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.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

"When She Asks About the Photo ..." by Christopher Fox Graham

When she asks about the photo
do not tell her that is her great-grandma
the woman she just met weeks ago
for the first time
the woman whose name she shares
whose blood beats in your mother's heart
in your heart
and in hers
who held her weeks ago
taught her how to pet a dog
so he would not nip at her fingers
who gave her Teddy Grahams
in a Ziploc bag
when she asked you, daddy, for a snack
she was always giving that way
do not confirm who the woman in the photo is

she already knows
because her heart beats the same blood
as your heart
as your mother's
and great-grandma's

blood knows blood
despite the distance between computer screens
DNA is a helix handshake defying the digital
wrapping through history 
but she will ask still
and you will tell her

When she asks why great-grandma is in the hospital
do not tell her great-grandma is dying
the woman she just met weeks ago
you knew she was dying
that's why you went
why you boarded the plane with your mother
and your daughter
drove across the wide open
that is Montana
sailing the seas of field peas, mint, lentils, flax, safflower
to the wheat fields that made your family

her dying
is why you came
so they could meet
Sylvia Rebie, meet Athena Sylvia 
four generations 95 years apart
say hello and goodbye
in the same breath
one of you beginning
one of you nearing the end

she doesn't ask why we are here
why Montana is
why Arizona is away
why your wife stayed there and did not come
your wife, she cares too much
would want to help
but there is no rescue here, no salvation
you want this to burn, to hurt, to cut deep
to scar over
you want to bleed into this soil, this farm, this homestead
these Redfields

leave part of you in this dirt
where you never lived
but to where you are bound
and when they ask
this is where you are really from

we are here to say goodbye
your daughter does not know this
it's why great-grandma asked us to come
but your daughter does not know this

your daughter only knows the green
open fields with no fences
dogs playing fetch, gophers evading
pronghorn leaping over fences
deer that rarely see cars on these roads
flowers whose names you do not know
but would if you had grown up here

your daughter would run for days
if you were not here to chase her
across the ranches and farms
that have fed your family
that shared the same blood and womb

so you pretend you're not here
for the reason you're here
wasting breath fighting fate

listen to the stories
ask about the photographs
accept the books she wants you to take home
take photos of them together

so years from now
when she asks about her name
why she likes puddles
how she learn to pet a dog gently
so he would not nip at her fingers
you can point back to this and remind her
of her legacy

let her earn these memories
let great-grandma laugh with one more great-granddaughter
so no hill can hinder that sound 
echoing from horizon to horizon
it's why Eastern Montana so is perfectly flat

just over the border
Death glows in the red sunset, 
but in Montana, 
even Death 
must take his time

When she asks about the photo
do not tell her without speech
that is someone she knows 
you don't have to
you are sobbing 
without speech
words evicted from your throat
she knows this burns, 
this hurts, 
this cuts deep
because you left your blood and tears in the soil
at the homestead,
in the Redfields
where you are all really from
she learns shared blood makes fathers cry

but she doesn't know Death
he is still just a red sunset
instead she knows the green
the wheat fields
the dogs, the deer, the red barn
dancing at her cousin's wedding
the old woman always laughing
she is where your daughter is really from

When she asks about the photo
don't tell her that is family
dozens bound by wombs and rings
don't tell her great-grandma is there 
beneath them
in the soil next to Papa
where you are all really from

don't waste breath fighting fate
her heart beats the same blood
but now she knows 
where she is really from

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