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, October 31, 2008

Sarrah Countdown #10

As she made her first steps into Montana, Sarrah and I got out of the truck, wandered into the median and shot photos of each other.

One of the best parts of the trip was spending a full day inside Yellowstone National Park. Buffalo were scattered across this valley.

Sarrah sitting with me on the steps of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, shortly after seeing Sue, the most complete and second-largest Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found.

On the Southwest Chief Amtrak train somewhere between Chicago and Flagstaff.

At lunch on the Southwest Chief Amtrak train somewhere between Chicago and Flagstaff.

Karim Rashid Sultan Khan

"Obama is a Muslim," pundits on the right shouts. Even if he was, so what? U.S. Army Cpl. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan was a Muslim too.

Sarrah Countdown #9

Sarrah Wile's graduation from Sedona Red Rock High School.

Sarrah participated in a mock trial as a prosecutor. Here she is speaking to the judge.

And grilling a witness.

Sarrah was also a member of Kiwanis. Notice how she tries to hide. As she got older, she got much more comfortable being in front of the camera.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sarrah Countdown #8

Sarrah t the Opheim High School reunion barbecue in the town's park.

The night before we left, we sat with aunt Laurie and uncle Alan, my twin cousins Katie and Jody and the ranch's resident pets.

In the back of pickup truck after the Redneck Fourth of July (the trap shoot), Sarrah looked great in the sunlight and wind.

My grandmother's farm includes a scrapyard of old, leftover farming equipment. A lot of it made for great photos.

I taught Sarrah how to drive stick.

The second day at my aunt Laurie and uncle Alan's ranch in Paradise Valley, Sarrah and I wandered the ranch shooting photos of everything. Alan gave us a tutorial of the local fauna too, which I found fascinating.

The first day at my aunt Laurie and uncle Alan's ranch in Paradise Valley, Sarrah went to meet my aunt's colts.

There's a character that an artist I follow on deviantART does called Pepper, who reminds me of the photo of Sarrah.

Could our votes for Obama in Arizona actually count?

Obama neck and neck with McCain in Arizona
By Anne Ryman
The Arizona Republic
Sen. John McCain's once-comfortable lead in Arizona has all but evaporated, according to a new poll that has the underdog Republican presidential candidate struggling in his own backyard.
With less than a week until Election Day, McCain is leading his Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, by 2 points, 46 to 44, down from a 7-point lead a month ago and a double-digit lead this summer, according to a poll from Arizona State University.
Factor in the 3-percentage point margin of error, and a race that was once a nearly sure thing for McCain is now a toss-up, pollsters say.

Sarrah Countdown #7

Sarrah meets my uncle Myron Redfield at the Opheim High School reunion barbecue in the town's park.

Sarrah square-dancing with my uncle Myron Redfield at the Opheim High School reunion street party.

My cousin Logan Redfield and Sarrah Wile giving me the redneck salute on mountain outside Helena, Mont.

Sarrah and Logan at a barn dance in Livingston, Mont., on the Fourth of July. Maybe it's genetic pride in my bloodline, but we Redfields are damn good looking. If this was just a random photo of two strangers, you'd likely say, "that's a beautiful-looking couple.

The Historic Vote

I've been a fan of Sen. Barack Obama since the the Democratic National Convention in 2004. At the time, Obama was not a national name. He was described in a later news story as a senator whose grandfather had been a goat herder in Kenya. To me, that epitomized the American promise. Despite being rebellious and anti-authoritarian when authority is assumed, not earned, I am a patriot in the most idealistic sense, in the same manner as the Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine and Henry David Thoreau. We must always questions our leaders, distrust our government, and fight whatever powers - wealth, prestige, spin, sound bytes, Department of Homeland Security Threat Warnings - threaten our democracy from being anything but equal people in continuous debate.

When I was younger and cemented my political beliefs to the left, I always wondered if I would vote for a black man who was a serious contender for the presidency. Instead of an intellectual with a wealthy family like Vice President Al Gore, or a mediocre "this-is-the-best-we-could-come-up-with-on-short-notice" contender like John Kerry, we were rewarded with Barack Obama, an orator and poet who has managed to repair the chaos of the 2000 and 2004 Democratic Party fiascos and run a brilliant campaign.

