Saturday, February 28, 2009

28 Poems - 28

Deus Ex Machina

The first act was perfection. When the Author
Entered, the cast deferred to him, and let
Him lead them through the scenes they played together,
Spoke their lines word for word, according to
The script, and never questioned where they were
Or what their motive was, because the Author
Centered it all -- he was the answer to
All questions asked and unasked, and he gave
Order and tone to each proceeding scene.

But after intermission, when the lights
Came up on the next act, the Author was
Out in the audience, lost in the dark
Beyond the spotlight and the scripted scene,
Watching. Just watching.
No one knows why he did it, but he did --
Perhaps he had a point to prove to those
Who hailed his writing and ignored his acting;
Perhaps he was convinced the play would flop
Without him holding it together, and
Set out to prove how vital his part was
To those who criticized him as a type,
A humorless and lifeless block of wood --
To show them firsthand how the scaffold must
Collapse without its one foundation stone,
And how the script would suffer from mistakes,
Chaotic blocking, ad libs, and confusion
Without him center stage. And so he watched.

The catchphrase is that the show must go on,
But it is not the same show, any more
Than Heraclitus is the same Heraclitus
Who steps into that ever-flowing river.
Even with all the actors in their places
And all the words correct, all, all is change.
And if you take one part, the central part
Away, then there's a hole dead center stage,
An open trap that all must play around
To the scope and proportion of their talents.
And so it happened, as the second act
Began, and the lights rose up, and the cast
Saw that the Author was not on the stage,
There was a moment when all eyes took in
That hole, that vacant space; then looked away.
There was a pause, unnoticeable to
Everyone in the house except the Author;
Then she, who had the second line, began
The second act, and so the show went on.

How far from perfect is reality?
The Author had the time to contemplate
That distance as he studied the brand new
Act Two. He saw some actors who looked lost
And some who did their lines as if he was
Still center stage, pausing and slowly nodding
After they spoke, like priests hearing a God
Who only spoke exclusively to them
And them alone. And watching these two groups --
The cocksure and the lost -- the Author saw
How both of them focused the audience
On what was missing, not on what was there.

And what was there was fascinating stuff.
Some actors had begun to strut and preen
Because they were convinced this was a test
That they could only pass by taking center;
The biggest hams were speaking all his lines
(Though none of them could really play his part)
Or saying they knew what he would have said
And what he would have done in every scene;
Still others acted like a five-year-old
Who's left alone without a baby-sitter.
And there were some he'd never seen before --
Some of them played their scenes not for themselves
But for each other, which made parts of this
Chaotic second act a play the Author
Could never have created by himself;
Some who'd been in his shadow, but were lit
By spotlights now, and who still played the play
That he had written, even though his role
Was nowhere to be seen in it -- a play
That was perhaps just that much more alive
Because the Author was not there to take
Attention from the joy of his creation.

In fact, while to the trained eye of the Author,
The script was lost in thousands of mistakes,
The audience, which knew no better, took
The play as given -- they were riveted.
They saw the life behind the work and striving,
And fed on it as if it was their own.
Yes, it was far from perfect, and the scenes
Themselves were not what he would have constructed,
But it was still a play, and in some way,
Still his.

That's when he said, "I'll never act
Again." He never did. And when he's asked
Why he prefers to watch from a dark seat
On the aisle, he always gives the same answer:
"It's truer now," he says. "I'm after truth.
And there's more truth in chaos than in order."

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Friday, February 27, 2009

lower east side

28 Poems - 27

Aphorisms and Observations

Never confuse a woman’s desire for conversation with a woman’s desire.

When you finally decide to go, Life sends you a reason to stay.

Nothing gets answers better than dead silence.

There are three hells in life –- the one you fear, the one you yearn for, and the one you’re in.

The only thing we can understand about the universe is the understandable part.

The world defines success not by how deep the well is but by how much you can get for the water.

Poverty is only virtuous in Frank Capra movies.

International diplomacy: living proof that travel does not broaden the mind.

There are only two jobs where you can always get a laugh no matter how lousy your jokes are: dictator and CEO.

Nothing ruins desire like availability.

It’s easier to become what we fear than what we admire.

There are no promises in life -- just vows that have not yet been broken, and lies that have yet to be found out.

Hate is the continuation of Love by other means.

There is nothing wrong with anyone’s life that five funerals can’t cure.

Rehab is the aspirin of the rich and famous.

The mountain that blocks your way is the one you create as you climb.

If you can’t fly, then fall gracefully.

All certainty is homicidal.

Torture doesn’t reveal the truth -- it confirms a belief.

Poetry: a verbal engine designed to communicate something that cannot be put into words.

Never throw the cake away just because you can’t have one piece of it.

The more success you have dealing with failure, the harder it is to deal with success.

Tidiness is the goal of dictators.

No matter how deep the ocean, it is only the shallows that are bottomless.

Genius makes it look easy; mediocrity makes it look hard.

You're either the one they talk about, or the one they talk to.

Chaos is a rabble of truths; order is a regiment of lies.

My heart is a jail; emotions are the criminals who escape.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, February 26, 2009

28 Poems - 26

Nature Of Evil

The Hitler inside me has a list
Of people he wants to kill.
The world would be much better off
If they were all under a hill.
I swear to God they deserve it.
They all should be shot on sight.
The Hitler inside me says it’s true
And he is always right.

The Hitler in me says our country
Won’t take this lying down.
We will not look like a pushover.
We’re not going to play the clown.
We’ll do what we must to honor the flag
And see this trial through.
The Hitler inside me knows we have been wronged
And the one inside you does too.

The Hitler inside me says morals are lax
And our future is on the line.
Permissiveness is not freedom;
Acceptance is never benign.
There are words that should never be spoken.
There are things that must never be seen.
The Hitler inside me says everything’s black and white
With no in-between.

The Hitler inside me says somebody else
Is the cause of the fix we’re in.
It’s all because of the God they adore
Or the color of their skin.
They’re different from normal people --
Just look at the way they act.
The Hitler inside me says they must be treated like germs
And that’s a fact.

The Jesus inside me says normal's a lie
So we need to stop and think.
Forgiveness is not a special case --
It’s the cup we all must drink.
Since mortal souls are all the same
In the eyes of the One above,
The Jesus inside me says we must look
At each other with eyes of love.

The Hitler inside me has had it with all
These so-called “freedoms” today.
This talk about “rights” is just people whining
Because they aren’t getting their way.
The good people aren’t complaining,
But all of the bad cry “Give!”
The Hitler inside me says every last one
Should be lucky we let them live.

The Jesus inside me says mercy
Is greater than order and law.
Your words or your deeds must never be judged
By the color of your jaw.
It’s not about crime and punishment;
It’s not about Heaven or Hell.
The Jesus inside me says when we hurt others,
It makes us bleed as well.

The Hitler inside me says, “Jesus is wrong --
You need to be strong, not weak.”
The Jesus inside me says, “Let him talk,”
And turns the other cheek.
The Hitler in me has a Luger.
Jesus will see it and sigh.
Then Hitler will smile and shoot him
And Jesus will gladly die.

