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, May 28, 2014

FlagSlam 2014: The Nationals Team

FlagSlam 2014: The Nationals Team from Kontra.

The 2014 team is Josh Wiss, Josh Floyd, Claire Pearson, Ryan Smalley and Christopher Fox Graham

Poet Maya Angelou died today at age 86

When I was a boy, I remember hearing Maya Angelou read "A Rock, A River, A Tree" at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993. She was the first poet to read at a presidential inauguration since Robert Frost in 1961, and the second poet ever.

In retrospect, Angelou might have read the first poem I ever heard that didn't require translation from archaic English or explanation from a teacher.

I remember quoting the phrase "A rock, a river, a tree," and "... say simply, very simply, with hope, 'Good morning,'" for years after.

"... Say simply, very simply, with hope, 'Good morning,'" coincidentally appeared at the very end of the startup intro music of my Encarta '95 Encyclopedia -- aka Wikipedia before Wikipedia -- when I was in school. I probably heard the tail end of this poem every day for my formative educational years.

She died today at age 86. We poets mourn her loss, but we have her words.

A Rock, A River, A Tree
By Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
It says come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.
The River sang and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.
They hear the the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers--desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot ...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am that Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours--your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Poet Maya Angelou receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the
highest civilian award of the United States - from President Barack
Obama in 2011.
Maya Angelou

Born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, Marguerite Johnson was raised in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. 

Her brother who first called her Maya, and the name stuck. Later she added the Angelou, a version of her first husband's name. 

In Stamps, Angelou experienced the brutality of racial discrimination, but she also absorbed the unshakable faith and values of traditional African-American family, community, and culture.

As a teenager, Angelou’s love for the arts won her a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School. At 14, she dropped out to become San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor. She later finished high school, giving birth to her son, Guy, a few weeks after graduation. As a young single mother, she supported her son by working as a waitress and cook, however her passion for music, dance, performance, and poetry would soon take center stage.

In 1954 and 1955, Angelou toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess. She studied modern dance with Martha Graham, danced with Alvin Ailey on television variety shows and, in 1957, recorded her first album, Calypso Lady. In 1958, she moved to New York, where she joined the Harlem Writers Guild, acted in the historic Off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's The Blacks and wrote and performed Cabaret for Freedom.

In 1960, Angelou moved to Cairo, where she served as editor of the English language weekly The Arab Observer. The next year, she moved to Ghana where she taught at the University of Ghana's School of Music and Drama, worked as feature editor for The African Review and wrote for The Ghanaian Times.

During her years abroad, Angelou read and studied voraciously, mastering French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and the West African language Fanti. While in Ghana, she met with Malcolm X and, in 1964, returned to America to help him build his new Organization of African American Unity.

Shortly after her arrival in the United States, Malcolm X was assassinated, and the organization dissolved. Soon after X's assassination, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. asked Angelou to serve as Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King's assassination, falling on her birthday in 1968, left her devastated.

With the guidance of her friend, the novelist James Baldwin, she began work on the book that would become "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Published in 1970, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was received international acclaim and enormous popular success. The list of her published verse, non-fiction, and fiction now includes more than 30 bestselling titles.

A trailblazer in film and television, Angelou wrote the screenplay and composed the score for the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia. Her script, the first by an African American woman ever to be filmed, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

She continues to appear on television and in films including the landmark television adaptation of Alex Haley's Roots (1977) and John Singleton's Poetic Justice (1993). In 1996, she directed her first feature film, Down in the Delta. In 2008, she composed poetry for and narrated the award-winning documentary The Black Candle, directed by M.K. Asante.

Angelou served on two presidential committees, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, received three Grammy Awards and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the United States, from President Barack Obama in 2011.

President Bill Clinton requested that she compose a poem to read at his inauguration in 1993. Angelou's reading of her poem "On the Pulse of the Morning" was broadcast live around the world.

Angelou has received over 50 honorary degrees and was Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.

Angelou has died after a long illness at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

12 poets battle in the Sedona Grand Poetry Slam on Saturday, June 7

On Saturday, June 7, the best poets in Arizona will compete in the 2014 Sedona Poetry Grand Slam, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. State Route 89A, Suite A-3.

The slam is the final the 2014 season, which culminates in selection of Sedona's third National Poetry Slam Team, the foursome and alternate who will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, Calif., in August. Poets in the slam come from as far away as Phoenix and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona, college poets from Northern Arizona University, and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School's Young Voices Be Heard slam group.

Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. While many people may think of poetry as dull and laborious, a poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays.

