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Blazersedge Poetry Contest Finals

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I have reviewed the poetry contest submissions.  Wow.  Have I mentioned how much I love you guys?  There were reams and reams of great verse in all styles.  It killed me to pick any finalists out from the rest.  But it had to be done, so I did.

As it turned out this year some of the very best poems were also the longest.  I therefore made a summary decision not to offer haiku or limerick in the finals, lest people choose by length alone.  However for you short-form folks I'll add this:  one of the main privileges of winning this contest is a certain amount of leeway as far as getting material published on the site.  The Blazersedge Poet Laureate can submit verses whenever they think appropriate during the year and I will publish them.  This year I am also opening my e-mailbox to any haiku or limerick pieces you have on a continual basis.  We'll run a feature called "Haiku of the Week" or "Limerick of the Month" or whatever.  So in a way you guys have already won.  Just submit your stuff and we'll look at it.

Nevertheless, a Poet Laureate for 2008-09 must be named.  The seven final entries are after the jump.  I have not included authors' names yet.  We'll fill those in after the voting is done.  All you have to do is pick your favorite poem (indicated by letter, A-G) and vote for it in the comment section below.  One vote per person, please.  Voting will continue through next Tuesday morning.

Enjoy the poems!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

CHOICE A

The Assistant Coach

I have never coached the Blazers,
but it is as if I did.
My soul is like a coach.
It knows both baselines, the lockers
and whirlpool, and slaps a hand
in passing against the backboard.
All the empty dry-erase clipboards
wait at my side.
But I see as the season ends
a confusion of hands in the bleachers
of our imagination and sense
the myriad Blazer lids
flutter before sleeping.

Look closely, and Roy
is a swarm of gnats.
You try to grab his jersey,
but it’s gnats too, who scatter
at your hand’s approach.
On of them feeds
on your sandwich.

Yet ours is an encouraging confusion
because its volume and pitch
should fill the stadium
and leak out the exits
to stir the waters of the fountains of the city
clear of Qyntel Woods.

Like the sound of sneakers
squeaking at the elbow
my thoughts are coordinated.
My only regret is that I understand their training,
since if I didn’t
they would be coordinated and astounding
instead of coordinated and with terrific upside.

Webster at the keys
plays a b#, and a restaurant
explodes. Whole chords:
the library is incinerated,
the jewelers district
ash. Perhaps the future
is nothing if not noise,
destruction, injustice.
It’s my job to get up
from a folding chair
and gesture toward the floor
with my palms down: "Easy,"
I say, "Take it easy."

Coaching is a discomfort, like eating in the rain.

I have no further aspiration, no home life to speak of.
To be a poet is not my aspiration,
but a way of staying on the court.

And if sometimes, in my daydreams,
I wish to be a small forward
(or to be the whole lineup
so as to be scattered around the court
as many talented things at the same time),
it is only because I feel what I coach
as when the zone collapses
and three sets of hands
send Andre Igoudala to the floor.

When I sit at my desk
or pace the sideline jotting
verses on a chalkboard in my mind,
I feel a stick of chalk in my hand
and see my own face
looking over my shoulder at the players,
and smiling crooked, like a person
who doesn’t see the differences
between Xs and people
but pretends he does.

It is not on record that
at the close of the 2006-07 season
during a meeting with KP
I suggested that, assuming he is available
in the second round, we draft Glen Davis
and dub our front line: ‘The Twin Babies.’
"Canzano won’t like it," KP said,
"But never, not once, have I been convinced
by John Canzano’s moral posturing." We both
laughed and said "culture" a few times.

Once in the doorway
of a fixed-income apartment building
I encountered a nativity scene.
Joseph was Arvydas Sabonis.
The three wise men: Damon Stoudamire,
Jeff McInnis, Antonio Daniels.
Mary was Chris Dudley.
I stared at the cradle in disbelief.
Oden.

I five all who may read me,
hiking my slacks until McMillan
enters the room and nods.
I five the players in victory and in defeat,
and send them home with a few words
about keeping a deep stance.

As you read my poems, I hope
you think of me as some piece of equipment—
that rosin bag, for example,
whose dust prepares the hands
to fulfill despite sweating
one’s agile thoughts, which are Blazers.

CHOICE B

The Stadium Rose

to its feet. The crowd leapt up,
hammered the stands to beat out, in unison,
in singsong rhythm, the cheer for
a surefire win.

