Kelsey Enlow is a Design Editor for The Broken Plate 2021 and a senior Creative Writing Major at Ball State University. In this post, Kelsey provides commentary on Mackenzie Diggs’ poem “I Don’t Remember the Summer When Michael Jackson Died,” which was previously published in our most recent 2020 issue of The Broken Plate.
I Don’t Remember the Summer When Michael Jackson Died
by Mackenzie Diggs
but I do remember what it felt like to be free of walking the middle school hall-ways with twin blackened eyes & blackening my room of the snarling sun instead so no one would see, until Katie Jayne busted down my door & threw a bottle of Malibu at me, yelling for me to get my ass up & how I stayed at her house for two weeks hiding out & smoking cheap cigarettes we stole from her mom’s purse & we would use that purple lighter of hers that had the hearts on it, & I felt okay for a while because my father would never walk up to their front door since Katie’s dad was a cop, so we stayed out late at the park near her house just swinging under swaying starlight until we got dizzy from the booze & drunk from laughing & we’d walk back down the road arm in arm, guided by a mixture of moonlight & sideways-leaning lamp posts before sneaking into her bedroom with the blood orange-colored walls through the window, until her mom came up to me with her small bird-like hands clasped onto my knee & asked me why I never went home, so I went home because I was too afraid to pull up my pant leg in the dim light of her living room & show the rug burns there tinged red with healing from being dragged down the hallway by my hair, blonde tufts tangled with friction faded carpet, or pull up my sleeves where only jagged cuts along adolescent skin lived & tell her I’m sorry but I think I might die there.
“I Don’t Remember the Summer when Michael Jackson Died,” by Mackenzie Diggs was published in the 2020 issue of The Broken Plate released in October 2020. Diggs highlights the fragility The Broken Plate hopes to capture in the poem “I Don’t Remember the Summer when Michael Jackson Died” as well as the poem “In Defense of ‘Panties.’” In “I Don’t Remember the Summer Michael Jackson Died” Diggs describes a teen living in an abusive household. Her friend saves her from her darkened room and takes her home with her where she is free to enjoy herself without worrying that her father will come and drag her home. This poem really hits the mission of The Broken Plate in its last few lines that describe the abuse that the narrator is too afraid to tell her mother’s friend about, so she goes home. Diggs writes, “& tell her I’m sorry but I think I might die there.” It is this confession, fear, and vulnerability that The Broken Plate wishes to highlight, to bring light to, and create a community from these feelings.
Diggs’s writing style was an added bonus when deciding to select her work. The way the words flow, and fumble out of your mouth effortlessly, almost wanting to get caught up but never actually quite catching adds a beauty to the piece that highlights specific moments and then pushes forward. Every word pairs perfectly with the next. It is this craftsmanship that the editorial team loves to see. The piece flows with a rhythm as the author plays with form. Not once does Diggs use an ending punctuation until the very end where she writes, “I might die there.” This emphasizes the narrator’s fear of going back but shows the finality of the summer, a summer that was safe for her until she had to go home, but for others was simply the summer that Michael Jackson died. It is this unique form that jumps out forcing the reader to stop and consider the author’s meaning behind every little detail, because Diggs makes it clear that every little detail matters.
The difference between a good piece and a great piece at The Broken Plate is the ability of the piece to move us, to make us remember it in some way, shape, or form. When a piece of writing defies the normal form and pushes the reader to accept a new way of reading, a way they weren’t taught in school, a form of writing they have never seen before, this is when we know we want to include that piece in our journal. When a piece tells a story we have yet to hear, a story that we know needs to be told, or gives us an insight we hadn’t yet thought of, we know we want that story in our journal.
Over the course of several discussions The Broken Plate has identified aspects of communities we have wanted to highlight. We believe that fragility and vulnerability highlight the brokenness in our communities and offer up ways of healing that can bring us together. A story such as Diggs’s poem that creates a reality for someone who has not faced these issues and creates a connection for someone who has, deserves to be spotlighted for its recognition of the mission of The Broken Plate.