All types of poetry are welcome on the stage, from street-wise hip-hop and narrative performance poems, to political rants and introspective confessionals. Any poem is a "slam" poem if performed in a competition. All poets get three minutes per round to entertain their audience with their creativity. The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

At Nationals, the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team will share the stage with 300 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe, pouring out their words in a weeklong explosion of expression.

Sedona sent its first team to the 2012 National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C., and its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass.

The 12 top poets who will compete on June 7 include:

Maya Hall

Maya Hall is a triplet and a lover of life.

When she isn't busy working on poetry she's studying for an art education degree as well as gearing up for a masters in counseling.

She's ready for the path that poetry is taking her and is up for anything in this new, exciting chapter of her life and hoping to get her words out to a larger audience.

Spencer Troth

Spencer Troth was born in the humble town of Mesa, after it was no longer a humble town. He has lived across the Phoenix Metro area, but has now learned to call Flagstaff his home. Having just completed his degree in Political Science, Troth is a fresh young adult looking to find his place in the world of politics, though he has always kept a special place in his heart for poetry. As a poet, Troth has competed in slams for about two years, garnering a place on Sedona's national team in 2012 to compete in Charlotte, N.C.

Troth has a writing style which can be saturated with images, and sometimes difficult to interpret, but claims that beneath it all there is a narrative which he wishes to convey in every piece.

"I have always tried to take a more normal experience, falling in love, traveling, experiencing a friend pass; and break it down into more abstract images and concepts. I think this is how my mind operates, and with poetry, my inevitable goal is to bring people into a place where they may experience the things which influence me in a similar fashion to how I am affected by them," Troth said.

Rowie Shebala

Roanna Shebala, a Native American spoken word artist, of the Diné – Navajo – Tribe was born and raised on the Navajo Nation.

Given the gift of storytelling from her father she combines story, poetry, and performance.

Shebala constantly brings the voice of her heritage into her performance, and written work often treading into spaces where hearing native voices is unlikely.

In doing so, she hopes to reframe what it means to be a Native person for the masses, point out the appropriation of her people's culture, and reclaim an identity that has perverted by heavily edited versions of history, the invisibilization of indigenous peoples today, and the use of those people as caricatures for mass amusement.

Lauren Perry

A slam poet for 11 years, Lauren Perry has been a four-time Women of the World competitor, representing Phoenix, Mesa and Sedona.

Something to be said for a Persona Poet – there is no box to think out of as they are not limited to one person but rather bring the voice another to carry the conversation outside any guidelines.

In 2013, Perry joined her fifth National Poetry Slam team, one that would rank seventh in the country and make it to semi-finals.

Her poems use great depth and multiple layers that tap dance back a round-robin to the beginning to tell more than one story but leave a complete image in the audience's head.

A born sarcastic, with a dark sense of humor, she’s not one to not love or perform anything less than hard.


Tyler "Valence" Sirvinskas is a performance poet and new media artist based in Arizona.

Spoken word, performance art, electronic music, and visual art are all elements of Valence's artistic vision. In 2011, he began competing in poetry slams, and represented Flagstaff at the 2011 National Poetry Slam. In 2012, he won the Sedona Grand Slam, and in 2013 secured a spot on the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team.

Valence has lived in Arizona for the last decade, but was born in and spent his childhood in Chicago. Part of the last generation to know first-hand what life was like before the internet, Valence is grateful for anything that makes people silence their smartphones.

In the future, Valence has plans for touring, various projects, and a new style of performance art that combines spoken word with live video and music. At only 23 years of age, he's still somewhat green but definitely done screwing around.

Lauren Remy

Lauren Remy is 16 years old and a resident of Sedona.

Remy has been a part of youth poetry slams for two years. People have likely seen her spitting some poetry at Java Love Café.

Remy writes metaphors about fire, or flowers, or space. When she’s not spitting some radical poetry she’s being a thespian at Sedona Red Rock High School.

Remy is a cool cat. But isn’t as cool of a cat as James Gould (the glorious leader of North Korea).

Gould is inspiring to Remy because he isn’t narcissistic in the slightest. Also, by the way, Remy is NOT James’s secret admirer.

James Gould

James Gould is kind of a big deal. He is not only Sedona's "Most Successful Rap Battle Host Ever," but also a competing poet for the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team.

He performs poetry to get stuff off his chest, like breast reduction.

He lives and works in Sedona, as "The Best Web Developer You Ever Saw." He writes poems on subjects including, but not limited to, dinosaurs, free speech, his irrationally rational fears of babies and fans, and cute people.

"He is probably the best person ever, and not in the slightest narcissistic." -James's Secret Admirer (Definitely not James).

