Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

My heart is heavy tonight. This afternoon, Michael Jackson suddenly had a heart attack and died at the age of 50. This is one of those things that doesn’t seem possible.

In some weird way, I guess a part of me always thought that he would live forever, and his passing has affected me more than I would have guessed it would. I completely recognize that celebrities, despite their elevated social status, are just people and put their pants on in the morning just like everyone else. That said, Michael Jackson was something else entirely. He was a true icon, a remnant of a bygone day when an album could sell 65 million copies and MTV could make someone a star. He was the ultimate performer. He could write. He could sing. He could dance. Oh dear me, could that man dance. . .

I was just a kid back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but I could clearly see the influence of Michael Jackson. Songs like “Billie Jean,” “Man in the Mirror,” and “Heal the World” were played on the radio all the time. The man was HUGE. These popular entertainers nowadays who think they’re “famous” have no idea. Michael was the closest thing to the Beatles that I will probably ever see.

I remember January 31, 1993. My mother and father sat my older sister and I down in front of the television to watch Michael Jackson perform the halftime show at the Super Bowl. Understand this: my family is not a sports family. Nowadays, I watch basketball and baseball and we now go to a yearly Super Bowl party, but my family is not one that has ever based anything around watching a football game. But for some reason, my parents must have had some inkling that, on this particular overcast Sunday afternoon, something special was going to happen at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. I can still remember snippets of the show. Michael began on one part of the stage, and then, POOF! He vanished in a gust of smoke and reappeared somewhere else accompanied by more smoke. I also remember him (finishing?) the show singing “Heal the World,” accompanied by a children’s choir. The kids were dressed in costumes reflecting clothes worn all over the world. To this day, I have a soft spot in my heart for that song.

What makes me sadder still are the heartless comments that I’ve already seen thrown around by people I know. It’s completely true that Michael’s life was marred by controversy, and terrible accusations were made. A member of my family survived a heart attack several months ago. It was one of the worst days of my life. I don’t think that that kind of thing should be joked about. Regardless of an individual’s opinion of him, Michael was still someone’s son, someone’s brother, and someone’s father. He deserves the same common courtesy that anyone else deserves. As for the callous, insensitive comments made by people I know, I am ashamed. I don’t know if the accusations leveled at him have any truth to them or not. The world may never know for sure. After reading a fairly recent interview with him in Ebony magazine, I was left to think that he was either guilty or he was completely misunderstood.

A phrase that is tossed around a lot is that Michael Jackson was the “King of Pop.” It’s a title that, back in the day, was sort of seen as arrogant and high-minded of him to use. The thing is though, it’s absolutely, unequivocally true. There was no one like him and there may never be anyone quite like him ever again.

The King is dead. Long live the King.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Monet Refuses The Operation

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolves
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

-Lisel Mueller