for the Kenyon Young Writers of Ascension 202


my boys & I refused to believe it was Michael who didn’t make it through the night even though the cameras strewn across the sky showed the mansion lawn specked with red sirens & from my own covers I imagined him to be simply asleep the way I slept with the red lights pouring into my bedroom windows in the summer of ’97 while the medics decided that my mother’s throat had closed & locked every door & they tucked her beneath a white sheet & to die in one’s sleep must be to unfold a dream that never stops unfolding & then it is hard to say where sleep ends & death begins & how close to the edge each night drags the unassuming lives it holds in a trembling palm & there are news anchors saying Michael Jackson is dead on television today & I am late to work because it is 2009 & I overslept again & I can sleep my way out of a check & I can sleep my way into hunger & on the nights I dream of my mother the woman I rest my body next to tells me that I stop breathing in my sleep & inheritance is the gift of someone to spread the news of a morning you didn’t wake up for & 

it is a hot summer & I sweat through sheets I don’t change & people haven’t started filming black folks dying yet & so I believe only what the casket tells me to & even then I watch for the dirt to jump & as a boy I lost a whole tooth trying to lean forward like Mike in the “Smooth Criminal” video & it skipped across the kitchen tile & my still-living mother gathered it in a white towel like a new child & here I learned to honor every hero with absence an empty stomach or a smile like collapsed piano keys & it couldn’t truly be Michael even after all of the pictures of his younger self flickered across the screen in memoriam & I’m wrecked with sorrow & not here to mince words & the moonwalk ain’t got shit to do with the moon & how it hangs lazy & split into white beams over a hood where the streetlights flickered off once & never came back on the moonwalk is all about trying to run from the past when its hands keep dragging you back & I have slept