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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Lumberjacking is the World’s Most Dangerous Profession" by Christopher Fox Graham

lumberjacking is the world’s most dangerous profession
falling trees and limbs slay lumberjacks at a rate
30 times higher than average
breaking bones a dozen times daily

these arms are not built to fell trees
these hands not built to wield axes or chainsaws
I am no lumberjack
but I know the sound of a tree falling in a forest
we do not know how many died
to build this stage
to erect these room
to raise this roof

poetry is the world’s most dangerous art form
suicide and addiction and overdose slay poets
at a rate not measured by the Bureau of Statistics
because we do not list "poet" as a profession
no matter how deep is in our bones

but I am a poet

these arms were built to climb trees
these hands to wield pen and microphone
the sound of a poet falling in a forest
sounds so much like a tree
even the Earth can't tell the difference
we do not know how many died
to raise this roof
to erect these room
to build this stage

I know no dead lumberjacks
but if I were to inscribe the names of all the dead poets
this body would be inkwell:

one drowned in the heat of lonely city
swallowing pills to stay afloat

one who found refuge in a bottle
until his liver took his heart in the divorce

one who shotgunned the worst of him
across pages of the best of him

one with the Will of a Haymaker
now Basquiating himself
with a heroin needle
refusing to hear us say "stop"

one who swam into the river
never intending to reach the far shore

one who relived his golden age
overdosing on methadone

one who named his son Oren
and told us to look it up
wrote that one day his son would fall,
but a poet would there to catch him

and another poet

and another

and another

I know no lumberjacks
but I know they must weep like I do
whenever these names come flooding back

we do not build furniture or homes or monuments or empires
tangibility that can exist without the living
we only leave behind our words
which yellow and age over time
only existing if we read or speak them
but there are too many words now
and not enough time
and I'm beginning to forget
and there's no one here to help

lumberjacks take refuge in the woods
work beneath the leaves
take revenge on the limbs and trees
that slew their brothers
but we poets have nowhere to go
but back to these pages
to these microphones
to these slam stages
where we pour out our rage
it's why we're always shouting
a Dead Poets Society
is trapped in our throats

I'm not even supposed to be here
there's too much sin,
and pride
to be a Speaker of the Dead
to bear this burden of survivor
I am the Devil's bad luck
and the Grim Reaper's off days

I am tired of burying our dead
of toasting our fallen as conquering heroes
of retelling all the same old stories
to those old poets who can remember
before the needle drained
the pills slowed
the bullet shattered
the depression became too much to bear

I am tired of telling new young poets
about who came before
or how their newest stanza
can make me weep
because it sounds so much like someone
they can read but never meet
they don't need this added weight
while learning to fly
I am tired of telling still-living poets
with one foot in the graveyard
and one hand on a needle
that I don't deserve to outlive them

one poet named his son “Pine Tree” in Hebrew
wrote that one day he would fall
I am no lumberjack
but I will ready to catch him
because a poet said to

I can build nothing
but this
this is a promise I can keep


Jenn said...

This comment doesn't have anything to do with this piece,(although I thoroughly enjoyed reading it) I just wanted to let you know how much one of your poems has stuck with me, and to let you know how much I appreciated it and your talent. I had posted a comment over on deviantart with the original work, but I noticed that you didn't have any recent activity on the site, so I followed your links here.

I found your piece, 'Hit Me Running' through my deviantart profile. I haven't used it for years and years, it was a lifetime and another person ago. I'm shocked that I remembered my log on information to be frank, but I'm so glad that I did because it let me find your poem.

I think that I read it for the first time not long after you published it, and I've never forgotten it. It has stuck with me for twelve years.

I've been off of deviantart forever, but I really wanted to find your poem again, and all I recalled of it were bits and fragments. More the idea of it really. I tried searching what I could remember of it through Google, but it wasn't enough. I wasn't even sure that deviantart was where I had read it. On a lark I thought that I'd try to sign in, fervently hoping that I had saved it as a favorite. As luck would have it, I did, and I'm so very glad.

It was every bit as good as I remember it being years ago, just an amazing, beautiful piece of writing. It left me thinking that that's how I want to live my life, to the hilt, let them take me down running.

Thank you for this, and please keep writing.

Jenn said...

At the risk of looking like an idiot...

My earlier comment sounded flippant about this piece, I realized that after I read the poem again. I didn't read it completely the first time, I apologize.

This was beautiful and heartbreaking. It made me cry and I didn't mean to trivialize it.