Beat It

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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Michael Jackson wants to give you a kiss — what course of action do you take?
— Ian, Kent, England

I have to admit, I often do things that will make a good poem, and that would make a pretty good poem. I suppose your query is in response to Michael Jackson’s poems that went up for auction in March, and which many have analyzed for positive proof of his affection for young boys, but his poems are awful and there’s absolutely no way I’m going to quote those words in my column (but let me just say that anybody reasonably skilled in literary analysis could find pedophilia in MJ’s grocery list, if that’s what they’re looking for).  Let’s use the words of another MJ to answer your query: poet Mary Jo Bang. Michael Jackson wants to kiss me — what do I do? “Catastrophe Theory III” has an answer.

[…]  From a mere idea comes the twine
that gives totality its name. What is a theory
but a tentacle reaching for a wafer of reason.
The inevitable gap tragic. Sure, tragic.

But Ian, it’s not the prospect of the kiss that’s tragic, but the gap between the prospect and the kiss, the gap seized by science and rationality that makes everything predictable, measurable, and mundane. All right, I’ll say it:  I would probably kiss Michael Jackson, if and only if my husband understood that I would only do so to get the experience of kissing Michael Jackson (a poet’s “research”), which of course would be tragic, because now I’ve seriously thought about kissing Michael Jackson and eliminated the surprise factor. If I ever see Michael Jackson, I’d expect a kiss from him, and I’d be insulted if I didn’t get one, and I probably wouldn’t get one because I’m not his type, which would set off a series of reactions, resulting in complete chaos and catastrophe. Isn’t that always the way it goes with kisses or no kisses? Anyway, I’d prefer a kiss from an iconic poet, if you really want to know, but I’m not even going to think about it because, really, there’s far too much tragedy in this world and I’d rather not lament not getting a kiss from Bill Knott, or Dan Tobin, or Christine Casson, or John Skoyles, or Jonathan Aaron, or Peter Jay Shippy — get a grip, K!

Sure. I once dreamt I kissed Walt Whitman and his beard tickled me. • 7 May 2009

 

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.

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