Gabbi Jue

Gabbi "Truth Bomb" Jue is a spoken word poet, dancer, creator and survivor with an insatiable love for things that turn pain into beauty.

Tribulations and triumphs in her lifetime influence her art, which she uses to bring strength and hope for others and herself. She has been a member of the Northern Arizona poetry community since 2011 and was a member of FlagSlam’s 2013 National Poetry Slam Team that competed at the National Poetry Slam in Boston.

No fear of telling it how it is, her tendency to speak her mind bluntly and honestly has coined her the nickname "Truth Bomb."

Joy Young

Joy Young is a Phoenix-based spoken word performance and teaching artist.

A self-described “circus-poet,” she believes that often, the best response to a world constructed of ridiculous assumptions and expectations is to be equally ridiculous. It is through the juxtaposition of perceived realities and the absurd that she hopes to unveil places of possibility and queer our understanding of the world around us.

Her unique body of work often explores nuanced understandings of gender, sex, and sexuality in ways that frame personal narratives as part of larger social justice topics.

Evan Dissinger

Evan Dissinger is 24 years old and currently living in Flagstaff. He has been involved with slam poetry since 2008 and has been on two national teams; 2008 with FlagSlam and again in 2012 as a member of team Sedona.

Dissinger lives with one cat and is often found hunched over a canvas or cruising on a skateboard when not at his restaurant day job.

Dissinger is an inquisitive Aquarius with a unique interpretation of the world around him. Dissinger caries a timid boldness that can be found reflected in his art.

Verbal Kensington

With a background ranging the spectrum from accounting to pyrotechnics, Meg "Verbal" Kensington is Necessary Publishing’s Creative Director and competed on the 2013 Sedona National Poetry Slam Team in Boston.

She’s also a writer, poet, artist, and mentor. Others know her as a verbal mercenary, with an uncanny knack for organization.

Her most valued achievements include the ability to speak unabashedly in the third person, the precise calculation of road-trip gas mileage in her beloved vintage Subaru, and the unobtrusive creation of an amazing array of late-night snacks.

She aspires to become more like her favorite animal, the platypus – the only earthly creature who is both astonishingly cuddly, and horrendously poisonous.

With her unique combination of extreme intelligence and stunning good looks, she plans to one day take over the world – starting today.

The Klute

Phoenix-area crackpot Jerome du Bois once said of The Klute: "You have one of the blackest hearts I've ever had the misfortune to glimpse," so in 2007, The Klute received an upgrade.

With the implantation of a Freestyle bioprosthesis, The Klute now has "superior flow characteristics." His heart remains blacker than ever.

The Klute, part man, part machine, all of him sarcastic, is a fixture of the Arizona poetry scene, having been on five National Slam Poetry Teams from Mesa (2002-2003, 2005-2006, and 2010) and four from Phoenix (2008-2009, 2012-2013).

In 2014 he will be published in anthologies by Write Bloody and Sergeant Press. He's a one-man psy-ops campaign bringing the system down from inside. He buys low and sells high. He keeps the Grim Reaper on speed dial and his absinthe on ice.

Christopher Fox Graham

The Sedona Poetry Grand Slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on seven FlagSlam National Poetry Slams in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

He recently earned a slot on the 2014 FlagSlam team which will compete alongside the Sedona team at Nationals. Graham has hosted the Sedona Poetry Slam since 2009.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sedona Poetry Slam final standings

January 11, 2014 February 1, 2014 March 8, 2014 March 29, 2014 April 26, 2014 May 17, 2014 Points
The Klute 4.0
1.0 4.0
1.0 10.0
Verbal Kensington
3.0 4.0 1.0 1.0 0.5 9.5
Evan Dissinger 1.0 1.0 2.0

4.0 8.0
Josh Wiss 1.0 4.0
1.0 1.0 1.0 8.0
Claire Pearson 1.0 1.0 3.0 1.0 1.0 0.5 7.5
Joy Young 1.0

3.0 7.0
Gabbi Jue

1.0 4.0 1.0 6.0
James Gould 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 6.0
Lauren Remy 1.0 2.0 1.0 1.0

Valence 1.0

2.0 4.0
Christopher Fox Graham 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 3.0
Jackson Morris 3.0

