Back when I was worse than harmless, she loved me, I think,
after I’d spent six weeks disintegrating

myself all over her floor.  But who wouldn’t pity such sorry
trade goods? Great stuff! I’d insist, an agent

who believed his own junk, guilelessly swindling the natives

with my heaps of shoddy blankets and clanking
tin doodads. Worn down by my desperate patter she daubed

me onto a scrap of board. Of course I’d expected Great Man

treatment: Albert Camus’ nicotine mope in a sticky impasto
trowelled over Jim Morrison’s divine

whatever. O glimpse of purpose! Potential’s blip! My hat

I’d cocked Napoleonically, draping myself booted
and spurred against the cannon’s muzzle. Above, the angels

twitched aside the fat velvet brocade
of Heaven’s curtain and tilted all their brass to bleat me home . . .

I thought I had it knocked. I thought I had thoughts. I thought
love was technique mastered to snatch for good

some future terminal quench. I was a jack o’ lantern snipped
from a scorched paper bag, snaggle-toothed

with eyes poked out with scissors. But my sputtery little candle
guttered so earnestly! Orange-on-orange, she

made me into a still life: Ersatz Pumpkin with Book and Empty
Beer Bottle. My Prussian blue smirk

she swiped on with her thumb, blending diabolical
puppy’s wag with perpetual childhood flinch. You can’t see

my soul’s quivering jot in it. But it wasn’t that kind of painting.

Michael Hudson

MICHAEL DERRICK HUDSON lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana where he works at the Allen County Public Library on the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). His poems have appeared in Columbia, Georgia Review, Green Mountains Review (1997, 2002, and 2008), Gulf Coast, Iowa Review, North American Review, New Letters, Washington Square, and other journals. He won the River Styx 2009 International Poetry Contest, the Madison Review’s 2009 Phyllis Smart Young Prize, and the 2010 and 2013 New Ohio Review Prize for Poetry.

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