For Michael.

by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh

I just wanted to get it out. It’s rough. It’s long. It’s everything I wanted poured out at once. It may make no sense. It’s for Michael.
Maybe one day, it will be more eloquent or articulate.
Tonight, it’s this.

love someone and mean it,


Dear Michael,

I can’t seem to locate a poem for you. I can’t seem to turn this river of emotion into anything useful. I wanted to write you a tribute minutes after I heard but my words betrayed me. I have no poetry. I have heart emptying childhood memories, wet and persistent all over my t-shirt. One of these days, the tears will come less like drowning and more like cleansing.
Right now it’s an impossible stubborn flood.
Right now it is an outrageous blow to the stomach. To the head. To the heart. But still, there is still this stubborn need to believe it all a hoax. I forgot how much I cared. Every song played is attached to my biography in ways that reveal themselves slowly. The time I stole my mother’s ivory wool glove so I could wear it to school. The way the kids oohed and ahhed as I toyed with the lie that you had sent it to me personally. I decided against it. Said that a distant cousin had bought it. I remember the punishment my mother delivered when I returned it, soiled, blackened and stretched from all the hands that took turns wearing it. It was the only beating I ever felt proud to take. I remember the hours I spent studying your dance moves and songs. I remember the boys I used to sing altered versions of your songs to before I slept. Remember forcing my sister, 5 years and some months my junior, to take part in the elaborate choreographed routines I created in your honor. To this day, I’m sure if prompted we can recreate the Rockin’ Robin routine flawlessly.
Do you have any idea how much you are missed?

Motown 25 is when it started for most of us. I sat in front of the TV, my mouth hanging open. My mother stunned into silence behind me. I tried to get as close to the TV as I possibly could. I told myself, it was because I wanted a closer view. The reality, I wanted to touch you. In reality, I was hoping that you would reach out and touch me. I was hoping that a spin would fling a crystal bead of sweat from your forehead onto me. I knew very little and understood then that physics would make that impossible. But watching you glide across the stage like the sun dancing across a lake, made me feel like there was no such thing. You could do anything. I wish I had the poetry to document every moment as I felt it that evening. I know that 25 years later, I have yet to experience anything that raised the hair on my body that same way. I have yet to recreate the magic that I suddenly felt was real. I was a practical kid. Unaffected by tales of Santa or Easter Bunny but right then, you could have told me the Tooth Fairy was my mom’s sister and I would have believed. I saw a man fly backwards across a stage. I believed.
We all have our stories. I’ve been hesitant to share mine because I’ve held them impossibly close for all these years. Remember when I was embarrassed to admit that I still loved you. Despite the face that change. Despite the body once this strong perfect brown; becoming this pale fragile thing. The love had dimmed

For years, I thought Little Michael Jackson and Thriller Michael were the same person. The older Michael frightened me with his raw energy; his dazzling good looks. The way he moved across the stage opened my heart in ways I didn’t recognize until the first time I fell in love. Little Michael, charmed me. He was perfect and old enough for me to watch, unafriad. The Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits was the first album I “bought”. The second, was Thriller. My sister and I, aged 2 would dance in the tiny bedrooms we shared for years. Choreographing elaborate routines we begged my father to record. I wanted to marry them both. I needed to practice with the younger one before I moved on to the older one. For 8, I had it all figured out. I remember that same year, being confronted when the Prince or Michael Jackson question. I pretended to debate. Pretended to gingerly weigh the merits of both. I pretended like Prince stood a remote chance. I picked Michael. And held onto that for years longer than it was healthy.

