Quincy Troupe

Michael Jackson & the Arch of Love

August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009

          “He was a very fragile soul in a very cruel world”
          — Deepak Chopra speaking about Michael Jackson after his death on
               the “Morning Joe Show” on June 29th 2009


it was always about love from the moment you heard the music
love of hypnotic rhythm sound when it embraced your heart
penetrated your spirit with a deep worshipping feeling love echoed
throughout your being with a resonance devoting you to the beat
jumping out of juke boxes radios 33 long-playing records singles
voices witchdoctors speaking to you in tongues became your hoodoo
clan heroes pulling you into their orbits weaving glorious love
the air there pulsating with magical signature breaths

you heard all this enchantment before you were five in gary indiana
listening to your older brothers sing in a group also sucked you in
your sweet singing mother katherine your cold-blooded gizzard-hearted
father joe who would abuse you all beating yall with bare knuckles
cracking real whips razor strops kept you & your brothers in line
with constant rehearsals pushed everyone hard with his ambitions
of glory he could not reach as a part time guitar player
he had a house full of stair-step children to bring home the bacon to
to feed all yall hungry mouths working as a crane operator—though
joe thought his rigorous rehearsals beatings were necessary acts
of hard love training for the treacherous road up ahead

you were a musical prodigy—sponge—soaking up everything
heard & saw innovation from jump street—james brown fred astaire
jackie wilson charlie chaplin sammy davis jr. diana ross stevie wonder
smokey robinson were your mentors—you learned first hand complexities
feeding notions of love picked up inside your home you wanted to please
with your genius blew by your older brothers by the age of five
so into it you were you never really had a childhood were so busy rehearsing
so good so fast you became lead singer of the jackson five rocketing everyone
to fame with you (though your little sister janet was watching
everything in the corner absorbing like you & later would herself zoom
past your brothers to challenge even you riding her own flashing
star to your still shining though falling comet)

there was never a question though your coming was a gift
a changing-of-the-guard in pop music merging the syncopated
beat of james brown to the holy ghost spirit of your own
magical pulse that would soon bring the house down with a new funk
everyone you left your four siblings in the dust
your singular musical juju required you go your own way
without blood brothers you flew so high with off the wall thriller bad
we are the world dangerous man in the mirror memorable mtv videos
shocked everyone with your breathtaking elan extraordinary to the point
millions were amazed listening watching you work your high-wire act
vocal pyrotechnics coupled with sizzling gymnastic “hip-jabbing” dance
steps you grabbed your crotch pirouetted singing billie jean
your sequined white glove & cocked black hat at an angle
enthralled us live on tv when you created your iconic moon-walk
your silhouetted cut-out image of black & white fingers saluting
your hip-slanting black fedora in a memorable pose eye can’t forget

your dominance was complete after those mind-blowing images
showed off your unparalleled hoodoo stamping your image into the air
on stage your conjurer presence imprinted there in our minds
mysterious sculptural magician you carved out your space there
lived in it practicing a kind-of musical cartomancy
melody still your king you had no need to pronounce words of songs
correctly because you had poetic license to create neologisms
on the spot improvised modes you were a beautiful gewgaw
for all of us to look at until the shine began to wear off your bobble
when you broke your nose in 1979 your hair caught fire in 1984
filming a pepsi commercial when flames left the top of your head scarred
consigning you forever to wear a weird-looking long black wig
your facial changes began after that by 1986 your face was transformed
changing the beautiful geegaw most people had grown to love
after all these misfortunes your bubble finally began to burst

first you were over loved then totally misunderstood when
your flower bloomed into something beyond comprehension
for many who knew nothing of the deep pain you were going through
regarding self-love giving as your power turned special
your image was visible everywhere suddenly you were no longer
the cute little genius eccentric black boy geegaw now you morphed
into a creepy man-child metamorphosing before our eyes
you looked strange wearing the black wig—no matter
it covered your scarred head but who knew why it was there—
the plastic surgery bleaching your skin of vitiligo was to come
as was carrying around bubbles the chimpanzee buying the bones
of the elephant man sleeping in an oxygen chamber
you began to look so otherworldly to those who still loved you

then you out bid paul mccartney for the beatles music catalogue
that’s when everything began going wrong for “wheat” folks critics
started hating you now—after all you were still just a little black boy
too them who thought you were getting to big for your britches
no matter your genius world wide celebrity your hope to love everyone
because—in your view—what the world needed always now was love
sweet love”—true though few knew how to get there then or now
because love is a deep life-changing thing hard maybe
impossible for many though still the answer if truth be told—
all this malice caught you by surprise since you were an innocent
who only wanted to love everyone to please everyone—
for everyone too love you too was the heart of your music
was the heart & soul of your love taking wings in the rhythm
striking like lightning zigzagging your image across a black sky


suddenly you became a piñata in the 24/7 corporate media for anyone
to swing at hit in public because of problems they thought you had—
sleepovers with macauley culkin emmanuel lewis at neverland
tom sneddon the santa barbara sheriff who wanted to look for vitiligo
on your penis who drove the bogus 1993 child molestation charges
though many knew the charges were made up by greedy parents then
you married lisa marie presley divorced her married weird debbie rowe
who had two children for you divorced her too spoke on that strange
documentary of martin bashir showing you buying all that gaudy
expensive junk then you dangled your son prince from a berlin balcony
went through that bogus 2005 trial before you were exonerated
but your spiritual image in the media was totally finished after that