The Hitler inside me will smile and say, “See?
The power of love is weak.
The strong will inherit the kingdom.
The grave will inherit the meek.”
So the Hitler in me will surround me
Till there’s nowhere else to go.
And the Hitler in me will love me
Till I whisper like Jesus: “No.”

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

28 Poems - 25

Strawberry Street

So many times
stuck on the stoop
looking for looks
holding back holding

so many openings
there at the door
promising windows
promising lies

so many shadows
long in the sunset
ending an evening
kissing and leaving

so many nights
famished and trembling
thinking of sheets
on somebody else.

Sometimes I know
our mutual future
is there in the gutter
hungry and homeless

waiting in ambush
dangerous, wild-eyed
whining like puppies
lost in the snow

needing your warmth
and blood from my heart
to rise from the dead
and demand justice

for all the sins
we should have committed
to change for now
into forever.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Random thoughts on the 09 Oscars

Stop—you’re killing me! Jesus, could you make the memorial sequence any more difficult to sit through? The way the camera was swerving back and forth in front of the clip screen, I had to keep walking back and forth in front of the TV set just to see the names. And sorry, but I wanted to see Cyd Charisse clips, I did not want to see Queen Latifah. When they do Latifah's memorial, I hope somebody has the decency to digitally insert the entire "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue" number in front of her clips with Steve Martin.

And speaking of bad video. Why was the goddamn Kung Fu Panda always rearing up at us whenever they showed a split-screen?

Nobody in Hollywood has seen The Reader. From the opening musical number's joke that unopened screening copies of this movie are lying around the living rooms of Southern California like technological dust bunnies, to Judd Apatow’s dead-on “this movie is so Serious it’s a fucking hoot when you’re stoned” take-down, I think we can safely say that the reason Kate Winslet won the Oscar is either (a) for her performance in Revolutionary Road or (b) to shut her up already.

40% Tonys, 60% Oscars. That’s what it felt like, anyway. Kudos to Hugh Jackman and the opening number, major props to Anne Hathaway for adding yet another credit to her Good Sport Résumé (and wow--singing chops! Who knew?), but what was up with that "Musicals is back" medley? It was like an hour-long number that got edited down to seven minutes, or some weird live approximation of a clipfest --with actual clips running in the back that were so far away you couldn't see them. Was this Baz Luhrmann's revenge for the tanking of Australia? Also: Beyoncé's thighs looked like a Daniel Craig could hide behind each of them. Is this woman digitally altered when she does her music videos or what?

Which reminds me. Daniel Craig can't read a teleprompter. Either that or he had dinner reservations five minutes after his presentation sequence was over.

"The Music Made Me Do It!" There is no truth to the rumor that the national homicide rate tripled when screaming knife-wielding viewers ran into the streets stabbing anything in sight as they sang the JC Penney music after the fifth commercial aired. It was after the 30th commercial.

What's with the wedding-train gowns? Is this some Depression-chic thing I missed? It made every actress wearing one look like they were auditioning for a Bridezilla rom-com.

Oh, shut up. I love Sean Penn the actor, but Sean Penn the dude totally turns me off. Listening to him espouse a cause by ordering people what to do makes me want to (a) hug poor Gus Van Sant because filming Milk must have been a fucking nightmare and (b) burn my membership card in the homo-loving commie underground. How could somebody so humorless in real life play somebody as enchanting as Harvey Milk? (Oh yeah; acting.)

The perfect analogy. The Oscar show is a 3-4 hour version of 52 weeks of movie openings. The opening half hour is like January -- it teases you with something fun and something serious (the first supporting acting award). The next two hours are like February through May, with awards nobody cares about and movies that suck. But now it's June, which means we're halfway home, and it's time to be desperately entertained by loud vulgar crap for the next 90 minutes, until we get to September and the stuff we're supposed to be impressed by -- the prestige releases (meaning all the rest of the major awards crammed into 20 minutes). This analogy means that you will always be able to turn off the TV at the 30-minute mark, stick a summer blockbuster in your DVD player, watch it in its entirety, and return to the live show in plenty of time to get sternly lectured by Sean Penn. It's the law.

WTF? "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" as the exit music?!? Covered by Beck?!?!? My brain just 'sploded!

28 Poems - 24

In This Life, When I Look At You

In this life, when I look at you, I see
The might-have-beens, and not the moments we
Have shared together. All we never said
Plays back in stereo inside my head;
And all we never did is what I wish
We could do now, like those who catch a fish
Think of the one that got away. With you,
It’s like what passion is the one that’s true --
The one I feel for what we have? The one
I feel for what will never be? The son
We’ll never raise? The house we’ll never buy?
The depths unshared? The heights we’ll never fly?
I know -- this is all me -- not you. There can
Be nothing more for us in this life than
What you desire; and your desire is set
On men you cannot have or never get --
Men who are always lesser than they seem,
Not those who think the world of you, and dream.
Ah well. You must not throw the cake away
Because one piece is missing, so I say
I’ll be whatever keeps me in your heart
And never let the what-if be a part
Of anything we do. No fancies of
Maybe; just here and now. And that is love.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Monday, February 23, 2009

28 Poems - 23

They Call Me Jonah

When I was born my momma died
And then my daddy drowned.
They put me in an orphanage;
It burned down to the ground.

My foster father bought the farm
When a tumor went malign,
And I wound up in high school
In a town called Columbine.

No matter where I travel,
No matter where I roam,
The folks I greet end up dead meat
Or in a nursing home.

A trail of devastation
Follows me like a tru-u-u-u-u-uck.
That’s why they call me Jonah --
I’m nothin’ but bad luck.

I went to work for Starbucks
And never sold a cup.
I opened up a Bally
And it went belly-up.

I did the books for Enron
And they ran out of cash.
I got a job on Wall Street
And watched the Market crash.

When I turn on hot water
It always comes out cold.
I dig a ditch and strike it rich --
It all ends up fool’s gold.

For every dime I borrow,
Somebody’s out a bu-u-u-u-u-uck.
That’s why they call me Jonah –-
I’m nothin’ but bad luck.

When I take elevators
The cables tend to break,
And when I'm in Los Angeles
They have a major quake.

I climb into an airplane --
It falls like Lucifer.
Just call your boat Titanic
When I’m a passenger.

I bet the store back in ‘04
And watched the Yankees choke;
I helped McCain with his campaign.
(That was a fuckin’ joke.)

I exercise and (no surprise)
I’m thin as Friar Tu-u-u-u-u-uck.
That’s why they call me Jonah --
I’m nothin’ but bad luck.

So love me at your peril,
Befriend me at your risk.
I may look normal, sweet and warm,
But I’m the asterisk.

My middle name’s Disaster;
My last name’s Run Amu-u-u-u-u-uck.
That’s why they call me Jonah --
I’m nothin’ but bad luck.

If you were me, you’d turn and flee;
If I were you I’d du-u-u-u-u-uck.
That’s why they call me Jonah --
I’m nothin’ but bad
Nothin’ but bad
Nothin’ but bad luck.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, February 22, 2009

28 Poems - 22

Six Feet Under

I went to see a doctor
With a dull ache in my head.
“I’ve got the perfect remedy
For what you have,” he said.
“It’ll take away the tingle
Ten times quicker than a med.”
And then he went and wrote me
A prescription
For a coffin.