Now he's so far ahead in the polls that his victory seems unlikely to falter in the next few days.

Think of it: he's black, he writes moving, poetic speeches, he's young like Kennedy, he's galvanized young voters, he grew up so poor he was on food stamps yet became a senator, he has an economic plan as we face the Second Great Depression, he beat a Clinton, then gained their support, he's a child of a foreign citizen, and from a mixed-race family that includes Kenyans, whites, and Indonesians. My vote for Barack Obama is as much for the man and his policies as it is for the honor of telling my children that I voted for him.

But what makes it more relevant is how little race has actually played in the campaign. Obama's race is noteworthy, but to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, he's being judged not by the color of skin, but in indifference to it, and rather to the content of his character.

To top it off, this afternoon on NPR, I heard this story of first-time black voters in St. Louis who are voting for similar pride. At the end of the story, one of the interviewees, Ed Welch, relayed this, which he got as a text message, and I think it both encapsulates the fruition of the Civil Rights Movement and the progress of America as a whole through the African-American experience:

"Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Obama could run.
Obama is running so our children can fly."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sarrah Countdown #6

We wanted wandered into an abandoned elementary school in a defunct U.S. Air Force base that is now a ghost town. This way the gym.

On our first day at my uncle's ranch in Paradise Valley, we played in the hay shed.

Driving long hauls is a must in Montana, the fourth-largest state in the United States. Sarrah passed the time by making money.

Sarrah was trying to find a way to shoot an open window in my grandmother's barn south of Opheim, Montana.

This is my favorite photograph of Sarrah. She is the same height and build as my grandmother was at this age. It's almost like looking back through time to see my grandmother in 20s, with five (not yet seven) kids in tow. Danielle Gervasio considers this photo to be reminiscent of a Johannes Vermeer painting.

Sarrah's Shotgun Haiku

A girl with a gun
is a danger to no one
if she stays happy

Sarrah Countdown #5

This is the last rifle my grandfather made before he died. He assembled the parts and carved the wood. And Sarrah looks great holding it.

Sarrah shot a .45-caliber pistol with help from my cousin Logan Redfield.

The best part of our "Redneck Fourth of July" was the trap shoot. Sarrah shot my uncle Alan's 24-gauge shotgun. They're both left-handed, so she found the perfect gun. She also nailed five of eight targets. Not bad for her first time.

"The Statue of the Virgin at Granard" by Paula Meehan

Paula Meehan was born in Dublin in 1955. Her poetry collections include Return and No Blame (1984); Reading the Sky (1986); The Man Who Was Marked by Winter (1991), which was shortlisted for the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Irish Literature Prize for Poetry; Pillow Talk (1994), which was shortlisted for the Irish Times Literature Prize for Poetry; Mysteries of the Home: A Selection of Poems (1996); and Dharmakaya (2000). She has written plays for children and adults. New Island Books have published Mrs Sweeney (1999) and Cell (2000). In recent years she was awarded the Marten Toonder Prize by the Arts Council and the Butler Award for Poetry by the Irish American Cultural Institute. She is a member of Aosdána, and lives in Dublin.

"The Statue of the Virgin at Granard"
By Paula Meehan

It can be bitter here at times like this,
November wind sweeping across the border.
Its seeds of ice would cut you to the quick.
The whole town tucked up safe and dreaming,
even wild things gone to earth, and I
stuck up here in this grotto, without as much as
star or planet to ease my vigil.

The howling won’t let up. Trees
cavort in agony as if they would be free
and take off - ghost voyagers
on the wind that carries intimations
of garrison towns, walled cities, ghetto lanes
where men hunt each other and invoke
the various names of God as blessing
on their death tactics, their night manoeuvres.
Closer to home the wind sails
over dying lakes. I hear fish drowning.
I taste the stagnant water mingled
with turf smoke from outlying farms.

They call me Mary - Blessed, Holy, Virgin.
They fit me to a myth of a man crucified:
the scourging and the falling, and the falling again,
the thorny crown, the hammer blow of iron
into wrist and ankle, the sacred bleeding heart.

