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 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.