by Michael Derrick Hudson

How ironic it is I’m dying of pneumonia, he said, some years
after high school, back when he was dying

and I was still finding out about irony.  I was bluff, dithering
Watson to his aquiline Holmes, both of us

harrumphing like a couple of madcap Monty Python colonels,
snifters of brandy and the fake glass eyes

of stuffed tigers, sloths, armadillos and wildebeests glittering

 in the firelight.  I’d puff on my cheroot (such a great word,
cheroot) and he’d moodily suck the stem

of his streaky old meerschaum.  How ironic it is I’m dying

of pneumonia, he said.  How so? I asked.  Because pneuma-
is the Greek word for soul.  And apparently

 I have far too much of it.  He laughed wetly.  I laughed dry. 

You can never have too much soul, I suggested.  That’s not
what my respiratory therapist says

Tuesdays and Fridays when he percusses me.  But I never

cared to know too much about these things, so I fluffed
his pillow, stuffed the blanket around his chin

and dodged the IV lines.  (Ghastly fluids!)  Serves me right,
dying of pneumonia, he continued,

since I’ve always preferred my blondes pneumatic..

Ah Sandy, Lisa, Valerie, and Melissa!  All those beautiful
sophomores waving fond farewells

from the moment he first found them, each a Persephone
now lost to frat boys and fiancés; for years

he collected their photos and chaste sisterly kisses, flung

birthday cards after them into the abyss.  Look!  My horny
feet protrude!  They come to show how cold

 I am.  And dead.  I stepped past the machine that goes ping
and readjusted his blanket.  My monocle

flashed.  The stuffed head on the polar bear rug grimaced
in a taxidermist’s rictus of fury.  Trophies glinted

in the firelight.  They come to show how cold you are and
dumb, I said.  Wallace Stevens wrote dumb,

not dead.  (I was a martyr to correctitude and appeasement

in those days, frantically jinking to avoid the truth).  Dead,
dumb.  Whatever.  Tomato, tomato,

he said to me, but pronouncing them both exactly the same.


Michael Derrick Hudson lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana where he works at the Allen County Public Library on the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) at The Genealogy Center. His poems have appeared in Columbia, Georgia Review, 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. His poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Greensboro Review and North American Review

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

One response to “Pneumonia

  1. Very descriptive post, I liked that bit. Will there be a
    part 2?

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