on phil jackson’s tenth championship

by Jonathan Muggleston
The Town
Honorable Mention, July 2009
Judged by George Szirtes

the June air is so perfect
i feel like a spider crawling

up the featureless smoothness
of the ceramic sink until some huge,
barely perceptible form throws
a shadow across the smooth expanse
of white and the water comes
pouring from the sky,
wiping the white world clean

of my insouciance, the imposition
of my imperfection onto
this pristine arctic field

that’s what treeflowers do to me
in your absence, the violence
of the blooming cacophony,
flowers’ slow motion sex

in the air we breathe,
plants’ transcendence
into the June night sky

the night breeze is cooler
where you are, and not so floral
but salt-tanged, rougher
from constant contact with
beach sand and splintery boardwalk

and the belt tightens
around my heart as the surf
speaks and speaks, untongued,
senseless, unyielding, filling the air
with permanent wordless speech
the babble of an idiot
immortal, demented, a tortured god

unkillable, unsilenceable

that’s what the perfect June air
does to me, though i seek
sanctuary in the loud silence
of the bar, the bottle,
some fucking basketball game,
that’s what the treeflowers

do to me these days.

"on phil jackson's tenth championship" comes at you with its firmly uncapitalised title and lines. It is a declaration of some sort, something about having nothing to do with 'poetic' trappings or emotions, but being after something more ephemeral, like life itself. But, like "Offertory Red," albeit in a different way, it is a damned elegant piece of writing, the diction precise, aesthetic with just a slight curl in its lip. Like "Offertory Red" it establishes persona as voice and carries that voice through its shifting imagery. It moves to the point when it talks about "my heart" and then develops into more personal romantic territory with "babble of an idiot" and that "fucking basketball game". I had this poem on top of the pile for some time because I liked its atittude and the way it moved through the first half particularly. I was less sure about the second where some kind of backstory was becoming too important. The guy was in a mood about something but he wasn't saying what. While it was just the voice I was with the poem. Once there was a story and a cause it lost me a little. --George Szirtes