Lauren Perry 1.0


Rowie Shebala

Ryan Smalley 1.0 1.0

Spencer Troth 1.0 1.0

Anthony Johnson 2.0

Dave Belkiewitz

1.0 1.0

1.0 1.0
Ella Featherstone 1.0 1.0

Issac Grambo

Joe Griffin

1.0 2.0
Kaylan Rosa

1.0 1.0

Tara Aitken 1.0

EJ McCormick

1.0 1.0
Maya Hall

1.0 1.0
Dan Seaman

1.0 1.0
Aleya Annaton


Andres Lopez

Cindy Rowe

1.0 1.0
Danny McNulty

Emily Aitkin

Gary Every

1.0 1.0
Jeff Berger

1.0 1.0


Kimber 1.0

Leano Rice

1.0 1.0
Maple Dewleaf


Mikel Weisser 1.0

Molly Shaheen



Tara Cantrell


Taylor Hayes 1.0

Christopher Nilo

0.5 0.5

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Evan Dissinger wins the sixth Sedona Poetry Slam of 2014

Round 1
Poet Score Time Penalty Net Score
Maya Hall 22.1 2:10 0.0 22.1
EJ McCormick 21.1 3:30 -1.5 19.6
Jeff Berger 14.9 3:32 -1.5 13.4
Leano Rice 25.7 3:38 -1.5 24.2
Gary Every 23.8 4:11 -3.5 20.3
Dan Seaman 28.1 4:33 -4.5 23.6
Gabbi Jue 23.7 2:26 0.0 23.7
Joe Griffin 24.0 1:25 0.0 24.0
Cindy Rowe 24.8 1:07 0.0 24.8
The Klute 26.7 2:55 0.0 26.7
Valence 27.5 2:44 0.0 27.5
James Gould 27.1 2:18 0.0 27.1
Evan Dissinger 29.0 3:23 -1.0 28.0
Joy Young 27.7 3:05 0.0 27.7
Josh Wiss 25.9 2:52 0.0 25.9
Round 2
Poet Score Time Penalty Net Score
Josh Wiss 28.3 2:19 0.0 28.3
Joy Young 28.4 3:10 0.0 28.4
Evan Dissinger 28.6 2:13 0.0 28.7
James Gould 27.0 1:50 0.0 27.0
Valence 28.2 2:36 0.0 28.2
The Klute 26.5 3:07 0.0 26.5
Cindy Rowe 24.7 0:48 0.0 24.7
Joe Griffin 25.5 1:18 0.0 25.5
Gabbi Jue 28.0 2:29 0.0 28.0
Dan Seaman 28.3 3:46 -2.0 26.3
Gary Every 26.4 5:34 -7.5 18.9
Leano Rice 26.2 2:39 0.0 26.2
Jeff Berger 20.3 2:13 0.0 20.3
EJ McCormick 25.8 2:45 0.0 25.8
Maya Hall 26.9 2:33 0.0 26.9
Round 3
Poet Score Time Penalty Net Score
Evan Dissinger 27.9 2:31 0.0 27.9
Valence 28.1 1:52 0.0 28.1
Joy Young 28.0 2:56 0.0 28.0
Josh Wiss 28.6 2:03 0.0 28.6
James Gould 28.6 2:50 0.0 28.6
Poet Score

Evan Dissinger 84.5

Joy Young 84.1

Valence 83.8

Josh Wiss 82.8

James Gould 82.7

The Klute 53.2

Gabbi Jue 51.7

Leano Rice 50.4

Dan Seaman 49.9

Joe Griffin 49.5

Cindy Rowe 49.5

Maya Hall 49.0

EJ McCormick 45.4

Gary Every 39.2

Jeff Berger 33.7

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Liars, All of Us" by Chad Anderson

Chad Anderson performs his poem, "Liars, All of Us" in the NYC-Urbana Poetry Slam's 2009 MegaQuasiSemiFinals.

For more information on the NYC-Urbana Poetry Slam, visit:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Complainers" by Rudy Francisco

Rudy Francisco was born and raised in San Diego, Calif. At age 21, Francisco completed his B.A. in psychology and decided to continue his education by pursuing a M.A. in organizational leadership.

As an artist, Francisco combines activism and poetry to enlighten the minds of those who witness his performance. Francisco eloquently absorbs the experiences of those around him, synthesizes them and converts their stories into poetry.

Furthermore, Francisco has made conscious efforts to cultivate young poets and expose the youth to the genre of Spoken Word Poetry through workshops and performances at schools and community centers. Francisco has also received admiration from institutions of higher education. He has conducted guest lectures and performances at numerous colleges and universities around the nation.

In addition to his contributions to education, Francisco is also the co-host of the largest poetry venue in San Diego and has featured at countless venues and won the hearts of many with the honesty and conviction held in his words. Ultimately, Francisco's goal is to continue to assist others in harnessing their creativity while cultivating his own.

