Late June 2009. Opening my hotel door in Inverness, there was Michael Jackson looking up at me from the morning paper. I’d been thinking about breakfast and a boat ride over the deep Loch Ness. In July, back in the States, every morning I was thrust into the crowd that surrounded the Apollo. I’d been traveling the world. Now the world had come to me and I had to make my way through it just to get to work (a few doors down from the Apollo in a state government building where I was teaching English). The mourning was a celebratory sometimes weeping powerful constantly changing force. I felt I was swimming, going with the flow, the give and take of bodies that dissipated, laugh into laugh, grief into grief after about a week leaving street vendors waiting for the tourists who were late. The vendors were the last to stay. And the wall while I was there remained.
I learned Michael Jackson was dead from the
Front page of the morning paper left at
My door in Inverness. Seeing his face
I thought it was about the concert soon
To take place in London. Back in New York
I teach a class next to the Apollo
And have to push my way through the crowds come
To pay their respects writing on the wall
There. I see not only Americans
But Chinese tourists with their pens, Spanish
French and Arabic written. All here hear
A universal chord, a boy who jumped
For joy. Some say he wasn’t a poet
But it wasn’t about the words, was it?