Winner, New Ohio Review Poetry Contest
selected by Barbara Hamby
By Michael Derrick Hudson
The rest of them pinwheeled out of the dirty sky somewhere
over Schweinfurt. They burned as I clung
to my shroud lines huffing in a panic through the slobbery
fog of my oxygen mask, the frost stiffening
my collar’s wet fur. Three years later, what have I to show
for my long time in the bag? Bleeding gums,
a hacking cough, another button sewn? I thumb silk maps
and compasses that’ll tuck into a nutshell, learn to curse
in tunnel-rat’s German: Achtung, Fünf!
Dummkopf! Amerikaner Schweinhund. Schnell, buddy . . .
Not once did I try to make it over the wire, into the forest
and its perils where the beautiful Slovak partisan
lugs basketfuls of her beer bottle grenades
hip-deep through the snow. I never spent the night thawing
my boots while she sang old peasant songs and poked a rag
down the bore of her revolver. Ach du! The tarnished brass
of my captain’s bars will never in the firelight
glint for her! She’ll never grant me tomorrow’s password
or love me in my Army Air Corps leather, sleeves
scorched and pockets stuffed with the chocolate
I’d toss godlike and American to all the kids in her village . . .
Damn all my Switzerlands! Damn all of these neutral years!
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 appeared in NOR 14.