dealing with you became a bolus stuck in many peoples throats
then it wasn’t about your music we all loved but about you michael
your weirdness dominated fed intravenously to your critics
like the prescription drugs you were taking as lupus came down on you
vitiligo changed the way you looked as white spots spread over
your brown body forced you to bleach yourself white now—
at least where we could see the cartography of your skin when you let us
view it not covered with clothing—hands face neck slivers of arms wrists
fingers/tips palms—your lips all red now with fresh lipstick though
the most bizarre change in your face was your newly reconstructed nose
appearing as if it had been assaulted in a war showed all those battle scars
no plastic surgeon could conceal the grotesque changes when
scrutinizing cameras zoomed in close you couldn’t hide the damage
no matter the money you spent couldn’t it cover up
the bizarre changes of your face with any kind of grace

all this strange image behavior took a toll dominated the media
most people’s minds instead of your music your love
this was the absolute tragedy of your fall from grace michael your life
because music & your love was your timeless gift to us all
at the end you were still a little boy in a fifty year old body
deep sadness in your once beautiful light-bulb-eyes
though you were ready to take the spotlight on stage once again
with your “this is it” london concerts to show everyone
you still had the magic to amaze but death—a kind of suicide
for me—ended it all pulled us into profound grief mourning
your way-too-soon quixotic passing from this world


death found you after midnight when you finished rehearsing
your new show at the staple center you went home happy you had entered
the zone of your genius game too try to sleep when you checked
          yourself out
with help of an iv drip dripping the deadly anesthetic diprivan/profofol
drip dripping death into your collapsed starving veins needle marks
up & down your paper thin white arms your skin almost translucent
when you entered “the valley of death” you had spoke about
you died skin & bones bald as a bowling ball save a little peach fuzz
on top of your head under the black wig (did you wear it to bed at night
trying to fall asleep through terrible insomnia) drugs running
like polluted rivers through your ghostly anorexic body
swallowed up by tents of your clothing in the end you were responsible
for your own life michael the way you lived it with people you chose
to gather around you “yes” people for everything you wanted—not
you were responsible for your own death if you killed yourself as eye think
you did—perhaps accidentally—depressed as you were at the end—
though joy was there too with your children your comeback tour—

when you took your spirit to the other side of the veil you went there
probably weary from all the pain around you since childhood
the savage scrutiny relentlessly prying eyes of media cameras
searching for anything still you were responsible for yourself michael
for your children all those who loved you from jump street you wanted all
the fame craved all of it sought the spotlight with a vengeance did you
all the baggage that comes with being a star genius finally it was you
who trapped your own spirit inside a bubble of your making –
though you didn’t deserve all the terrible hate & envy that came your way
but you surrounded yourself with those vampires & vultures
who greedily fed off you until you were a shell of skin & bones

at the end you were rehearsing your “this is it” show for london
at the staples center—kobe bryant’s basketball mecca—in los angeles
where you were living some say you had duffel bags
packed with money hidden in the mansion where you died
there was news someone in your family bum-rushed your death scene
to try to take all that cash perhaps it was only rumor like so much else
swirling around your life until it became a kind of truth
whatever it was the spectacle surrounding your death was sad
revealed just how important you were to making others money no matter
in death—like elvis—your porcelain white flesh soon will become dust
but your music will live—with your images—pulsating magic love
beautiful as anything eye have heard in my life

the announcement of your death was like a gigantic broom
sweeping everything off the front pages of newspapers
all over the globe your death dominated airwaves of mass media
people wept danced celebrated your life played your songs once again
your funeral was something to behold you laying there unseen
inside your flower-draped golden coffin as friends & family testified
honored your name your music your arch of love humanity
up over staples center in the blue sky the shape of a heart appeared
inside berry gordy spoke sage words about you al sharpton gave
a powerful speech a gospel choir sang poignantly as did usher stevie wonder
pulsating images of you dancing singing electric on a screen in all your
brooke shields spoke incisive words evoked humor a personal deep human
friendship then your daughter paris broke down weeping at the end
of the ceremony telling everyone how much she loved you will miss you
this brought everyone to tears in this moment of mourning you michael
but we also wept for paris her lost when the ceremony was over
the final image was a single spotlight shining on a lone microphone
standing center stage there as an homage to the absence of your voice
singing to us to look at ourselves “& make a change”


jagged lightning rips open the black sky over new york city on a day
late in july over a month since you went to “the valley of death”
the lightning tears the mood asunder & the image reminds me of you
michael jackson hip-jabbing your signature dance cut-out silhouette
fractured jagged white against black evoking whatever comes to mind
during an act of creative power residing there during this moment
as lightning strikes brings with it a sense of fiery resurrection
reminds of savage beauty the unbridled creative power of music

perhaps sudden lightning & thunder is a reminder of demons
possessing us all—especially you michael despite your gentle spirit—
perhaps the sudden fierce lightning eye witnessed today is like you—
no iambic hexameter line could contain your combustible spirit
no broken-up space-fill stanzas all over the page could reflect your compact
diamond-hard lightning-quick rhythmic energy zeroing in on focus always
in music in dance your imaginative quick-silver grooves—
your incredible electric spirit always there for me your presence hovering
in the sky lancing like lightning music along with thunder suddenly
there as in a surprise your thrilling once in a lifetime fierce beauty
keening cracking the firmament of our memory like jagged lightning
ripping it apart with the discharge of incredible energy
your iconic image there in skies around the globe remind us
of your glory the power of creativity imagined with love

you will always be there michael sudden lightning ripping the sky open
you will always be there michael flashing your arch of music love