Listening to Michael Jackson in a Closet

by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

& on a kitchen floor & as a child & in our first
apartment several stops from DC & on the way
to the white house & in a bedroom of seven
refugees & as a daughter who brought
American music from Ukraine
back to America & as a mother
windows down blaring Billy Jean
through Ringgold Street in South
Philadelphia & in the bath drowning
deflated rubber ducks & when
the bubbles have left cloudy water
& my son demands Alexa play
Thriller & Alexa volume 10 & Alexa play it
again louder & play in English Alexa & does he
really turn into a volk meaning wolf
& Mama be a zombie & what’s zombie
in Russian? & Mama play zombie tag
& Mama tantzui, dance & there’s too much
I cannot translate but my son
can recognize Michael’s voice
anywhere & ABC easy
as 123 & that’s The Jackson 5
my American-born husband
corrects & won’t you please let me back
in your heart & I grew up with Michael’s voice
pushing the captive orca whale back
over a stone barricade & he pushed me
somewhere too so even as kids teased me
for loving of Free Willey & sour cream &
& Michael & called me buffalo legs & smells-
of-garlic & voted me most likely
to be uncovered as an alien & asked
if I was born to like red & hammers
I pressed play & play & play & play
on the cassette tape until
it unspooled & it don’t matter
& Keiko never could have cleared
that height without Carry me
like you are my brother & love me
like a mother & will you be there? & my son
hear my song unspooling too
your body can music & robot
can moonwalk & break
free of any man-made or imagined
walls & listen to your feet my love
they sing across so many languages

Finalist, the Poetry International Prize 2022

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