Michael Derrick Hudson: What Monster Goes in What Blank

What Monster Goes in What Blank

Yesterday evening, edging my way towards the Map of the World’s
unavoidable drop-off, I collided with this furious

cloud of gnats, nose and throat bushwhacked by another tactically
pointless suicide mission. The survivors were frantic

with whatever it is that provides purpose and motivation to a gnat’s

manifestly absurd existence. It’s nice to think they had something
urgent to tell me, weaving and orbiting around my face

like a living armillary sphere: Show me the way, bugs! Let’s go!

But they seemed confused, subject to constant reversals of course
zip-zipping the shifting equator and wobbling poles

as if manipulated by squabbling silken knots of High Renaissance
cartographers arguing the math and debating in Latin

what monster goes in what blank and why we keep getting it wrong…


Michael Derrick Hudson


Review by Steven Reese
The challenge posed by great titles like this one is writing a poem that lives up to them, and I think this poem does very well for itself in that department. There’s a collision in the poem, with a cloud of gnats, but that one points to larger collisions in the poem which, to my thinking, have to do with small and large. The gnats, with their “orbiting,” are a miniature of a very large system, a solar system—as is an armillary sphere and a map; they are attempts to reduce inconceivable large spaces into representations that can fit on a table and fit into the human mind. The speaker seems to have collided with a world he has trouble making sense of—he is dropping off the edge of a map that no longer describes our world, and he is half hoping for guidance from bugs. “Manifestly absurd” in this poem seems to describe equally the gnats and the humans (I love that “silken knot” of scholars) who keep getting their versions of the big picture wrong, not knowing where its dangers (monsters) are and suffering “constant reversals of course.”

Scroll to Top