They name me Mother of all this grief
Though mated to no mortal man.
They kneel before me and their prayers
fly up like sparks from a bonfire
that blaze a moment, then wink out.

It can be lovely here at times. Springtime,
early summer. Girls in Communion frocks
pale rivals to the riot in the hedgerows
of cow parsley and haw blossom, the perfume
from every rushy acre that’s left for hay
when the light swings longer with the sun’s push north.

Or the grace of a midsummer wedding
when the earth herself calls out for coupling
and I would break loose of my stony robes,
pure blue, pure white, as if they had robbed
a child’s sky for their colour. My being
cries out to be incarnate, incarnate,
maculate and tousled in a honeyed bed.

Even an autumn burial can work its own pageantry.
The hedges heavy with the burden of fruiting
crab, sloe, berry, hip; clouds scud east,
pear scented, windfalls secret in long
orchard grasses, and some old soul is lowered
to his kin. Death is just another harvest
scripted to the season’s play.

But on this All Soul’s Night there is
no respite from the keening of the wind.
I would not be amazed if every corpse came risen
From the graveyard to join in exaltation with the gale,
A cacophony of bone imploring sky for judgement
And release from being the conscience of the town.

On a night like this I remember the child
who came with fifteen summers to her name,
and she lay down alone at my feet
without midwife or doctor or friend to hold her hand
and she pushed her secret out into the night,
far from the town tucked up in little scandals,
bargains struck, words broken, prayers, promises,
and though she cried out to me in extremis
I did not move,
I didn’t lift a finger to help her,
I didn’t intercede with heaven,
nor whisper the charmed word in God’s ear.

On a night like this, I number the days to the solstice
and the turn back to the

O sun,
center of our foolish dance,
burning heart of stone,
molten mother of us all,
hear me and have pity.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sarrah Countdown #4

Sarrah and Danielle "Deeds" Gervasio on the front steps of Hotel 17, Lower East Side, New York City.

Sarrah realizes she just made fun of my while on top of the Empire State Building, New York City.

Sarrah at the foot of the Sears Tower, Chicago.

Sarrah impersonates a lion at the Chicago Museum of Art.

Sarrah and her brother Alun, in Times Square, New York City.

Pvt. Mike Blevins

Mike at Sedona Green is one the biggest supporters of poetry in Sedona. And I love this photo of him as a Civil War reenactor. Why? Everything is period, except for the newspaper. And Mike's expression is "Why, it's 1863, and I have just discovered this newspaper ... from the future! ... Let's check the sports page."

I hope he wears this costume to the big Yin Yang and Zen Some Halloween Show at Szechuan Martini Bar on Friday.

Sarrah countdown #3

Hiking up the mountain my aunt Laurie and uncle Alan own in Paradise Valley, Montana

We wandered down the other side of the mountain and hiking along a bubbling crick.

We liked going into town to Mark's In & Out a lot.

Standing on a sculpture at the Montana State University campus in Bozeman.

Chilling in the grass at Montana State University in Bozeman.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sarrah Countdown #2

Sarrah eating oysters in New Jersey.

On the steps of a park entrance near where Danielle Gervasio grew up in New Jersey.

Standing in the rain outside our cabana along the Jersey Shore.

A photo of Sarrah's feet. Perhaps the rarest photo in the universe.

Sarrah is leaving Sedona

Sarrah Wile, my two-time daughter (I was her legal guardian twice) is leaving Sedona to go to school in Asheville, North Carolina. Sarrah was just a girl when I met her, but she's become one of my closest friends in Sedona.
We've gone on vacations every summer for the last four years: to the National Poetry Slam in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2005; to San Francisco with Dylan Jung and Lou Moretti in 2006; to Montana in 2007; and to New York City, the Jersey Shore, Philadelphia, and Chicago with Danielle "Deeds" Gervasio and Alun Wile in 2008.
Until she leaves, I'll be posting my favorite photographs of her over the years.

At Mark's In & Out in Livingston, Montana.

In my grandmother's barn in Opheim, Montana.

Checking out downtown Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Last Chance Gulch, in downtown Helena, Montana.

Playing checkers with stones and pinecones in downtown Helena, Montana.