Sonnet 209: I learned Michael Jackson was dead from the

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.

Sonnet 209

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?