By Michael Derrick Hudson
A pelican divebombs the same shimmery-shammery silver stripe
of the horizon. The pale yellow and presumably
bloodless crabs scuttle to their holes, terrified by my shadow
all over again. Again! They’ll never figure it out,
but of course every moment for them is nothing but the fretful
expectation of imminent death. They’re expendable. Fecund.
Edible. Fuck ’em. So where’s my hero? My old conquistador
my Castilian grandee terrible with purpose . . .
Señor! Over here, por favor! But what if he did come, feverish
and bedraggled, this Spaniard wading hip-deep through the surf
cumbered by his mildewed ruffles
and waterlogged boots, in silver salt-pitted
spurs and a rust-bucket helmet? He’d spout nonsense, bragging
about the usual claptrap: solid gold wigwams, diamonds bigger
than pumpkins and an obsidian-eyed princess
festooned with raccoon tails. There’d be those outrageous lies,
poison darts tinking off his armor while tramping the Everglades
and living these five hundred years fetched
off death’s front stoop by a few quavering, toothless sips from
the Fountain of Youth. With the point of his cutlass he’d scratch
the beach with treasure maps and schemes, telling tales
of the cannon-shattered fo’c’sle and those desolate, bone-littered
passageways. I’d put up with it for as long
as I could. ¡Hola! History stops here, Señor! Everything does!
Such disappointments! Such long afternoons! It’d be awkward
for a while. We’d resort to elaborate
and old-fashioned courtesies: doffing
hats and stiff little bows, hastening forward to fling out cloaks
over each other’s mud puddles. But we’d grow fond again, our
foreheads practically touching
when we lit the other’s cigar. And he’d come round to thank me
after the seventh or eighth Bloody Mary. He almost always does.
Michael Derrick Hudson lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Boulevard, Columbia, Fugue, Georgia Review, Gulf Coast, Triggerfish Critical Review and Washington Square. He was co-winner of the 2014 Manchester Poetry Prize. His poems won The Madison Review 2009 Phyllis Smart Young Prize, River Styx 2009 International Poetry Contest, and the 2010 and 2013 New Ohio Review contests.
Originally published in NOR 8