It’s all o-ver.
It’s all o-ver.

I was there, in the nosebleeds, dancing for the camera.

A small girl waved a red foam hand in the air,
perched on her father’s shoulders.

At the coliseum stop, the streetcar filled and emptied.
The stadium filled and emptied. Bright, red jerseys emerged
out of dark wool coats to show heart through the winter.

At home, a magnet pins the cover page
of the paper to my fridge, Oden’s sprawling life-
size hand. I fit my hand in his wide palm.

I remember December. We were all there.

Joel tucked in, absorbing the charge. Roy driving home
a reverse layup through Bosh. Steve Blake.
Steve. Blake. I was there.

LA was the new Portland. Martell gave them
hell. In overtime, Trout killed the clock.
And we cheered.

Here, at the end of the night,
at the end of the season, the sweep is done.
The vendors have wiped down the taps, locked up
their stalls, and the halls, once filled with the electric snap
of a city on fire, are empty.

But the young team rose, and with them,
a city lit up, gleaming in wet street light glow,
carried us, higher still, on its shoulders,
where we waved, gladly, and at home.

CHOICE C

Untitled

Przybilla?
Przybill-duh!
Frequently hugging, foul shooting foul shooter.
Practice your free throws, and your stroke?
From starter to back up, to back up to starter.
Greg Oden is hurt, Frye is so soft.
Steel nerves and steel hands.
LeBron!
Why!
One-Two, Frye-Pryz, switcheroo.
Dunketh thy ball Joel!
Forty-one wins.
Should have been forty-two.

CHOICE D

Not Basketball, Rip City

What was once a city of
joy, fellowship, community,
became only
a game.

No longer needed, only
a distraction.
Sometimes,
an embarresment.
The city crumbled.

But then a return.
Sudden, unexpected, welcome.
Redemption rising.

Love, sacrifice
exuberance, perseverance,
unity

Rip City rebuilt
on the pillars of
youth.

CHOICE E

A Visit from Brandon Roy

Twas the hour before gametime, and all through the garden,
A team was emerging, resolve starting to harden.

The jerseys were hung, by the lockers with care,
With the hope that Greg Oden, soon his would wear.

The fans were all settled down into their seats,
With visions of winning, prompting faster heart-beats.

With Prichard at courtside, and Nate on the bench,
Faithful all were relaxing, nerves starting to unclench.

When out on the court, there arose such a clamor,
A thunderous dunk, with which the crowd was enamored.

Away to the scoreboard, all eyes flew with a flash,
To catch the great replay, of our foes getting trashed.

The lights up above, lit up brightly below,
The spectacular dawning, of a new kind of show!

When scarce to behold, not much more than a boy,
Came the new Blazer leader, his name: Brandon Roy.

More rapid than eagles, his courses they came,
And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name:

Now! Joel, now! James, now! Steve and LaMarcus!
On! Jarret, on! Sergio, on! Martell and Travis!

“To the top of the League! To the Top of the World!
Now dash away all, let’s get those banners unfurled!”

So up, up the standings, our Blazers they flew,
With each game it seemed they achieved something new.

And then with a twinkling, came that magical day,
When once more the Blazers were playing in May!

As the city of Portland once more lifted its head,
Finding that to the playoffs its team now would head.

But the players, they scoffed, “This was never enough!
Now’s the time when the games only start to get tough!”

“We’ve all got ten fingers, by our count of things,
It’s time to get busy, and fill them with rings!”

CHOICE F

 

An Epic

There was a rich sovereign,
Lord Allen was his name.
His kingdom was vast,
And difficult to maintain.

He paid the highest bounties
To mercenaries grand.
To defend his kingdom
From every evil hand.

But the hired steel failed him
Poor armies did they make.
They cared more for gold and treasures,
Then the words to them he spake.

Rivals pressed him soundly,
His hired armies balked.
No victories they won him,
All those men, they walked. ...All those men, they walked.

Desperate, the King sent Pritchard,
A tactician of greatest skill,
To search among the people,
And find a warrior’s will.

He preached of combat and of glory,
All ready for the taking.
But people laughed and shunned him,
Quite nearly his will breaking.

But one, yea one brave soul
Listened to his offers.
A young fencer named Brandon
Stood out among the scoffers.

“I will fight for thee and my liege,”
He said with utmost pride.
Pritchard’s Army grew by one
With a swordsman by his side. ...With a swordsman by his side.

