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, March 4, 2020

“Secretariat” by Christopher Fox Graham, with thanks to Wayne Henry


by Christopher Fox Graham,
with thanks to Wayne Henry

my daughter has a big heart
as big as a horse
she was born that way
you can see it in the way she hugs
the way she waves to anyone
the way she sprints at full gallop
when she sees her mother or me at the end of a day
the way she says “bye bye”
bringing joy to strangers who may never see her again
they may not
because my daughter has a big heart
she was born that way

we knew we were going to love her
from the moment we knew we were pregnant
she was going to have a big heart
full of love
because we were full of love for her
we wanted nothing more than to have a daughter
half her mother, half me
we could raise in the way we were not
free of judgment
or useless tradition
a wild horse,
untamed and untamable

in the days before she was born
we found she had big heart
too big
we heard an unusual murmur
caught by the ultrasound
a hiccup of the heart
too big for her tiny chest
larger than it should be
anterior ventricular aneurysm
a bulge where the muscles of a valve
had not yet formed
not strong enough to beat her little heart on its own
and maybe would never

my wife could carry her to term but after that
the labor could rupture her heart
could tear it after birth
or it could gallop like a thoroughbred then

     … just stop …

for no reason and not beat again

six days in intensive care,
six hours in an MRI
we took her home
a probe attached to her chest we had to change daily
when we put her down to sleep
we were not sure if she would wake up
we checked on her hourly
to make sure she was still alive
still breathing,
her heart beating like the hooves of a Clydesdale

but this creature,
half me,
half her mother
was full of love
though she did not know the word
but she taught it to us
our hearts swelled to carry the burden hers could not

she has a big heart
as big as a horse
she was born that way
and she has survived
because she has a big heart like Secretariat
whose mighty heart
was three times the size of a normal horse

it should have killed him
all that passion and desire to win,
to race
to succeed,
pushing him down the track
around the curves

at the Kentucky Derby
each leg faster than the last
winning in under two minutes

at Preakness
where he started last and leaped ahead so famously
they made a statute of him doing it

at Belmont Stakes
where he won the Triple Crown by 31 lengths
the widest margin in racing history

he had a big heart
he was born that way
he did not stop and she will not
because she has a big heart
she was born that way

so if you meet her
and she waves, wave back
say bye when she leaves
because you may not see her again
and not because she's gone
but because she’s so far down the track
so far ahead of us
you cannot see her
just the dust she's left behind
get to know her now,
because I don't know where she's headed
but she'll arrive
long before the rest of us
because my daughter
she has a big heart
she was born that way