Poem for Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)

Wired, the monkey on your back chatters and frets away sleep
with nervous come-back logic, with ass-kick dance routines:
slow-slip, heel-back moonwalk, freeze, turn round and shudder
when you wake at 2am you’re still, amazingly, Michael Jackson.
Turn back with the signature moves all down see the crowd’s
excitement arc on opening night to a perfect broken leg of fame:
So far, 157 million units sold; even when you’re born to it, it’s insane! 

But you’re stuck in the middle; at 3am again,
once you’ve wound it up, even you can’t beat it –
the machine always wins, with your mask of delicate,
sculpted scar-tissue, Frankensteined over pale bone,
a transparent flame on the hard pillow of insomnia.
You’re a vegetable, a buffet, and they eat off of you,
pop-and-body artpiece in an all-celebrity, limited edition of one,
your bleached-white eyes are tired, they weep, if only sleep . . ! 

but you’re counting sheep, Oh diazepam, oh man oh wham;
Oh lidocaine I know the pain; Oh propofol don’t leave me cold.
Too high to get over, too low to get under, just one tiny ring
will bring my medicine man . . . says the drip of the drip
bottle by the bed, a tube straight to wrist, its vein thriller
chills you out, drop by drop, as unsleep’s living undead falls into
a glacial all-night staring into a blankness that just stares back

until rest like a trophy baby drops to the crowd’s faint hush
and no one can hurt you now, in peace says Bubbles who gives a cut
back-flip in his little pink tuxedo, behind the wheel of your stretch
onyx-coffin-limo, chauffeured off to the endless Neverland
of fireworks and stardust, rainbow fog machines and home menagerie,
way down that eerie yellow-brick tunnel of light to your rocket-suit
lift-off finale, to testimonials and a tribute movie, the industry still feasting,
more souvenirs, raw applause of lawyers and the coroner’s itchy knife. 

John Jenkins

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