the rest of my days exploring your countryside
until I am buried beneath it"

then apologize
because the metaphor made more sense in my head before I said it

I know some days she feels like she's reached the age of unraveling –
when it all comes apart at the dreams
I feel that way too
but lovers stich up each other with the ignorance still woven into their threads
and I have plenty to spare

if I ever say
"you know, I'm leaving in the morning"
it'll only be followed with
"but I'll be back in the afternoon,
working enough to buy a new bed
because the smoldering ruins of the old one
just holds both last night's ashes
and this morning's kindling
the sheets will be made of paper
on which we can write another night's poem
because this one won't be the last"

between the lines,
we can outline our silhouettes against the backdrop of a blank page,
and let our history be the judge

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