The HyperTexts

Paul Michelsen

Paul Michelsen lives and writes in Nevada's Las Vegas Valley, where he also serves as an official Clark County Poet Laureate Representative and co-leads a new twice-a-month poetry workshop. His poetry has been published by or is forthcoming in Stolen December: Vegas Valley Haiku, Clark: An Anthology of Clark County Poets, and his work will be featured in a book entitled Next Line, Please, to be published by Cornell University Press, collecting the first two years' worth of crowd-sourced poems on The American Scholar website, based on prompts by poet David Lehman.

Seeing Things

Reflections in windows make me see life differently
Shadows cast in various ways cause me stress
Smudges on walls cause me to wax philosophically
Rorschachs from blooddrops put me to the test

I’ve never seen my Lord in a burnt tortilla
Nor mistaken spilled milk for a saint
Nor thought a stain was Blessed Maria
Nor saw Armageddon in splotches of paint

Still, what I see touches me, moves me, kills me, makes me grow
Helps me, harms me, breaks me, fixes me, makes me feel alright
Makes me realize how dumb I am, but it's better to know
Lifts me, drops me, inspires me to make it through the night

So now I say to you in this unmiraculous way
It's what I know without my eyes that leads me here today

Without Tusk, Tire, Tooth, or Purse

The elephant in the room had its tusks removed
It just sits there, without tires, up on cinder blocks
The sabertooth tiger smiles, recently untoothed
Blades taken away, confiscated by the cops

Time for the boy on the leash to take his meds
Looks at the other kids like they’re his next meal
We’re all so very special and then we’re all dead
At times in no position to cut a deal

But sometimes you just carry on and it hits you
Like the purse snatcher hits the lady in the face,
The dog, instead of taking bites, licks you
In the same place you find scars when you wake

Smile as the unsinkable ship begins to sink
Bird, sky, wings, feathers, poet, paper, pen, and ink

A Sistine Sestina Sustained (or, Does Richard Dawkins Shit in the Sistine Chapel? And Can You Say This Title Three Times Fast?)

A big question in our house growing up involved the Pope
And whether or not he used the woods as a toilet
At a certain age I could only think “Only in Utopia”
But it’s not unheard of to have a Pope who cares about the planet
The one I’m thinking of could be the patron
Saint of the poor while those well off obsess about apparel
People have always been obsessed with the Pope’s apparel
As well as all the bodily functions of the Pope
As if he was something more along the lines of patron
Saint of all the places one can use the toilet
And of all high fashion instead of caring about the planet
And every soul upon it, which in itself is a slice of Utopia
This thing that we may never get to see: Utopia
Distracted as we are by not only flashy apparel,
Good looks, gossip, crime (or worry about it) on this planet
And seeing opportunities to crack jokes about the Pope
You know, I’ve been in the woods and used it as a toilet
But it’s taboo to speak this way about a patron
Who might feel comfortable in the woods, a patron
Who feels comfortable in the concrete jungle, far from this dream of Utopia
With people who long ago flushed such dreams down the toilet
Then moved on to bigger and better things like sports apparel,
Believing in athletes, in stadiums like open-air cathedrals; even a Pope
Might be in awe of some of these wonders of the planet
But there’s so much more to life than sports on this planet
Though I’ve seen homes with shrines to players—a patron
Saint of pitching, a patron saint of leftfield; will we ever see a Pope
Throw the first pitch at the World Series? Would that be a sign of Utopia?
A way of warding off the Apocalypse? Would he wear the apparel
Of both teams and holler out Pope jokes while using the toilet?
Imagine the Swiss Guard guarding the toilet
Preventing the least dignified selfies on the planet—
Such an embarrassment: the hiked-up papal apparel
Exposing a mortal’s portal. A patron,
Frankly, can only go so far—though it feels like Utopia:
A real-life visual punchline for these jokes about the Pope
I’ve heard that on this planet there’s no such thing and no way for Utopia
To happen. We can all just keep busy being patron saints of doubt and neat apparel
Instead of imagining a better world, keep our minds on the Pope as we picture him on the toilet.

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