I sat down with a Bishop
‘Cause I wanted to confess.
“Forgive me for my sins,” I said,
“My life is such a mess.
How can I stop temptation
And its bittersweet caress?”
And the Bishop sadly blessed me
And he pointed
To a coffin.

I went up to my bartender
And said, “I’m in a funk.
I’m so divorced from everything,
I feel like I’m a monk.
So if I can’t feel anything
I might as well get drunk.”
And he poured ten shots of Jameson’s
And told me
“Here’s your coffin.”

My government just called and said,
“Here’s how we play the game --
If you enlist we ship you where
A bullet has your name.
If not you get to work until
We shoot you when you’re lame.
And either way you’ll end up
With a flag
On your coffin.”

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Saturday, February 21, 2009

28 Poems - 21


You’re on a date, you try to please --
You give his hand a little squeeze;
You flash a smile, but all he sees
Is desperation.

You do your best to ring her bells;
Your aim’s as good as William Tell’s --
You wear cologne, but all she smells
Is desperation.

You speak your peace; she hears a whine.
Your compliments sound like a line.
You make a date; he never calls.
You hit the gas; your engine stalls.

You wade into the dating pool;
You think you’re so mature and cool,
But you’re all wet; you’re just the fool
Of desperation.

You’re like a flower in a drought:
Each drip you see’s a waterspout.
What you call thirst is all about
The desperation.

You’re writing love, he’s reading need;
You buy a rose, she sees a weed;
You offer gifts, he sees the strings --
And that’s when the fat lady sings.

When everyone looks ripe to wed
And total strangers strike you dead,
Roll over and go back to bed:
It’s desperation.

When friends you knew ten years ago
Look kissable as mistletoe
Or hot as Marilyn Monroe --
That’s desperation.

You look around and all you see
Are those with the capacity
To look at you romantically,
And so you chase them frantically.

So when the world is chock full of
Potential happiness and love,
Odds are you’re in the iron glove
Of desperation.

And what you do’s why you’re undone --
The ones you try to hug will run,
‘Cause all they see’s the loaded gun
Of desperation.

Take up guitar and sing the blues;
Put on your specs and read the clues --
Your perfect mate will never choose
To dream of you until you lose
Your desperation.

Copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Friday, February 20, 2009

grace church at midnight

Oscar Predictions 2009

In which I once again fall flat on my face attempting to read the fame-deluded minds of a bunch of old white men who think that prestige movies are the equivalent of those thick British novels you have to read in English class, the ones you use years later to prop up your bedroom air conditioner. That’s where most of the nominated films this year will end up.

Best animated feature film of the year. This is the consolation prize for Wall-E, which should have been nominated for Best Movie and wasn’t because (a) it’s animated and (b) it’s popular. Expect to hear the Oscar Orchestra play “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” for this.

Best foreign language film. I only saw Waltz with Bashir. Since it deals with Israel, it’s the only one of the four nominated movies with even a peripheral connection to Matthew’s Fourth Rule Of Oscars (anything with a Holocaust-related theme wins), so it gets my vote over the French classroom movie, the German history lesson, and the weird Japanese cremation thing.

Supporting Actor. There’s always one category where you say “Crap, I bet they wish their movies had been released next year, because there’s no way any of them is going to beat [insert name here].” Fill in Heath Ledger’s name and that’s what Supporting Actor is this year. Philip Seymour Hoffman was his usual brilliant self, Josh Brolin made Dan White sympathetic, Michael Shannon brought Revolutionary Road to life (twice!), and Robert Downey Jr. got nominated for a role which made fun of what actors will do to get Oscar nominations, but because Heath Ledger fucked up his anti-depressants, none of that matters. The only real lock of the night. If Ledger doesn’t win this, he should rise from the grave and haunt everyone who voted against him. As for who’s going to accept the award on his behalf, I’d love to see Downey do it in blackface.

Supporting Actress. Personally I’d like to see Marisa Tomei win it; there’s a scene she has in The Wrestler that I rave about whenever the movie comes up and I still can’t forget it. (And no, it’s just her face. As a male friend of mine said a couple of nights ago: “You were looking at her face?” God yes.) But Tomei’s already won this once. Penelope Cruz has the Woody Allen Factor going for her (Allen's films are like a frakking gold mine for Supporting Actress Oscars), and wouldn't it be cool if Javier Bardem handed her that statue? But since this is the only acting category with people of color, the award will probably go to either Viola Davis or Taraji P. Henson. Given Hollywood’s preference for fantasy over reality, I’m guessing Henson for Benjamin Button.

Adapted screenplay. Doubt and Frost/Nixon were plays, so they don’t count. The Reader has Matthew’s Fourth Oscar Law going for it, Benjamin Button has the literary cachet (F Scott Fitzgerald story) and the Hollywood spin (look -- Brad Pitt’s face CGI’d over an old man’s body!), and Slumdog Millionaire is Cinderella (or rather Sejal-ella.) The snarky side of me wants Benjamin Button to win, so I can chortle over how nobody mentions F Scott Fitzgerald’s name once the way nobody mentioned Winston Groom’s name once the year Forrest Gump won everything. But I think Slumdog will take it.

Original screenplay. Nobody saw Frozen River, maybe two people saw Happy-Go-Lucky, and Milk made me want to rent the documentary. That leaves Wall-E and In Bruges. The anti-animation bias, added with the pro-McDonagh bias (he won best short film in ’06) means In Bruges will win.

Best Song. "The Wrestler" by Bruce Springsteen. I don’t care if it wasn’t nominated. The fact that it wasn’t nominated pisses me off. So when the nominees are read, I am going to HALO into the Kodak, steal the statue at gunpoint, and drop it off in Jersey. "Jai Ho" can eat it.

Best Actor. Conventional wisdom says this is a two-man race between Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke. Outside shot: Frank Langella’s Nixon. But Straight Man Does Gay trumps Historical Mimicry, so advantage Penn. Way outside shot: Richard Jenkins, who’s worked with everyone. But Comeback trumps Connections, so advantage Rourke. No shot at all: Brad Pitt, who if he ever wins an Oscar at all, will get it for the crazy character stuff he does in films like Snatch and Burn After Reading. So that leaves Penn and Rourke. Penn’s already won Best Actor, which is a plus for Rourke. But Rourke’s already won a couple of ancillary awards (like the Golden Globe), which is a plus for Penn. I’d say it was a dead heat except for the Cinderella Factor. Given that Slumdog has no actors nominated, Rourke is the closest thing to Cinderella in the Actor category. Personally I’d like to see him win it, but when it comes to acting, Straight Man Does Gay trumps everything.

Best Actress. Melissa Leo, your award is the nomination. Angelina Jolie? Individual frames from Wall-E were more animated. Anne Hathaway has an outside shot, but her scenes made people squirm. Nobody in Hollywood likes to be forced to squirm in a real-life movie –- that’s what horror movies are for. So if Rachel Getting Married had zombies, or if Hathaway started taking an axe to her family, she’d be a shoo-in. (Memo to Hathaway’s agent: have her do the Full Charlize and play somebody ugly next year. She’ll be a lock.) Which leaves Streep and Winslet. Since Winslet’s part falls under the Fourth Law of Oscars, the little gold guy is hers to lose.

