Project Description

Candy Long Overdue

for Patrick Gaffey

As I walked towards the school where I work,
early as usual, still dark, moon up high,
someone who shouldn’t have been there
approached me.
I had the key ready, as I always do,
but this time my hands were full:
I held my lunch in one hand
and a bag in the other that made me look
as though I had just gone Christmas shopping
either two months late or ten months early.
The man said “Is that for me?”
I smiled a bit.
“Valentine’s candy for the kids.”
Something in his face changed,
I could barely make it out,
it was something more felt than seen.
“What, do you love them or something?”
It was an accusation, an inquisition.
“Yeah, they’re good kids. They deserve a treat.”
The face folded, I felt it in my stomach.
Butterflies became bees and yellow jackets and wasps—
in a stage whisper, “You mean you beat them and burn them
with your cigarettes
and then disappear forever?”
And standing there, not knowing what to say,
feeling sick to my stomach filled
with buzzing bees, and other such things,
yellow jackets injecting me
with their lit cigarettes,
I answered him.
And, even though when I think of love I think
of smiling faces and kind words
and candy
and of being there,
when he asked me if I beat them
and burned them with cigarettes and then disappeared forever,
I handed him a heart made of candy and said “Yes,
but I really do love you,
and I am so sorry
for everything.”


I kinda liked it better
when I walked around asleep.
In the midst of crazy dreams
I screwed up a whole lot less.
Even though
I wasn’t controlling things
They went much more my way
than they do today.

Apparently your fresh face has expired.
As for me, I was born tired.

Who gets the prize for the kindest Hitler moustache?
Who has time for oxymorons?
What is the sound of one hand crying?
What is the use of a broken bag?
Where can we go without wings, without laughter?
(Perhaps to where I see myself ten years from now.)

I’m the patron saint of party people,
but only pity parties.
In case you didn’t know, this is my happy face.
I’m so glad you’re having fun, even if
it’s all at my expense—
I’ll just charge it;
I’d put it on your tab
but if there’s one thing I’ve learned
it’s that I can never get away
with anything.

The shrink diagnosed me on the very first day:
“Misery becomes you,” she said.
The psychic left without a word.
It’s better off that way.
I’ve inspired holistic doctors to self-medicate,
a priest to shoot me in the face
with a holy water pistol.

I was asked to tell a little about myself.
An honest answer is what I gave.
Should’ve known better, I suppose.

It hasn’t been easy, being thought of as capable.
Expectations made a mess of things.
Once I imagined what it might be like to not only be stable,
but to sing and dance and make a person feel better—
Alas, my voice cracked, I tripped over my feet,
inspired steps off ledges,
a recurring chorus of “please don’t come back.”

In spite of all this, I would be willing,
if you’ll have me,
to start working
first thing on Monday.

Paul Michelsen

Paul Michelsen, as of 7:52 ante meridiem, Pacific Standard Time, on December Sixteenth, in the Year of our Lord Twenty-Hundred Seventeen, at the age of 44, stood six feet, three inches tall, and weighed precisely 196.0 pounds, wearing only his regular prescription eyeglasses and a scapular, for religious purposes. He was torn from the womb in New York on a fateful day in which both mother and child almost died. Michelsen now lives, if one could call it a life, in the Las Vegas Valley in Nevada, in the United States of America. He likes taking walks on the beach (man-made beaches at the hotel-casinos) and skipping through dangerous neighborhoods, unarmed. He has one beautiful wife, two wonderful children, an active third eye, a four-legged Labradoodle, and often feels like a fifth wheel. And speaking of the Wheel, he would like to buy a vowel.