Still, the laughter yet continued
“Ye can’t go to battle with a child!”
But Pritchard kept recruiting,
Though they thought him a little wild.

A pikeman name LaMarcus
Soon joined the tiny band,
As did Martell the archer,
Known for his steady hand

Lord Allen’s strength was growing,
Though his army numbered few.
But people began to rally,
And take up his cause anew.

Jarrett’s cavalry came to Pritchard,
Always quick to charge.
And next was Travis and his claymore,
His blade was very large. ...His blade was very large.

Still, while they acknowledged
That this army had potential.
There was something still that they were missing,
Something quite essential.

Then one summer day
Pritchard could not believe his luck.
A giant axeman came to him
Who fell each tree he struck.

Oden was his surname,
But he went by the name of Greg.
He was a big as the trees themselves,
And that was just his leg.

With a giant such as him,
All would flee in fear.
King Allen would be victorious,
Surely the day drew near. ...Surely the day drew near.

Soon joined many others,
Seeing the sight of the giant.
They came in droves to sign
And no longer were defiant.

Joel the brawler quickly added
Needed muscle to the group.
Steve the forest ranger
Could shoot arrows through a hoop.

Sergio the Spaniard came from afar,
Brandishing a rapier as quick as his wit.
Even when things didn’t go well,
He adamantly refused to quit.

James the smithy forged
Weapons for them to use.
Channing the baker cooked
A buffet which to peruse. ...A buffet which to peruse.

Raef the grizzled veteran
Gave the best of all advice.
Josh, the son of the Duke
Was so eager he signed up thrice.

There even arrived
A Baron from the East.
He went by the name of Von,
They say he was a beast.

Allen sent a general,
He was by far his very best.
To these youngsters out Nate went,
They were never better blessed.

Pritchard had assembled
A crew with amazing talent.
But they were still yet green,
Even if all were gallant. ...Even if all were gallant.

Still, many said that the crew
Would go far with that Oden.
He was worth a hundred soldiers,
His arrival was a good omen.

But before the campaign even began,
A stray arrow struck Oden’s knee.
The giant fell crippled to the ground,
And most allies began to flee.

But Nate’s iron resolve,
And Brandon’s will to win,
Brought those who were yet left
Off to do battle again.

Undermanned and underpowered,
Allen’s army went to fight.
But after each hasty retreat
It was hard to see the light. ...It was hard to see the light.

Loss after loss, the army fell behind,
They had given more ground than they gain.
If this kept up much longer,
Lord Allen would have naught over which to reign.

Steel clashed and horses brayed,
The noise of war surrounded.
But before this last retreat could happen,
The horn to charge was sounded.

Travis’ claymore cut though the enemy lines,
He beat them back by his own hand.
At the very last second they won,
This time they had saved their land.

Such a victory was won that day,
That they continued just as great.
Battle after battle they conquered,
And they won thirteen straight. ...And they won thirteen straight.

Confident they battled on,
Their winning most improbable.
But some began to wonder,
“Are they utterly unstoppable?”

As the campaign trudged onwards,
Hope and sorrow were mixed together.
Winning and losing both were present,
The men were as predictable as weather.

But at the end of the year,
It was obvious to see,
That they were back where they began:
A loss for each victory.

Some may see it as failure,
But much did the green soldiers grow.
The experience of battle was gained,
A great deal more did they know. ...A great deal more did they know.

Brandon’s blade is quicker still.
LaMarcus’ pike is much more strong.
Martell’s arrows are truer yet.
Travis’ sword elicits many a song.

Pritchard still is gathering
Soldiers to join the fray.
Nate is still teaching,
Those under him to obey.

Next year’s campaign is coming up soon,
And the troops are now seasoned.
But there is even more hope for next time,
And the cause is quite well reasoned.

As they returned to Allen’s castle to rest
And recover from their fight,
There stood the axeman Greg,
And his knee looks alright. ...And his knee looks alright.

Ye have heard their tale this day,
And be ye sharp appraisers.
Remember always these young one’s names.
These are the Portland Trail Blazers.

CHOICE G

The flowers of my garden.

Between the flowers I chose
The white flowering lily,
The mysterious black dahlia,
The Portland red-blood wild rose.
Between these flowers I found
The colors of my heart,
The players for my team,
The letters by my soul.
Between the flowers I went.
Between the flowers I remain.