Best Director. Usually there’s one guy in here (and I do mean guy) whose movie hasn’t been nominated, but this year, all 5 Best Movie directors are up for it. So how does it break down? Ron Howard basically filmed a play; sorry, Ron. Stephen Daldry gets nominated every couple of years and has finally caught on that Hollywood Loves The Holocaust, but he picked the wrong movie. People want to be told that the Holocaust is bad, but there were good people who surmounted it -- people don't want to be told that the Holocaust is less shameful than illiteracy. Gus Van Sant has the outside shot here over David Fincher because, while both men have effectively squelched their signature styles to make a “popular” film, Van Sant’s film has the Straight Man Does Gay thing going for it. If it goes to Van Sant, look for Milk to have a better shot at Best Picture than Slumdog. If it goes to Danny Boyle, start practicing your Bollywood dance moves.

Best Picture. Filmed Play trumps Forrest Gump Clone. Biography Of Martyr trumps Filmed Play. Holocaust trumps Biography of Martyr. Cinderella trumps Holocaust.

28 poems - 20

Step On A Crack

See the daughter build a bed
Long enough for father's legs.
Mother hovers overhead
Keeping track of wasted eggs.

Here where hope and faith have died,
Hear the redlight of the mind:
Fear the face you have to hide
And the face you hide behind.

Mother digging for a weakness
Hopes to empty daughter's well;
Father hungry for uniqueness
Shuns the meat and eats the shell.

Here the broken never mends --
Here they love the feel of friction
And their touch is more a friend's,
Making each support addiction.

Mother says the lightning's grim;
Brother loves the smell of danger;
Daughter needs a loving him;
Father strokes a willing stranger.

See the ugliness inside
Overwhelm the outer beauty
When destroying mother's pride
Is a girl's delightful duty.

When the eyes behind the stare
Promise ice and offer fire --
When the past is everywhere,
Only scars can feel desire --

When the ancient urge to breed
And the ancient wound conspire
And the thing that makes you bleed
Soothes you with a dead desire --

Burn away the wasted seed,
Whisper softly the unspoken:
Learn to walk the ground you need,
And your back will be unbroken.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, February 19, 2009

28 Poems - 19

Dead End Avenue

I was drinking with the Devil
In a bar just south of Hell.
He bought me 20 shots of Jack
And said "You're looking swell.

"Just one more drink and you can live
Your every fantasy.
You'll have the drive of 20 men
But no ability."

Oh Lord, Lord!
Life is a dead end avenue.
Devil gonna kiss your soul
No matter what you do.

I was standing with the Devil;
We were on a mountainside.
He said, "You know how great you are --
Why not be glorified?"

He said, "I'll give you majesty
Upon a golden throne.
The multitude will praise you
But you'll always be alone."

Oh Lord, Lord!
Life is a dead end avenue.
Devil gonna kiss your soul
No matter what you do.

I was walking with the Devil;
He was wearing cloth of gold.
He said, "I can give you riches
That would make a miser cold."

Then he handed me a diamond
And he said, "These stones don't lie.
You'll have everything you want
Except whatever gold can't buy."

Oh Lord, Lord!
Life is a dead end avenue.
Devil gonna kiss your soul
No matter what you do.

I was sleeping with the Devil.
He said, "I can see your dream.
You want lovin' and affection
But you got no self-esteem."

He said, "I'll give you confidence --
It's courage that you lack.
You'll fall in love ten times a day,
They just won't love you back."

Oh Lord, Lord!
Life is a dead end avenue.
Devil gonna kiss your soul
No matter what you do.

I was talking with the Devil --
He was giving me the score.
He said, "Evil gets attention;
It's the Good that men ignore.

"You were taught that virtue prospers
But it's all a pious fraud.
It's the saints who do my bidding
When they beat a path to God.

"Sainthood's not an inspiration;
It's a height few men can climb.
Normal people see the mountain.
They say, 'I don't have the time.'

"Men see saints and say, 'No thank you.
Not a thing I want to be.'
Men say, 'I can't eat that diet!'
Which is why they're food for me."

Oh Lord, Lord!
Life is a dead end avenue.
Devil gonna kiss your soul
No matter what you do.

Oh Lord, Lord!
I need your help to see me through.
Devil gonna catch my soul
No matter what I do.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

29 Poems - 18

(This is a work in progress, so if you can think of anything I missed, please feel free to tweak me with a comment.)

Tragedy 101

I kill a stranger at a dusty crossroads,
An incident that does not plague my mind
Until I learn my wife’s not just his widow --
She is my mother, and my heart was blind.

The gods above demand an act of vengeance:
When wife kills husband, son must raise the knife.
But when I spill the lifeblood of my mother,
Furies will hound me till I take my life.

My husband stole me from my father's kingdom;
Now he's determined to put me aside.
If he should kill our love just to remarry,
I'll slay our children and his pretty bride.

I kill the man who could have been my father.
To cherish honor over blood is wise.
I say, “This is a sacrifice, not murder.”
He says, “You too, my son?” and then he dies.

I sell my soul to Satan to gain knowledge,
But wisdom is as rare as abstinence;
And when my debt comes due, I cry to heaven:
“Will God forgive a devil who repents?”

A ghost tells me to kill my father’s killer.
I kill the father of my love instead.
Fate rules us all; no choice but to accept it.
And once I do, four people end up dead.

I kill the man who treated me like family.
My wife can’t wash his blood from her white hands.
My best friend’s ghost will haunt me till I join him.
Kings follow kings; death is what death demands.

I kill my wife because the whore is guilty.
The proof I have comes from my dearest friend
Who used my trust to fan my jealous passion
Till white was black, love hate, and death the end.

My favorite daughter wrongs me; I disown her.
My other daughters are two vipers fanged.
The gods kill us for sport; I do not know it
Until I learn that my poor fool is hanged.

I sell things for a living, but it’s over --
I was the king once; now I play the pawn.
The son I love despises me for living.
Only my wife will mourn me when I’m gone.

So has it been, so will it be forever:
The gods will say, “Do this or else you’re dead.”
And when you do, instead of Heaven’s blessing,
Those same gods put a price upon your head.

Wise man or fool, old man or little baby;
King, queen, or peasant; husband, child, or wife --
Say yes or no, deny or worship Heaven:
You’re doomed no matter how you live your life.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

100 Proof: 10 things you should never do while drinking 8 pints of Guinness and 3 shots of Jameson in 9 hours

1. Take 608 pictures recording the entire evening from 5PM to 2 AM. After reviewing the first 100, you will start repeating the words "Cripes, I don't remember that at all!" more times than a Tibetan monk chants "Om" in a week.

2. Have your own picture taken after midnight. Your face will either look like a clay statue that has started to melt in the heat, or lumpy oatmeal.

3. Whisper. No matter how softly you speak, people will be able to hear you across the street. Go ahead; look out the window. They're waving at you right now.

