As if he were put together each day
from a box of pieces, carefully
stored in his locked room,
guarded at night by large,
black men with bulging shoulders
and dark, shiny glasses.
He appeared occasionally. His skin looked
unprepared for the sun, as if it had been chosen
without a thought of natural light.
In his bathroom mirror, when the large black men
finished brushing the powder onto the cheeks,
setting the wig straight above his forehead,
balancing the sunglasses gently
with thumb and finger on the vertical
bridge of his nose, his complexion
seemed more than perfect.
Marble, like a goddess of antiquity.
But which goddess? Not Aphrodite,
with her long red hair and woman’s
hips. Or Athena, with the iron warrior’s
eyes, or Diana…even she was too rough.
Too mannish, in a way. In the end,
it didn’t matter. One deity is always
as good as another, one name as sturdy
as another, to hang an image on.
As the ancient media scholars observed,
the marble is the message.
He appeared to us constantly, like a playful sprite
on heavy rotation in a child’s daydreams.
Like all the spirits, he was sexless.
But he played at sex, and sang at us,
and made us wonder where he came from
and what he wanted from us.
Pinnochio was on TV
with one hand on his crotch, dancing
like so: spin, kick, masturbate;
spin, kick, masturbate,
as if one of our toys had come to life
and started making lewd gestures at us.
We watched and wondered in our bedrooms
and in the record store at the mall as he spun
around the graveyard. Wooden limbs, straight
like a doll’s, but seemingly inflamed.
After the first few tunes, it was less about the music
and more about the reality. He was told that
he was Michelangelo and Peter Pan and Einstein rolled into one.
He transcended himself. This was his trap--
to be known for being known, loved for being loved.
Then it was about who, if anything, was behind the costume.
After the universe’s secrets are opened
come the sleepless nights. Even Einstein
has to figure out how to be Einstein.
After relativity, something has to be next.
All the pieces went back into the box.
It was solid gold, or it seemed to be,
in honor of his status, his rank.
Death almost seemed the logical extension
of his fashion sense. At last he was
preserved, ageless, untouchable.
His brother is due to speak.
He is famous, too, in his small way. He wears
a red rose in the lapel of his suit.
He sings what brothers always sing
on these occasions. His voice is
clearer, his pitch more perfect,
and we expect to love him more
because his grief is somehow more pure.
But it is not more pure. It is angry. He cries
for a few minutes over his brother’s veins,
angry that the undertaker’s job
was stolen, that they were drained too soon
and filled with poison. He is angry
that sleep took hold and left his brother
frozen. For a moment, the music is
the reality. There is no pantomime
of sex, or death, or any other ecstasy.
No reaching for childhood.