Francisco is the 2009 National Underground Poetry Slam Champion, the 2010 San Diego Grand Slam Champion, the 2010 San Francisco Grand Slam Champion and the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion.

Twitter: @Rudyfrancisco
Instagram: rudyfrancisco
Facebook: Facebook/rudyfranciscopoetry

"Fat Girl" by Megan Falley

Megan Falley, Spoken Word Artist and author of After the Witch Hunt (Write Bloody Publishing 2012) performs "Fat Girl" a poem written after Angel Nafis, after Terrance Hayes.

Want More Megan?

To book her at your university, book store, venue, library, open mic and more, e-mail

Buy her nationally acclaimed book here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"The Madness Vase" by Andrea Gibson

The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables,
said if I could get down thirteen turnips each day
I would be grounded, rooted.
Said my head would not keep flying away to where the darkness lives.

The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight,
said for twenty dollars she’d tell me what to do.
I handed her the twenty and she said, “Stop worrying, darling,
you will find a good man soon.”

The first psycho-therapist said I should spend three hours a day
sitting in a dark closet with my eyes closed and my ears plugged.
I tried it once but couldn’t stop thinking
about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet.

The yogi told me to stretch everything but the truth,
said focus on the out breath,
said everyone finds happiness
if they can care more about what they can give
than what they get.

The pharmacist said Klonopin, Lamictal, Lithium, Xanax.

The doctor said an antipsychotic might help me forget
what the trauma said.

The trauma said, “Don’t write this poem.
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.”

But my bones said, “Tyler Clementi dove into the Hudson River
convinced he was entirely alone.”

My bones said, “Write the poem.”
To the lamplight considering the river bed,
to the chandelier of your faith hanging by a thread,
to everyday you cannot get out of bed,
to the bullseye of your wrist,
to anyone who has ever wanted to die:

I have been told sometimes the most healing thing we can do
is remind ourselves over and over and over
other people feel this too.

The tomorrow that has come and gone
and it has not gotten better.

When you are half finished writing that letter
to your mother that says “I swear to God I tried,
but when I thought I’d hit bottom, it started hitting back.”

There is no bruise like the bruise
loneliness kicks into your spine
so let me tell you I know there are days
it looks like the whole world is dancing in the streets
while you break down like the doors of their looted buildings.
You are not alone
in wondering who will be convicted of the crime
of insisting you keep loading your grief
into the chamber of your shame.

You are not weak
just because your heart feels so heavy.
I have never met a heavy heart that wasn’t a phone booth
with a red cape inside.

Some people will never understand
the kind of superpower it takes for some people
to just walk outside some days.
I know my smile can look like the gutter of a falling house
but my hands are always holding tight to the rip cord of believing
a life can be rich like the soil,
can make food of decay,
turn wound into highway.

Pick me up in a truck with that bumper sticker that says,
“It is no measure of good health
to be well adjusted to a sick society.”

I have never trusted anyone
with the pulled back bow of my spine
the way I trusted ones who come undone at the throat
screaming for their pulses to find the fight to pound.
Four nights before Tyler Clementi
jumped from the George Washington bridge
I was sitting in a hotel room in my own town
calculating exactly what I had to swallow
to keep a bottle of sleeping pills down.

What I know about living
is the pain is never just ours.
Every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo,
so I keep listening for the moment the grief becomes a window,
when I can see what I couldn’t see before
through the glass of my most battered dream
I watched a dandelion lose its mind in the wind
and when it did, it scattered a thousand seeds.

So the next time I tell you how easily I come out of my skin
don’t try to put me back in.
Just say, “Here we are” together at the window
aching for it to all get better
but knowing there is a chance
our hearts may have only just skinned their knees,
knowing there is a chance the worst day might still be coming

let me say right now for the record,
I’m still gonna be here
asking this world to dance,
even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet.

You, you stay here with me, okay?
You stay here with me.

Raising your bite against the bitter dark,
your bright longing,
your brilliant fists of loss.
Friend, if the only thing we have to gain in staying is each other,
my god that is plenty
my god that is enough
my god that is so so much for the light to give
each of us at each other’s backs
whispering over and over and over,
“Live. Live. Live.”

Andrea Gibson © 2011

Andrea Gibson is a spoken word artist and activist who travels around the country with readings on sexuality, class, white privilege, gender, love, war, bullying, and mental health. The first winner of the Women of the World poetry slam, Andrea’s work has been featured on the BBC, Air America, C-SPAN, Free Speech TV, and in 2010 was read by a state representative in lieu of morning prayer at the Utah State Legislature. Andrea is thrilled to have this space to dialogue with you all about trauma, suicide, and the things that keep us here and wanting to be here.