4. Make any promise to anyone about anything. Seriously. Don’t even start a sentence with the words “I will.” Because you won’t.

5. Forget to use the amount you drank as a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Remember that the words, “Did I do that? Oh God, I was so hammered!” are a universally recognized excuse for stupid behavior. They are to stupid behavior what White Out is to legal contracts.

6. Assume that the woman you invited will actually show up. Silly rabbit--she got back with her ex-boyfriend on Valentine's Day.

7. Party at a bar where, in the course of buying a round of shots and 15 beers, you get not one single buy-back. I'm looking at you, Broome Street Tavern.

8. Drunk text a friend in another time zone that All Women Suck because of the woman who never showed up. I mean really. File under M for "More imaginative please, Be." And then cross-file under D for "Different from all other nights, Why is this night."

9. Go to bed without drinking at least two glasses of water and taking 4 Advil. You will wake up three hours later at 5:30 and have to take six Advil with three glasses of water just to stop the fucking Seven Dwarfs from pick-axing your brain cells like they’re a diamond mine.

10. Eat lunch the next day. Your body will go into a food coma that will last until sundown, and you won’t be able to get to sleep again till 3 AM.

28 Poems - 17

Since I have spread my wings to sweet delight

(Giordano Bruno burned at the stake, February 17, 1600)

Since I have spread my wings to sweet delight,
The more I feel the warm updraft of faith --
My pinions proudly borne upon the bright
And world-contemning wind that blows to God.

The fall of Icarus is like a sign
And not a roadblock in my rising flight --
Knowing that I shall comet to the earth,
What plummet can compare to such pure heights?

I hear my heart's voice in the diving wind:
"This is no place for men of flesh and blood;
Resign yourself, for daring has its dangers."

But I say, why be timid or beware?
Let me burst boldly through the clouds, and when
My death comes, we will kiss, but not as strangers.

-- adapted from Bruno's Heroic Frenzies, 1585

Copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Monday, February 16, 2009

28 Poems - 16

Poetic Justice

Death is a 9 AM job interview:
We're spruced up like we're dates at a debut --
The most official suit, the favorite dress,
A sober tie, jewelry that says "noblesse" --

And with our frozen perms and slicked-back hair,
We face the awesome desk of Heaven, where,
Life's Maitre D' Himself, sits the Creator,
Sniffing at us as if we stiffed a waiter.

With our curriculum vitae in hand,
God glowers like a farmer tilling land
Whose plow keeps turning over stones at best
(With references supplied upon request);

He shakes His head at all our expertise,
Our goals and our responsibilities,
And says: "That's very nice, but what we need,
So we don't have to bring them up to speed,

"Are people with a good imagination,
Because that's what our business is -- Creation.
And with that end in mind, I have to say,
I see no poems on your résumé --

"I see no books, no stories and no plays;
You wrote no songs, you danced in no ballets;
The only thing you painted was a wall.
I see no art -- or art for art -- at all.

"That's what we're in the market for up here --
Someone who looks at Death as a career.
In Our eyes, making things is paramount.
What did you make? -- and money doesn't count."

And while we shift and swallow our dismay,
Frantic to think of something smart to say,
God, with a look that screams "Feel stupid much?"
Extends a hand and says: "We'll be in touch."

"Yeah; right," we mutter as we head outside
And think of all the ways we could have lied
To pad our résumé -- a class revue,
A symphony, a one-act, some haiku.

And then we think: "Good riddance -- not for me --
That job's a one-way trip to lunacy.
'We make things here?' Creation is a mess --
The lousy pay's not worth the lousy stress.

"God knows I'm better than a job like that!"
We tell ourselves, and like an acrobat
We jump through hoops and juggle every facet
Until we balance-sheet this as an asset,

And file our shame behind a corporate smirk,
And head downstairs, because we need the work.
So what if Heaven thinks we're a disgrace?
They're always hiring at the other place.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, February 15, 2009

28 Poems - 15

The Day After Valentine's Day

Mistress of misdirection, pattering
Passing a hand over my heart
Palming it

Unfold the holding hand
Point to it

Open the pointing hand
Front to back

Bow to the audience

"Silly boy.
It has never left your chest."

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Saturday, February 14, 2009

28 Poems - 14

Valentine's Day

your little hand
a silver ring
my heart

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Friday, February 13, 2009

moon over manhattan

Five reasons why the New York Times will rave about Winter’s Tale

1. Rebecca Hall. She’s pretty, she’s talented, she has a great voice, she’s British theatre royalty, and I cannot stand her. I didn’t like her Rosalinde in As You Like It, and she does the same things in this that bugged me then: treats the verse like, uhm, prose, so that a simple line like “I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until/ You have drawn oaths from him not to stay.” becomes “I had [let me think of what I did now] thought, [what do I call him again?] sir, to have [how to describe it?] held my [sing the vowel, girl] peace until [touch my pregnant belly because I’m talking to the father of my child] you have [pretend there’s a set of parentheses around the next two words] drawn oaths from him [make the next word two syllables long] not to [make the next word two syllables long] stay.” There are people who love this kind of acting. Ben Brantley is one of them. (I can’t wait to see his review of her Hedda Gabler. Which I will only go to see because Hedda kills herself at the end, and I’ll be rooting for that to happen from the opening line.)

2 It’s a very thoughtful production. Critics love it when plays tell us what to think. It brings them back to those college papers they had to write about how the light at the end of the dock symbolizes hope in The Great Gatsby. It says Director’s Message in big bold letters. In this production of Winter’s Tale, the message is “Isn’t Jealousy awful?” Something we can all agree on, right? Yes, but. And the But is, the play is not written to make you stop and think. It starts with blind jealousy that hits the road at 60MPH and accelerates from there. It doesn’t pause at every rest stop to consider what it’s doing, because it’s blind jealousy, not sighted jealousy. And if you don’t floor the gas pedal and never let up until you run out of gas, then the audience will start wondering why you didn’t take that exit marked “Hey stupid -– if your wife supposedly slept with your best friend, when were they ever alone together? And why isn’t your idiot wife asking this question, huh?” So instead of getting caught up in the moment, we are asked to reflect upon the moment, which brings us to the biggest reason why this will get raves:

3. It’s a very British production. Meaning distanced, meaning polite, meaning cool and un-sweaty –- meaning, in a very real sense, that it’s all about the acting. On one level this play is a fairy tale, not a drawing room piece. But drawing room is what Sam Mendes knows and does, and that’s what we get here: private moments of suffering, instead of hyper-realized moments of passion. Moments like Simon Russell Beale’s Leontes walking around barefoot or dressed in rags to SHOW that he’s suffering, to SHOW that he feels like the victim. All his soliloquies done with special lighting, (spotlight on Beale, darkness on the rest of the stage) no matter whether they’re forty lines long or four words long. Which just throws another level of distance at the audience, because it takes you out of the character’s actions and focuses you on the actor. But that’s what the Brits do. It’s not about disappearing into the part, it’s about playing the part, it’s about saying “Simon Russell Beale’s Leontes” instead of “Leontes,” it’s about seeing how the engine works instead of feeling how the car rides, it’s about appreciating what the actor does instead of getting caught up in what the character is doing -- which is why Meryl Streep is the most British actress we have in this country.

