Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Friday, April 29, 2016

I Want to Party Like It's 1999

Well, it's happened again. I don't really believe in the supernatural, but I can be open-minded. Someone is haunting me. This has happened two other times before. First, Michael Jackson, then Whitney Houston and now Prince.  This time is most surprising because I didn't even know I was a Prince fan.

I awake in the morning with his songs in my head and it goes on all day. With Michael it went on for months, and they weren't just songs that I had recently heard in the overwhelming news coverage of his death. They were just songs from my life—from everyone's life, because Michael had always just been there. That was the shock of it. People who grew up in the 60's like me had never been without his music, his presence, his sad I-missed-my-childhood story. I found that women my age had maternal feelings towards Michael Jackson.  His talent was vast and unique, but his story was just as compelling.

Michael was mysterious and that is the trademark of Prince as well.  They both knew how to create striking and memorable visual images of themselves—often wearing things no one else would wear.  There's Michael in his white socks, flood pants and his mother's sequined jacket.  There's Prince with his make-up, high heels, a scarf on his head and a boyish bare chest.

I think we all feel an extra sense of loss when someone dies with so much talent left to give. Musicians that we love are simply a part of our lives. Music, as we all know, can bring a sense of deja vu. Oh, that song was playing during my first kiss. Someone sang that at my wedding, or we danced to it on that special date.

And, of course there is the notion that all three of these artists died much too soon. It was unexpected. The fact that there are drugs involved does not seem to alter our grief. As I write this, we don't know about Prince, but prescription painkillers have been mentioned.

I have a theory about why people so iconic, so loved and so in demand take drugs. Simply because it is not normal to be idolized.  Yes, they asked for it, maybe craved the attention. I think the way they must give to everyone around them every day of their lives just wears them out.  I myself cannot imagine never being able to be anonymous, to never have peace, to always be sought after, to have to hide to have anything resembling a normal life.

So why do they continue to lay themselves out to the public? Because they must. They were given a singular gift of music and unbounded talent, and in my estimation, they had no choice.  It was what they were born to do.

I  have a small, meek comparison to share. I have been singing solos, mostly in a church setting, since I was 14 years-old.  I still am a nervous wreck before I sing. I  have anxiety dreams without fail in the few moments of actual sleep I get before singing.  I question why I torture myself. At this age, I could easily give it up—but something inside me will not let me. I don't think I'm a great singer, but time and time again people have been touched by my songs. So I have been given a gift by God, however small, and I believe I am meant to share it.  Just imagine if my gift was enormous, unique, powerful enough to move millions of people.

This society is celebrity obsessed and we treat these people like they are there to serve us and meet our expectations. These three particular artists didn't mean to leave the earth so soon, but they left us with an abundance of memories and music. It just could have been so much more...



I am waiting for a Seals and Crofts reunion,
waiting for those days of decision to reverse,
waiting to feel like the adult I thought I saw in my elders,
the sense of consolation for a life well-lived.

I am waiting to see dignity in the mirror, not a fallen face,
waiting for my children to be all I am not,
searching for an understanding in them I did not possess,
waiting to find myself in all the reinventions and good intentions.

I am pondering what I didn’t do when I was being good,
what I slammed doors on without ever peeking outside,
wondering where all the prayers went,
and measuring my worth by my lack of change.

I am strip-mining now for a whole soul.
I am in love with my abstruse dreams.
The confounded past wakes me at night,

and the day is all too peaceful and resolved.