First you learned to crawl, then you learned to walk, and after that you probably spent eons attempting to moonwalk. For many of us X-geners, that's just how it went. But Michael Jackson's friction-defying signature move was as elusive as he was, and lord knows he was as mystifying as he was iconic.
And, for the last four years, Detroit poet and national slam champ Blair has been examining the King of Pop through a collection of poetry to be released as a book-and-CD combo, tentatively titled Moonwalking. "I've always been drawn to him," Blair says. "He is peculiarly American, I think. Discussing MJ means discussing issues of race, gender, sexuality, stardom, poverty, wealth, self-abuse, child abuse and justice." In a poem titled "Joe Jackson replies to the BBC," Blair goes inside the head of Michael's father after the first round of molestation charges in the mid-'90s, then, using the 17th century villanelle, "The Daughter of the King," investigates the short-lived and incredibly awkward marriage of Jackson and Lisa-Marie Presley. A poem comprised of five, five-line stanzas, "Quintet," focuses on the Jackson Five. —Travis R. Wright
Why did I leave earth?
Because it's crazy down there, but not
crazy enough. I dance it all away.
I'm so gone. I walk backwards and still out-move you.
I glide, receding towards innocence.
Back to childhood. I'm a star, suspended,
floating like a god or a king — no
too young to be king — a prince.
I used to be a robot, but robots move too slowly,
too earthbound and I'm unable to be smooth.
I'm soft, like the dust I kick up when I spin.
Dust some color no one's ever seen before.
My dirt is your souvenir. John Merrick's bones.
I build fortresses from Ferris wheels,
climb giant bonsais with chimpanzees
higher than you could
imagine. Into the air
thinner than me. Have you heard
the sounds I make? Out of this world
How many millions does it take to prove, Earthlings
can't move like me. Adults
can't touch me.
I walk backwards on another planet singing
and still leave you in my dust. Climbing,
morphing into a whole other dimension.
One small step for man. One giant step
for me, on my platform, poised
for takeoff. I won't move
until you scream me into motion.
I am one glove. My other hand invisible.
If not for this coat of medals, these rhinestone socks,
shining pants, you would not see me
a ball of light slowly fading.
I can't breathe your air. I'm terrified
of your sun. I can't stop dancing. I don't
understand these laws. I can't
obey these laws.
Have you seen me move?
He knew that peace
could only be had, outside
of a spotlight he couldn't resist.
This way, I'm never off stage.
— Michael Jackson on why he wears the glove.
The White Glove reflects
white as a wish
or a little lie
white as surrender
or swarovsky crystal
proper for handling sabers
or bearing caskets
I kept him brave,
made him feel
like the audience was still at a distance,
when they were in the palm of his hand
in this way,
I was not unlike a cape
a superhero might wear, I was
the single most symbol
the king of props
Blair will be reading from Moonwalking at Goldfish Tea (117 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-541-5252) at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 11.