4. Ethan Hawke as Autolycus steals the show. He doesn’t, really –- he comes very close -- but you’ll still hear the phrase “steals the show” because (a) he plays a thief; (b) his performance jump starts the second act; and (c) he’s getting laughs, which (because everything is so fucking polite) are few and far between here. He doesn’t get as many laughs as he could, which may change by the end of the run –- there are bits of business that could have been done better, and probably will be in time –- but he’s like a breath of fresh air after all the “look at me acting” in the first half of the play. Plus he plays the part like a cross between Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, which is just as delightful as it sounds.

5. "It is required you do awake your faith." The last scene of this play is total fantasy, it comes out of nowhere, it makes no logical sense at all, and no matter who’s doing it or how poorly it’s done, I always bawl like a baby whenever I see it, just the way I always laugh like a hyena whenever I see the Pyramus and Thisbe part of Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is where the play gets quiet for real, which in a production filled with quiet moments is like hearing a twentieth whisper in a row instead of a single whisper after nineteen shouts. No matter; it still works, which makes me forgive a lot. Especially the last moment, which highlights the fact that Leontes and Hermione never exchange a single word (she has only one speech, and that for her long-lost daughter), and if that final stage picture makes me think of the fabulous ending of Trevor Nunn’s fabulous All’s Well, then that, too, pardons much. Which, in a play about forgiveness, is as it should be.

28 Poems - 13

The Winter's Tale

Mankind in its infancy
Felt the gods in every breeze --
Powers they could never see ,
Beings they would never please,

Shining like a searing light
As they chant their dreaded song:
Every well-intentioned right
Fathers an offending wrong.

Like a pebble, each offense
Rolls until, when all is done,
Unintended consequence
Avalanches everyone.

Yet within this world of dread,
Faith can change a stubborn fact.
Stages littered with the dead
Might some curious god attract

And from loss She could a life
Kiss with her believing breath --
Husband hand in hand with wife,
Veiled and rescued up from death.

Now the years do what the gods
Used to do in Ancient Greece --
Stepping in against the odds
To midwife a mortal peace.

Time will act it all alone,
Making jealousy the law
Till a soul becomes a stone
Like a jewel becomes its flaw.

Time will see a rival's face
In the profile of his son,
And will trumpet this disgrace
Till his faith has been undone.

Time the Victim stands in court,
Innocent and statuesque,
Watching Time the Judge purport
Fairness from a slanted desk.

Loyal Time put to the test
Will be trusted with a child
And a duty to detest:
Leave her naked in the wild.

But because of this command,
Born of jealousy and rage,
Time the God will raise his hand --
Time the Bear will clear the stage --

Time the Wheel will start to roll
Over king and clown and thief,
Raising every hardened soul
To an Everest of belief --

Changing Prosperos for Lears,
Reuniting the alone
While the hands of sixteen years
Sculpt a life from faith and stone.

When the winter's biting shawl
Melts into the risky spring,
Who shall be forgiven? All.
What can happen? Anything.

Ships embarking from a shore
Never found on any map;
Statues stepping to the floor
Like a living thunderclap.

Common children will be crowned.
Love will swim in sorrow's lake.
What was lost will yet be found.
Look. We do but sleep. Awake.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, February 12, 2009

28 Poems - 12

Tina at the Lincoln Memorial

It took your eyes to see the marble columns
For what they are -- Egyptian; monolithic;
The stone dead guards of our own brooding Pharaoh
Who, blistered by the plague of civil war,
Unslaved a captive nation with his words --
Our Abraham, sitting in chiselled grandeur,
Lost in thought like a distracted god
While tiny struggling creatures at his feet
Look up in wonder, from the mortal union
That is his temple and our dwelling place.

copyright 2009 by Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

100 Proof: God In The Mix

After reading yet another AA meeting testimonial at the Times Proof blog, I decided to get the opinion of Brandi and Guinness, a couple of my barfly friends, on the whole alcohol and religion thing. (Guinness -- real name Glinda, and if you call her that she’ll hit you -- has to make a dinner reservation for three whenever she goes out with someone -- one for her, one for her dinner date, and one for the chip on her shoulder. Brandi –- real name Anne Brandui -- makes Pollyanna look like a manic depressive suicide case, and has been cited in the Journal of American Medicine as the major cause of diabetic shock in the tri-state area.) So a couple of nights ago I met them at the upstairs bar of The Naughty Pine, handed them a printout of the column, and let them go at it.

Guinness: This is crap.

Brandi: Be nice.

Guinness: I am being nice; if I wasn’t being nice, I would say it was fucking crap. Alcoholics finding God is just one addiction replacing another. It’s not a cure; it’s a redirection. They used to drink whiskey; now they drink scripture. It used to be Jack; now it’s Jesus. Alcoholics becoming Religioholics.

Brandi: But if it helps them, how can it be crap?

Guinness: Because it’s trading across. Trading across is not a cure. It’s a substitute.

Brandi: And what they’re substituting is something good for something evil. And the stronger the evil is, the deeper they need to go into the good for strength.

Guinness: Like a higher power.

Brandi: If that’s what you want to call it.

Guinness: Because they have a disease.

Brandi: Exactly.

Guinness: So if this is a personal disease, then why are they always trying to cure the rest of the world of it? Do I have the disease? No. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to shove the cure down my throat.

Brandi: They’re not really trying to do that.

Guinness: They say “It’s me, it’s a disease in me.” And when you walk up to them and say “Well, I drink and I’m fine, so it’s not me,” they go crazy and say “No, no, no –- you’re lying to yourself -– it’s you too. It’s everyone.” Which is the worst kind of religious bigotry -- you’re only telling the truth when you say what they want to hear.

Brandi: It’s not truth; it’s a belief.

Guinness: Exactly! And you don’t tell other people what to believe.

Brandi: But if it’s potentially damaging, and it’s damaged you, and you’ve found a way to undo the damage, don’t you have an obligation to say “Look what happened to me; and here’s what I did to make it better?”

Guinness: Of course! But what you don’t have the right to say is, “If this never happened to you and you don’t do this , then you’re a self-deluded lush.”

Brandi: Which is just an opinion.

Guinness: Exactly.

Brandi: The opinion of people you have no intention of listening to.

Guinness: Exactly!

Brandi: So why are you so angry? Why do you care about the opinion of people you don’t care about?

Guinness: Because charlatans shouldn’t be treated like experts!

Brandi: How are they charlatans? If it works for them, where’s the deception?

Guinness: The deception is in their religious zeal to convert the entire world to their beliefs. It’s like Freud saying “I just got a hard-on thinking about killing my father and sleeping with my mother; therefore every man in the world must want to be Oedipus.”

Brandi: And do you believe in Freud?

Guinness: Hell no.

Brandi: Then don’t believe in the religious sobers.

Guinness: It won’t stop them from preaching at me.

Brandi: Then preach the joys of drinking right back at them. Another round?

Guinness: I can’t.

Brandi: Oh come on.

Guinness: No, really.

Brandi: How about we split one?

Guinness: You are so bad.