Growing up, I was square peg. I was foreign born and awkward. I was thrift store before thrift store was cool. I was a bag of hand me down clothes either 2 sizes too big or one size too small. I was a mess of hair that made little to no sense. I was a Mildred in a sea of Amy Dawns and Mandy Stewarts and Jennifer Wheelers. I was never enough money for dance classes or music lessons. I was thick tongued and ineloquent. Owned a voice too big for a child. I was brown in a field of blonde and blue. I was never quite comfortable in this skin I now love. I was never quite enough. But then there was you, Michael. You lived in the pack of Michael Jackson trading cards that I carried around with me like oxygen tank. My favorite, vaciliated. Sometimes it was you in the pale yellow sweater vest. Other times, it was you in the brown zippered leather jacket. My God, you were beautiful. I would go to my friend, Sarah’s house after school, every day. She had cable and this channel called MTV. I would study those videos, those dances, like my life depended on it. Because they did. We would practice in the “breezeway” of her apartment building. Arguing over who would play Michael. She had the jacket her white grandma sent her. I had the moves. I always had the moves. I needed to be you. I needed to be you in ways that Sarah with the white mom and black dad could never understand. I need it because the next day at school, I would hold court on the playground. All eyes on me, I would strut and dance and spin and kick like my clothes fit. Like I wasn’t poor. Like I was beautiful. Like I was popular. Like I was important. And because they loved you in all your brown and perfect, I hoped they would love me too. I hoped that I would be perfect. At least until the next thing that I couldn’t afford to do or be became all the rage. So when you became to change in front of our eyes, I couldn’t help but take it personally.

As the years went on, I held you quieter. I watched the video premiere of Bad on CBS. Still caught the thrill but pretended to be unaffected. Nobody liked Michael anymore. You was weird. Like I was weird. I didn’t dare show up to school with any of the moves. MJ fans were a dying breed. We were closeted. A few of us gathered to discuss the video near the softball field but nobody wanted to like it too loudly. The thing I couldn’t discuss was your face. Your nose even thinner. Your skin no longer the shade that mirrored my own, I felt as though you had betrayed me. As I critiqued the merits of the video, I was really feeling the hurt of what you was doing to us. I can’t say I understood it. I just knew that you were starting to look less like me and more like “them”. This “them” that had called me ugly to my face. You, by the very act of existing, told them that we were beautiful. I felt, through the years, with every nose job and the skin more and more translucent, I felt that you were calling me ugly to my face. And I started to hate you. Started to judge your every move. Referred to you as Wacko Jacko. Spent time laughing at whatever antics you came up with. Called you weird and sick. You were no longer my magic sweetfaced boy. You were an alien. You were foreign. You were “them”.
I wished often that someone would have told you how beautiful you were, as often as I thought it. I wish someone would have told you that you were loved even if you never made them a red cent. I wish we hadn’t all have turned on you. I know why I was silent, because I hadn’t forgiven you for turning on me.
But I can’t deny how your magic touched us all. Can’t deny that you held us for decades and lifted us through our own history. You shook us to our core. And now in death, we celebrate you like we neglected to do in life. If you could see how the streets opened up. If you could see the outpouring of love and grief. If you could see how beautiful we really thought you were. Maybe you’d still be here. Maybe the pain wouldn’t have devoured you. Maybe you wouldn’t have been as weird. As untouchable. Maybe the cracks wouldn’t have been wide enough for the possibility of wrong to fall through.
You’re gone now. I won’t say too soon. The pain you lived in no more. I can only be grateful for that. Can only wish you the peace you tried desperately to recreate. I can only forgive you what you did to our baby boy. What you did to his face. We can only ask your forgiveness for what we did to your heart.
There are those who wish to remember trials and plastic surgery. There are those who want to point and whisper. There are some who say that you should be defined by your alleged and assumed wrong doings. They say that we shouldn’t deify this man. He is not a god. No. But you made us feel so much closer to him. Felt like we could believe in miracles. Felt that someone would call us beautiful and allow us magic. I choose to remember you as I did when I first fell in love.

Rest. At long last. There are no rehearsals. There are no shows to stress and push towards. There are no expectations. There is no fear of disappointing us. There is no debt. There is just you, doing the only thing that gave you peace and joy in life. You are now forever a perfect spin, an ageless glide across a stage. Not sure how much I believe in heaven or hell but I choose to see you in heaven.
I choose to see you as I met you.
Sweet faced. Brown.

In perfect peace,