March 8, 2011

*Per request, here’s an old spoken word poem that I have never gotten around to performing.  Enjoy :).*


Today, I can feel the distance between raindrops.
I can hear the science class rabble now. About how
if an atom were a stadium,
a proton would be the size of a pea and an electron would be
a grain of sand flitting around in the welfare seats.

Or how if Helium
were the size of the Earth,
the nucleus would be an apple
and electrons like clouds contracting before birth
and now,

I see raindrops as flecks of matter
humming with so much space in between that it’s hard to say
they exist at all, like pearls in an ocean or gold in a stream.

My hand reaches out, stretching
across atomic football fields, universes,
to grab yours, this rare collection of nothing,
and like a phantom I watch the sky as it spins wet
needles past your eyes.

I stare at you
while your skin oscillates with energy
vibrating so slowly it can be seen by the naked eye,
with particles coiling around strings of nuclei like light, buoyed
in your beautiful nothingness,
the antithesis of night.

I’m like a valence electron trying to jump
one shell closer by holding your hand, and
before I leave for distant lands, I want to tell you that you
are the stuff of stars, the electricity
that surges through wires; you—
are the undeniable touch of God.

And like two electrons dragged apart by miles,
we will change together in inexplicable coordination,
so when you pick up the phone you’ll hear my smile.

And there will be an invisible cord strung between us and it will have no form, no rhyme at all, nothing but fibers woven by an honest intent.

The Vagrant Sphinx OR The Glass Floor-Ceilings of the Lower Class

December 9, 2010

It was a late night in downtown Seattle and, staggering alone toward a familiar bus stop on 1st & Union, I cursed the rain. Half-jokingly, I shook my fist in the air, mumbling about my petty problems. Then, a strong hand grabbed my arm and whipped me around. In the space between pounding heartbeats, a disheveled old man howled in my face like a bleeding animal, his graying stubble standing on end like whiskers. I ripped my wet sleeve free from his grip, but he had already snatched fistfuls of wool around my zipper, jerking my ruddy face close enough to feel a sobering bog seeping past his lips. “It’s still a jungle, pretty boy,” he wheezed and immediately let me go.

From then until the bus stop, I only remember how slippery the concrete felt under my feet and the unnatural colors from traffic lights that spilled across the roads like neon paint as I darted across them. The whole ride home, I thought about what the old man meant. I think about it even now from time to time, and every time I come close to understanding, I’m ambushed by a sudden feeling of solitude and self-pity, like I’m putting on a suit to join a parade of dolls.

Into Your Own

November 7, 2010

(performed at “The Show 2010: The Art of the Duo” in conjunction with Marcus Petitt original song, “Into Your Own”)

Though I am only a seed
buried warm in the ground,
the King of Tiny Stages,
my roots run deep and six feet around
through this green, cemented city.
And the day I crack —
the day I crack through
the humming, Seattle soil,
you will hear the sound
of my roots anxiously star-bound,
my honest, sonorific “Ohm…”
as I finally come into my own.


August 23, 2010

Remember when you wanted to name your cat “Help,”
so when you stuck your head
out of the screen door at night
and yelled: “Heeeeellppp… Heeeaaaallllp!”
You’d know which of your neighbors
really cared about you?

That was funny.

And I liked how for Arbor Day,
you bought me a sunflower, tall,
for my sunset window
because you said the head
was like a round compass
and the pink heart you drew
on the westernmost petal
pointed approximately
back to you.

That was one of my favorite
daylight moments of ours,
where for just a few rare hours
our connection wasn’t pressed
between bed sheets
where, admittedly, we made love
like poetic athletes,
flinging the windows wide open
so that even music teachers
coming back from lovers’ opera
would think to themselves:
“Now, that is really—
That is really something else.”

Or remember the day your dog died
and you asked me
to describe you in two words,
so I wrote “Nicole Kidman”
on a wallet-sized piece of paper?
Well, I lied.

you’re more like a stapler,
collecting ideals like
Gorgeous [click-click],
Intelligent [click-click],
Breathtakingly Exquisite (gasp).
And that thick volume of you, I’m sure,
is Heaven’s pre-requisite.

Hell, I’ve got a plane ticket’s worth
of confessions to digress to like:
Yes, I do like watching your old videos
from childhood.

Yes, it was me who planted hollyhock
outside by your mailbox
because you once said life could use
more hummingbirds.

And yes, maybe I’ve spent weeks
composing these petty words,
rotating moments of you
in lyrical stasis, thinking:

Ninety billion trillion miles—
that’s how big space is.
And I can’t find a single metaphor
to tell you just how pretty your face is.

Which is just as well,
because you are allergic to compliments
and you’re wary of drive-by relationships
that leave you sideswiped, I know.

Believe me, I know I’m not really your type.
And like the moon, I’m a lot less pretty up close.
So when you come twirling
through my yard,
I try so hard not to tell you how beautiful you are
how beautiful you are
how beautiful you are
as many times as I think it.

But the next time I call—maybe—
I’ll tell you that loving you
is like stealing honey
in a bear suit
in the middle of summer.
Except, maybe, I am you.
And instead of a bear suit, it’s nothing at all.
Maybe the honey is my boxer shorts.
And instead of summer, it’s midnight,
you’re fast asleep, and humming,
[humming] “How sweet it is to be loved by you,”
in your dreams
with the moon tangled in your ponytail.

But I’ll probably just get your voicemail and say:

“Hey, I know you’re used to small talk and horseplay,
but I’m tired of feeling lost and found, so:
Call me if you need a room full of flowers.
Call me if you miss seeing my toes in your shower.

Just call me if you want me around.”

Teach to Make a Difference (Spoken Word)

August 21, 2010

Teach like money never took precedence over imagination.
Teach like God was speaking through you in active sentences.
Teach like boredom and comma splices found you in an alleyway and you majored in kicking ass.
Teach like you knew how to turn darkness into living color.
Teach like Rush Limbaugh was listening.
Teach like it was April 1968 and this was your last speech for justice and equality.

Teach like you could undo your mess.

Teach like the guard went out for a smoke and Helen Keller was fumbling with the keys.
Teach like night devoured your ship and only you could read the stars.
Teach like your son just told you he was going to drop bombs for peace in the Middle East.
Teach like your time spent on this Earth meant something, because it does.
Teach like the Devil would give it all up for piano lessons on Sundays.
Teach like someone wanted to know everything about your childhood heroes.
Teach like a kid in the mountains asked you what oceans were.
Teach like you were wrongly accused of criminal negligence and the jury was packed with ex-girlfriends.

Teach tolerance like you were a President from Chicago and you’d never seen the JFK motorcade.
Teach responsibility like every line of chalk is another set of track marks you’ll keep from someone’s wrists.
Teach empathy like you could open your heart and palms like pages and let your students read everything.
Teach values like you save young men from trading their integrity for gold dollar signs and buying dreams with their souls on collateral.

Teach like people depended on you to rewrite the history books, from this moment forward.
Teach like potential always breeds reality.

Teach like the other side has guns and you only have one piece of paper.
Teach like your child was being swept away by an undertow while learning how to swim.

Teach like you were in a board meeting with BP with wooden paddles in both hands.
Teach like gold stars were purple hearts and it took bravery to get one.
Teach like schools paid you exactly what you earn.

Teach like your advice is only as reliable as the laws of physics.
Teach like these were your last students, like these were your last minutes, like your words were too important to fade.

Teach until they look at their hands and believe in cosmic agency, fingers trembling though they may be.

Seattle Spoken Word Performance & Preview

June 29, 2010

I am going to be involved in a performance called, “The Show 2010: The Art of the Duo” in which I will be its spoken word artist.  It shows on August 7th in Seattle’s Mount Zion Church on 19th and Madison at 7:00pm.  If you’re in the area, I recommend you come.  It will be great and feature many incredible artists.

As a result of working hard on this show and my novel, I have been guilty of neglecting this blog.  So, I thought I’d share my most recent spoken word piece with you.  It’s titled,

“My Name is Kaston”

My name is Kaston.  I live on a street that borders two cities and swing like a pendulum from Seattle to Jerusalem, from Darwin to Paul, Burien to Babylon, from suits to joke T-shirts to suits.  I’m trying to find God in cement cracks and crawlspaces, in peach skies and windows, under pink skirts and among change, on closed doors and electronic boxes.

I don’t pray anymore, but when I was a kid, I’d tell you He’d made the world in seven days, that he ushered my brother into front row heaven, that he’d sent Bill Clinton and that there weren’t going to be any problems anymore.  I’d race across waxed school hallways and catch worms while the sun hung high in the sky, making jungle gyms sparkle like glass castles.  I was God’s child and He helped me avoid dodge balls and blondes, helped me earn gold stars and respect, helped me make star pitcher in little league and love notes with three, perfect checkboxes back when maybe was a legitimate answer.

As I grew, I’d lie on stairs looking up at the popcorn ceiling, pretending the glitter was a net of stars and plaster bumps were cosmic Braille, winking the alphabets of God.  My prayers always began with “I know we don’t speak a lot” and always ended with “Could you make Sedalia like me again?  Could you make me more popular?  Could you give me superpowers and send velociraptors to math class so I could crush them all with super strength and speed and make everyone clap and cheer and love, all for me?  Could you make Dad come home?”

I waited on porch steps, in detention chairs, and by the phone for signs He’d heard me until I realized I’d somehow let go of His hand like a kid in a crowd.  So I’m trying to find God in creased pages and late night dinners and laughter.  I’m trying to find God buried in cereal boxes and search engines.

TV always offers to help.  They pull Him into every channel.  They say God is cutting benefits for wolves with ties, God is making bombs, God is shelling for the Crypts, God is dropping white rocks on the Bloods one thousand dollars at a time, God is punishing the gays with Katrina, God wants to amend the constitution, God is running for high office, God is going to throw a Hail Mary on this oil spill, you just wait and pray because that’s all you can do, just stay indoors and get back to those jobs, get back to the fashion of democracy, get back to investing, get back to patting yourself on the back, get back.

Images of towers falling and talking heads pound and stretch my skull and soon I just want to run away.  Somewhere.  Maybe Koh Phangan, Thailand.  Go back to those sandy markets, back to the postcard beaches and flowers in women’s hair.  And a student of mine, Kyle, is raising his hand.  He asks, “What’s the big deal about poetry, Mr. Griffin?  Mr. Griffin?”

“I write poetry because there’s nothing like the first streak of color on a white canvas, because I can unearth mountains and light the sky on fire.  Because sometimes I wake up and I want to put my mouth around the whole world like it were the bulb of a microphone and scream until the levels are China-glaze red and its pulsating core of ignorance and prejudice flattens.  Because I can load guns with songs locked in old tin boxes or unfolded from trash bins and demand that the strongest armored come forward.

Because each stanza I write takes me farther from the day my father abandoned me; because every breath I take is another chance to tell him, my mother, and grandmother that I love them and I don’t know what it’s going to be like without them.  Because poetry takes me back to the first time I held hands with a girl who loved me.  Because I’m trying to find God, Kyle, and I’m afraid I’m looking in all the wrong places.

But He’s an anthology of wisdom and I’m only on poem 109.

I’m looking for God, Kyle, and I’ve learned to take my time.”


Thanks for reading.  Posting this is a little embarrassing as it’s a first draft, but I hope you enjoyed it.