28 Poems - 11

"Reader, I married him; or Jane Erred."

If people were always kind and obedient to those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all their own way. -- Charlotte Bronte, JANE EYRE

It isn't enough for a girl to be proper before she's a wife --
She must make sure that no one discovers the madwoman in her attic,
And bun her hair tightly and scrape all the color from her skin
And see past her nose, and forgive what has and might have been.
So why then does it take a blind man whose first wife was madder than a haddock
To make this capable Jane feel like she finally has a true purpose in life?

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

28 Poems - 10

A Physicist Goes Home On The Subway

He knows that when he holds onto a pole
Nothing holds on to nothing -- when he slides
Into a seat, nothing will sit on nothing --
Despite the messages his mind receives,
All of the people in this train are barnacles,
Clinging to the shark of time and space
(Which must keep moving, otherwise it dies) --
All of them touching something and untouched,
Connected and a universe apart.

Those two sitting across from him, for instance:
Young girls, dark-skinned, one with her hair pulled back,
Right leg crossed over left, furry white boots
With pompoms, black leggings with lace bottoms,
Red cotton shirt, white ski-bunny jacket
With a fur collar, zebra-striped earrings
Big as his hand -- she’s looking straight ahead
And trying not to let on that she sees
A guy with a cane singing “That’s Amore!”
And begging for spare change. As he walks down
The subway car’s length, her companion shakes
Her head and all her perfect blonde-streaked hair
Flows back and forth like sheets hung on a line.
She’s wearing white socks under sexy black
Ankle-strap pumps, white slacks with thin black stripes,
Red scarf, white polyester blouse beneath
A black low-neck sweater and a dark blue
Wide-collared pea coat, big fat gold hoop earrings,
A stud piercing her upper left ear and
No nail polish -- unlike her ski-coat friend,
Whose fingernails are long and chocolate brown.
And both of them, with all their clothes and all
Their thoughts and pasts, their futures and desires,
Nothing but fields, nothing but fields made flesh.

Made how, he wonders, and he flashes on
A seven-story building. In the basement
There’s nothing -- no construction, no foundation --
Just a big hole; but look down from the roof
And there’s a whole apartment complex there.
Somewhere between the basement and the ground
Everything that’s not there becomes what is.
And every single human being on earth
Is built that way, like flesh and bone and blood’s
The ice that forms from subatomic gases.

And thoughts and feelings? Where do they come from?
How does ice get to think and feel? It’s like,
He thinks, there is a world above the world of us
That’s just as insubstantial as the one
Below -- a world where honor, love, good, evil,
Desire and guilt create us just as much
As quarks do --

He feels something click in place
And human life’s revealed as an equation:

our bodies are the tunnels
between the formless things that make us and
the formless things that drive us

And then the moment vanishes like hailstones.

I really have to write that down, he thinks.
But then the two girls glance at him and giggle,
And he smiles back, and feels a flush like ice
Melting, and thinks: wait -- there was something -- something --
But no. It’s gone as if it never was,
Gone back to the high nothing where it came from
While he remains improbably alive,
Thinking of what it would feel like to feel
One of those girls kiss him, as if there was
A promise in their giggles -- thinking and riding
The flat wave of a subway train to where
The flat wave of his flat lies coyly waiting --
A teasing promise that will be revealed
To no one else until he walks inside
And high and low give birth to where he lives.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Monday, February 9, 2009

28 Poems - 9

Last Night I Dreamed Of Viking Maude Again

Last night I dreamed of Viking Maude again.
I sailed between her legs as music played.
She spared me nothing, whipped me with her braid,
And every split she did was seven-ten.

Last night I dreamed that Bunny gave me head.
Her eyeliner was axle grease and soot.
I sucked her toe (it wasn’t on her foot)
While she took seven quarterbacks to bed.

Last night I dreamed The Jesus took me clubbing.
We danced with party girls till just past dawn.
He got the ugly duckling, me the swan,
And then we bowled and he gave me a drubbing.

Last night I dreamed that Walter punched my face
Because I asked him if he liked Debussy.
He spit and said I was a fucking pussy
And then he hit me with a fucking mace.

Tonight I think I’ll dream of all of them.
I’ll text STFU to poor doomed Donny,
Tell Brandt that he’s a walking port-o-johnny,
Throw all The Nihilists an M&M,

And drink pint-glass White Russians with The Dude
Who’ll ask me “Why?” each time I say “Because,”
And I’ll perceive twelve universal laws
While basking in the glory of his ‘tude.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, February 8, 2009

28 Poems - 8


Regret is a country where brooding is
a self-creation, like a speckled egg
that cracks to spit a crow into a world
of starlings -- a crowded country where men,
bedeviled and be-godded by a pure
and perfect past, preach castles while they sit
on broken ruins, and their sermon is
If Only. They recall the one wrong step
and not the dance; their mind walks down the road
that never felt their feet; and their lips smile,
tasting the kiss they never dared to steal
as they drink from the wide bottomless wells
of words unspoken. Life here is not lived
except at one remove -- hands touch behind
tight gloves, eyes loom through tinted glass, and words
are heard and spoken through the microphone
of might-have-been. No matter where you look,
you see success and fame cling to the arms
of younger versions of yourself -- you hear
a lucky name called out that is not yours,
or see how talent's trumped by who you know,
until your senses, avalanched by all
that is not in your life, are buried under
the rubble of your aspirations; and
dispirited and dull, your edge worn down
by shaving the thin difference between
hope and reality, you sink into
renouncement and aimless abandonment,
watching the waste of time in every clock,
feeling the waste of breath in both your lungs,
and seeing only waste of energy
in action.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Saturday, February 7, 2009

28 Poems - 7

When we are young

When we are young, we try to hear tomorrow,
like drooling dogs who catch a far-off pitch
and chase it down, through briars, maze and ditch

down to the gameless grounds of cold regret
where old men brood in self-creating sorrow,
stroking their lost potential like a pet,

their doggéd lives made paltry and defrauded
of promise by the promise of repletion
which they pursued, bedevilled and be-godded

by deeds and signs, to dubious completion,
inheriting not power, peace and quiet
but just the ruins of their parents' riot.

When we are young, we hear the words of life,
their meaning meant for us and us alone
like sleeping beauties meant to be a wife --

like street signs in the Land of Do-As-You-Please
where every road ends with a thrill or a throne
and not the taunting of a final tease

or the dark nightmare of the one-and-only
that leads down to the hell of might-have-been
where we will wake, more castaway than lonely,

needing to find a devil for our sin,
looking for something that can take the blame
for why we never lived up to our name.

When we are young, we translate all we hear --
the names of streets, the words behind deep glances --
into a language free of loss and fear

and full of something more like verbal chances
than definitions, flexible to nudge,
and not a sentence spoken by a judge --

something to cherish, like a hunting dog
who tracks our kill and never runs away
until one day it leaves us in a fog,

repeating the heart of a rote speech or a song
till the words escape us, and we end the hard day
sitting and drinking, wondering what went wrong.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Friday, February 6, 2009

what statues look like when the snow falls ju-u-u-u-u-ust right

28 Poems - 6

Aaron Burr
(February 6, 1756 -- September 14, 1836)

When asked once, "If you were accused of murder,
would you deny it?" he said simply, "Why?
What good would it do me? Most people may
not have a hundred thousand dollars, but
they have their own opinions. And a man's
opinion is his pride, his wealth, himself.
As far as I'm concerned, people are free
to indulge themselves in any thought they choose.
And if some lady says, `Why, Colonel Burr,
I wonder if you ever really were
the gay Lothario they say you were?'
I will just shake my head and say, `They say.
They say. Mademoiselle, how long will you
continue to employ those dreadful words?
Those two brief syllables have done more harm
Than all the other words in history.'
It is a pity Massah Tom in his
great Declaration, did not guarantee
that men would be self-evidently free
from gossip, common talk, and calumny.
But then, I hear he was preoccupied
by someone who could never be his bride,
or so," with a delicious smile, "they say."

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, February 5, 2009

28 Poems - 5

And Don't Even Get Me Started On Maya Angelou

Seamus Heaney bores me to tears.
Reading Bukowski’s like drinking cheap beers.
Adrienne Rich? A shrill ranting mess.
Jorie Graham? Joyce in a dress.

Ashbery don’t make a salt-lick of sense.
Merrill’s too cutesy, Bly is past tense.
Ginsberg, like Whitman, don’t know when to stop.
Plath is a whiner and Updike is slop.

Jarman is jarring and Strand gets me lost.
Auden is precious and Thomas too sauced.
Bishop is blather and Lowell pure rot.
Frost is too frigid and Sexton's a twat.

Hall’s in the closet and Justice is blind.
Eliot’s pompous, Pound out of his mind.
Brodsky and Stevens? The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Ted Hughes? An asshole. Better write prose.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

28 Poems - 4


Innocence is a fresh-faced girl in white.
Her eyes cut through defenses like a sword,
disarming men with guns, turning petty
tyrants from their pretensions to an inkling
of the profound. The smile of Innocence
pierces the coldest heart with melting flame
and like true north, to which all magnets turn,
her joy gives stillness and direction to
the lost. Her clear voice echoes in your bones,
and even when she whispers, the loud world
will catch its breath and then inhale again,
making her words their air, like thirsty roses
drinking up misty rain. And when she acts,
her every deed and motion shouts belief,
for what's belief but trusting what you know
and saying what you feel? And when you do,
when you believe, the world gives in to you.

Once we knew this without knowing we knew,
and acted without acting. Now we search
in our forgotten way for Innocence,
a happy, fresh-faced girl dressed all in white.
But she has vanished. It is her sad fate,
despite her honest inner strength, to fall
deeply and hopelessly in love with Guilt,
and willingly be locked up in his house
where she will slowly lose herself in him
and bear him many healthy sons and daughters,
who will not fail to take after their father.

copyright 20099 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Watching the rest of the world catch up to Watchmen

Reading all the current mainstream reports of Zach Snyder's Watchmen is like being at a party that's suddenly getting flooded with mundanes who think they're hip. Take, for instance, this sentence in an article from Sunday's New York Times:

Even as “Watchmen” adheres to superhero formulas, it is dismantling many traditions of the medium.

Reading that makes me feel like a Shakespeare scholar auditing a high-school English class. "Remember," says the teacher, "even as Hamlet adheres to revenge tragedy, it is dismantling many traditions of the convention." Hello? 300 years of theatre criticism? And okay, that may not be as weighty as two decades of Comics Journal reviews, but anybody in the field, from creator to audience, has known this about Watchmen since, well, since the damn thing came out, really. How often do you know you're reading a classic as it's being created? (Short answer: Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Sandman, Preacher. All four written by Brits, and two out of four: Alan Moore.)

Here's another Shakespeare analogy. Peter Brook makes the point that, if Shakespeare had never been born, critics would be saying today that it would be impossible to do what he did and mix high poetry with natural speech or dark tragedy with low comedy in a single play. (Makes you wonder what else critics are saying is impossible. Handy definition of impossible: anything beyond a critic's writing capability.) It's the same with Alan Moore's Watchmen. If Alan Moore had never been born, people would be saying to this day that what Moore and Gibbons did in those original 12 issues would be impossible. Which makes it even more (ironic? tragic? sad?) that Moore wants nothing to do with the movie.

It's also a prerequisite of articles like this that Watchmen has to be divorced from all that childish funnybook crap with jabs like "weighty, grown-up ideas" (because regular comic books are basically weightless and adolescent) and "an exemplary work of postmodern storytelling" (a phrase that can be applied to everything from the second part of Don Quixote to that Cash4Gold commercial during the Super Bowl). Which is fine. If that's the password you think you need to give at the door to get into this party, go ahead, we won't stop you. But if you want us to share the room with you, then we're going to start handing you stuff like this:

28 Poems - 3

Park Bar Tango

Is it the dancer or the dance?
Is it the pressure of romance
When cheek to cheek and heart to heart,
Instead of hugging, pull apart?

Is it the need that can’t be borne --
The memory of what was torn --
That makes the dancer twirl and steer
Away from love and into fear?

“You like my drink?” she asks, and he
Replies, “It tastes like salt to me.”
So sugar on the coated rim
Dissolves before it gets to him.

The clock is striking one AM.
She plucks the cherry from the stem.
His eyes are angry, blue and dark.
She disappears into the park.

And both alone they make their way
From night to dawn, from dark to day --
Two halves of something like a dance
Undone and blown apart by chance.

Like leaves in a September wind,
Their flicking movements will be twinned
Till back and forth, their souls are blown
Into a dance that is their own.

And darting up and swooping low,
The nearness teasing as they go,
They leave behind their lost ballet
And join the mortal roundelay

Where nothing’s right if not the touch
Of something stronger than a crutch --
A kiss that’s more than lips and tongue;
A song more than the tune that’s sung;

A joining, something like a dance
That moves in purpose, not a trance,
And will not rest after it’s done
Till he and she and it are one.

And here I sit, wet at the knees
An acorn in a world of trees,
A fifth wheel on a street of cars,
A temperance man who writes in bars,

Thinking of how things fall apart
The minute someone shows his heart --
As if our reflexes are tuned
Not to embrace, but make a wound.

Why does there have to be so much
Hard work each time we try to touch?
Is it our fault, or can it be
The nature of reality?

A break that’s tied to mind and flesh:
We touch, and yet the mortal mesh
We live in, thwarts our urge to seize --
Between our atoms, lies the breeze.

No matter how we try or strive
To touch each other while alive,
The gap between our atoms means
We only touch the inbetweens,

For all that’s solid will not give.
This is the law with which we live:
Each time we kiss, all that can be
Between us is the boundary.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Monday, February 2, 2009

28 Poems - 2

Groundhog Day

The one I want to talk to?

The one I'm scared to talk to?
Behind me.

And the one I am talking to?
Right here
Doing all the talking.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, February 1, 2009

28 Poems - 1

Orson Welles

When exactly does "anything can happen"
Turn into "It couldn't have happened any other way?"
No matter how long you think about it or how often,
It always comes back to something you did today
Back when today had tomorrows instead of touchés.

copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells