Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For M

There’s a hole in the floor I can’t not see;
   I have to inch around it when I walk.
There’s a voice that will never answer me;
   I feel its silence every time I talk.
Sometimes I just pretend the hole’s a lie.
   Sometimes I stand beside the edge and stare
Down at the emptiness, and think: “If I
   Could see the bottom, would I see you there?”
But what I keep forgetting is, this hole
   Is not the awful trap-door you fell through--
It’s you.  It’s what you are now.  And my soul
   Knows that there’s only one thing I can do:
      Pick the deep hole of you up off the floor
      And hold you till you’re part of me once more.

Copyright 2012 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Meanwhile, at the paper of record . . . .


No member of society has the right to teach any doctrine contrary to what society holds to be true.

-- Samuel Johnson

SCENE: The offices of a great metropolitan newspaper.

A MANAGING EDITOR, a CITY EDITOR, and a young REPORTER are discussing the top story of the day.

MANAGING EDITOR:  Okay, whadda we got?

REPORTER:  Some guy shot another guy near the Empire State Building, and then two cops shot the killer and some bystanders.

CITY EDITOR:  How many bystanders?


MANAGING EDITOR:  Whoa whoa whoa!  The cops do not shot bystanders.  Ever.

REPORTER:  Well it’s pretty clear that they did.

MANAGING EDITOR:  Well it’s pretty clear that we can’t say that.

REPORTER:  But it’s a verifiable fact.

MANAGING EDITOR:  You don’t understand.  When I say, “We cannot say that,” I mean we cannot say that.  When I say “The cops do not shoot bystanders,” I am not talking about a verifiable fact, I am talking about a sentence in the newspaper.  Subject verb object.  If “shoots” is the verb and “bystanders” is the object, then there is no way that the word “cops” can ever be the subject.  It’s journalistically incorrect.

REPORTER:  But it’s the truth!

MANAGING EDITOR:  Isn’t that what I just said?

CITY EDITOR:  Look--even if it is true--and that’s a big if--then we have to tell that truth in a way that not only reflects the facts, but grammatically reinforces the cultural values behind the facts.

REPORTER:  You mean like, the police are here to protect us, and therefore they can do no wrong?


CITY EDITOR:  Except that we can’t say that out loud.

MANAGING EDITOR:  We have to imply it.

CITY EDITOR:  Unless--wait--can’t we fall back on the Reagan Rule?

MANAGING EDITOR:  No--we don’t have a press release yet, so we can’t reprint it as if it’s an actual piece of reporting.

CITY EDITOR:  Crap.  So we have to use cop-speak.

MANAGING EDITOR:  I’m afraid so.

REPORTER:  Cop-speak?

CITY EDITOR:  The passive tense.  The cops don’t hurt people; people get hurt.  The cops don’t shoot bystanders; bystanders are caught in the line of fire.

REPORTER:  But that makes it the bystander’s fault.


CITY EDITOR:  Because it can’t be the cops’ fault.


CITY EDITOR:  That kind of shit only happens in Russia.




CITY EDITOR:  Not ever.

MANAGING EDITOR:  Cops never, ever shoot, or kill.  They open fire.  Unless they’re provoked, in which case they return fire, or they answer fire.

REPORTER:  Making it the shooter’s fault.

CITY EDITOR:  Correct.  And even when they kill the shooter--what’s this guy’s name?

REPORTER:  Johnson.

CITY EDITOR:  Johnson--even when they kill Johnson, we either say “Johnson was killed” or “police shoot suspect.” 

REPORTER:  Why can’t we say “Police shoot Johnson?”

MANAGING EDITOR:  Because that personalizes the act of shooting.  We need to make it as nebulous as possible so that people don’t get a picture in their head of some overweight guy in blue sticking a gun in somebody’s face and pulling the trigger.

CITY EDITOR:  So what we have to do here grammatically is, we have to make this shooting look like a one-time only event that was caused by the victims, so that future innocent bystanders are reassured that it can never happen again.

REPORTER:  And meanwhile, what, the police who fired the bullets aren’t even part of the process?

CITY EDITOR:  [a shrug]  Welcome to New York.

REPORTER:  More like “Welcome to Bloomberg’s police state.”

CITY EDITOR:  Isn’t that what I just said?

MANAGING EDITOR:  Work with us here, okay?

REPORTER:  Okay.  Okay.  Okay; so . . . how about something like, uh, “Police shoot suspect, nine others wounded?”

MANAGING EDITOR:  No no no--not wounded--hurt.  Nine others hurt.  “Wounded” implies that somebody did the wounding.  “Hurt” implies that it was an accident--they could have fallen down, they could have twisted their ankle.

CITY EDITOR:  Even better--how’s this?--even better, let’s spend the first paragraph painting a scene of chaos. 


CITY EDITOR:  Chaos means it’s nobody’s fault.  Chaos means, for all we know, the bystanders who were wounded--


CITY EDITOR:  --hurt ran right into the path of bullets which were aimed at the suspect.

REPORTER:  So “Police Shoot Suspect, Nine Others Hurt in Chaos.”

CITY EDITOR:  Perfect.  And then at some point in the first three paragraphs you can say that people were wounded, but make sure there’s some doubt about who they were wounded by.

MANAGING EDITOR:  No--don’t mention people at all--mention the bullets.  And then admit the possibility that some of those bullets were fired by the police.

CITY EDITOR:  No--not fired by the police--don’t mention the police as people, mention them as adjectives.  Mention the bystanders as people--so it’s like, ah, “they were wounded, possibly by police bullets,” something like that.

MANAGING EDITOR:  And we have to say how fast it was happening too.  Something like “the nanosecond speed at which a shootout plays out.”


MANAGING EDITOR:  Is that not clear?

REPORTER:  No human being can act in nanoseconds.

MANAGING EDITOR:  Of course not, but the point is not to be realistic, the point is that it happens so fast you can’t do anything about it.  That’s all we’re saying--that in cases like this, the police are confronted by a series of split-second choices.

REPORTER:  [sarcastically] Split-nanosecond choices?

MANAGING EDITOR:  Don’t be ridiculous.

CITY EDITOR:  What else can’t we say?

MANAGING EDITOR:  I’m a little concerned about the phrase “bystander shooting.”  Can we even put the words “bystander” and “shooting” next to each other?

CITY EDITOR:  We shouldn’t even use the word shooting at all.

MANAGING EDITOR:  Exactly.  Call it an incident.  Call it an encounter, or an event--but do NOT call it a shooting.

REPORTER:  [increasingly more frustrated] So, what, “bystanders were injured?”

CITY EDITOR:  No, injured is too active, it implies that somebody injured them--

MANAGING EDITOR:  Meaning the cops--

CITY EDITOR:  --and we can’t even imply that, never mind actually say it in print.

REPORTER:  “After bystanders were embroiled in a shooting incident?”

MANAGING EDITOR:  Too complicated, even for us.

CITY EDITOR:  And it still mentions shooting.

REPORTER:  How about “bystanders hit by bullets?”

CITY EDITOR:  Whose bullets?

REPORTER:  The cops’ bullets.

CITY EDITOR:  Then we can’t say it.

REPORTER:  “Bystanders hit by bullets that magically appeared out of nowhere?”

MANAGING EDITOR:  Can we take this seriously please?

REPORTER:  I am taking this seriously.

CITY EDITOR:  How about “Bystanders take fire?”

MANAGING EDITOR:  No, that could mean they all pulled out guns and opened up at each other.

CITY EDITOR:  How about “bystanders take bullets?”

MANAGING EDITOR:  Yes!  Perfect! 

REPORTER:  “Perfect?”  How is it perfect?

MANAGING EDITOR:  Because it makes it all their fault!

CITY EDITOR:  It’s like they chose to get shot!

REPORTER:  [blowing up] And that’s ridiculous!  We’re giving our readers the impression that a bunch of innocent people deliberately jumped in front of a fusillade of bullets that nobody actually fired because we’re afraid to say three simple words, one right after the other: “police” “shoot” “bystanders.”  Do you know what that is?

CITY EDITOR:  It’s American journalism.

REPORTER:  It’s self-censorship!

MANAGING EDITOR:  Isn’t that what he just said?


Monday, August 27, 2012

Just Because

We all want to believe there’s more to this
   Than just the floating here and fleeting now.
We want a vow each time we feel Life’s kiss.
   We want Why and Because to balance How.
We want there to be something so much more
   Than the mundane, that tells us firmly, “Yes,
You are eternal, and this life’s a poor
   Excuse for a more permanent address.”
But Here’s the only place I get to live
   And Now’s the only time I get to try
To love and feel and laugh and ache and give
   And make my life an answer to Life’s Why
      That will be wise enough to give Death pause,
      And answer all whys with my life’s Because.

Copyright 2012 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Past, present and future examples of Republican usage of the adjective “legitimate”

LEGITIMATE AMERICAN:  A white man with money.

LEGITIMATE ELECTION:  Any election in which the Democratic candidate is defeated.

LEGITIMATE WAR:  Any war based on the existence of undiscovered weapons of mass destruction.

LEGITIMATE MARRIAGE:  Any heterosexual union between one female and one male, with one mistress on the side.

LEGITIMATE INFIDELITY:  Any adulterous relationship which results in a second or third marriage.

LEGITIMATE RACISM:  Anything involving Arabs.

LEGITIMATE SCIENCE:  Only those things which can be supported by quoting the Bible.

LEGITIMATE FACTS:   Whatever I’m saying now--not what I just said--okay?


LEGITIMATE EXCUSE:  “The elite Liberal media have it in for me.”


LEGITIMATE MURDER:  Any gun-related homicide which causes a gun control backlash.

LEGITIMATE FEMINIST:  A trophy wife with at least two children and one nanny.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dreaming of Eleanor Parker

For some unknown reason (outside of the obvious one that my subconscious is like a Dada toy chest), I have had two (not one but two) dreams about Eleanor Parker in the last three weeks. 

You will probably know her best as The Baroness from The Sound of Music, but she also played Kirk Douglas’ wife in The Detective and the redheaded actress/courtesan bad girl Lenore in Scaramouche.  (Guess which one I prefer.)

7/20-7/21.  In this dream, she’s herself, Eleanor Parker, and a friend of my bartender friend Joan (ingénue, Audrey Hepburn thin, brown hair streaked with blonde highlights, no relation to anybody I know in real life).  “Call me Parker,” she says when we’re introduced, and explains that she’s given up acting to paint, and she’s in town to see her friend’s art opening.  She pronounces the word  “friend” that Capital F way women use to denote somebody with whom they have more than just a platonic friend relationship.  Oh well, I think to myself, there’s that door closed.  Which is too bad, because we talk all night at Joan’s bar, and take a cab back to Parker’s hotel room, where I take the couch and she sleeps in the corridor between the living room and the bedroom with her body wrapped in a plush dark rug.  “When is the opening?” I ask in the dark.  “Three,” she says. “Why don’t we sleep in then?” I offer, but she’s already out like a light.

I wake up around noon.  Do I go into the corridor and wake Parker up?  While I’m thinking about it, I hear keys in the door and a guy in a suit walks in.  He goes right over to where Parker is sleeping and wakes her up.  They hug, and start talking in low voices.  I get up and close the door between the living room and the corridor, then yell out that I’m taking a shower.  “Okay, dear,” Parker calls back.  Dear, I think; yeah, right.

When we’re all dolled up, Parker introduces her friend as Bill, and the three of us go to an art gallery on West Broadway where Bill is exhibiting portraits that mix Andrew Wyeth photo-realism with acid-etched abstract art.  It’s called The Daaé Series, after Christine Daaé in Phantom of The Opera--every painting has at least one female face that has acid etching scarring her features.  “If this was a mystery novel,” I say to Bill, “you’d be the prime suspect in a series of acid attacks on beautiful streetwalkers.”  “There are no beautiful streetwalkers,” says Bill.  “Are you speaking from instinct or experience?” Parker asks.  Before Bill can answer, she pirouettes in her silver gown and heads off to get more champagne.  I join her at the bar.  “I wouldn’t mind the fact that he’s annoying,” she says, “but he’s annoying and he’s family.”  I do a little double-take, mouthing the word “Oh,”  and Parker explains that she and Bill are distant cousins whose families lived near each other outside Washington DC when they were teenagers.  “If this was ancient Egypt, we’d have three kids by now,” she says,  and I get this vivid flash of her playing the Joan Collins part in Land Of The Pharaohs.  Which immediately makes me realize that this is a dream, and the next thing I know I’m lying in bed in Ocean Bluff blinking against the morning sun.

8/12-13.  Last night’s dream was a Western, but no relation to the Western Parker was in (Escape from Fort Bravo, 1953, John Sturges--hah!--it’s one year younger than I am!).  She and I are hiding from the outlaw who’s trying to kill her because she can identify him as the man who killed her smarmy husband (some bit player with a moustache).  We’ve been ducking in and out of buildings in town to get away from him, and we’re in the General Store now.  Parker--Mrs. Smarmy Husband--is hiding behind the counter.  I’m standing to one side of the back door, my back to a wall that has hanging from it a lot of stagecoach reins, harnesses, and horse tack.   The outlaw is outside, I can hear his spurs as he walks.  What can I do?  I look over at Jake, the General Store’s delivery boy.  He looks like Clint Walker’s twin brother: big, thick, and dumber than a sack of snaffle bits.  If the outlaw sees Jake at the door instead of me, he’ll hesitate long enough for me to get a shot off.  I wave my gun at Jake and get him to stand in front of the door. 

“Get down,” I yell to Parker.  Because she’s the female lead, she ducks behind the bar for a full second, then slowly raises her head to get a good look at what’s going on.  The door bangs back against the wall as the outlaw kicks it open and aims at Jake.  But because it isn’t me or Parker, and because it's a 50's Western, he holds his fire, which gives me a chance to shoot his gun hand.  The gun spins away, Jake dives for cover, and the outlaw raises his other hand, which also has a gun in it, and starts firing in my direction.  I duck behind a barrel of nails.  Bullets thump through the wood of the barrel and then jangle metallically inside as they ricochet off the barrel’s contents.  I’m worried about Parker because the counter is right in the line of the outlaw’s fire if I stay behind the barrel.  I have to move.  Do I do the smart thing and try to flank him or do I do the dumb thing and try to surprise him with a head-on attack?  Because I am the male lead, I do the dumb thing and kick over the barrel of nails, fire three quick shots, and leap towards the outlaw in slow motion.  I can hear Parker yelling my name as time slows down and the sound of her shouting becomes a rushing noise in my ears, and I wake up in bed literally three deep breaths before my alarm goes off. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Is This The Face

The moment I was born, Death took my hand
   And said, “One day, I’ll kiss you, little boy.”
Since then, she’s hovered close to where I stand,
   Eyeing me like a baby eyes a toy.
She flirts with me with each new risk I take.
   She tries to catch me every time I fall.
I slip her clutches every dawn I wake;
   And when I drink, I hear her thirsty call.
Hers is the lechery that will effect
   The consummation of my virgin years--
Each pass she makes at me I will reject
   Until the one I don’t--and with hot tears
      She folds me in the arms of the abyss
      And sweetly makes me mortal with her kiss.

Copyright 2012 Matthew J Wells

Friday, August 3, 2012

Topic A

You’ve no idea, my love, how much I love you.
   It makes me want to tell you things like this:
“There is no other soul on earth above you,”
   Or, “Heaven’s here on earth each time we kiss.”
The kind of praise a mortal woman will
   Find it hard to live up to, never mind
Believe, for love’s superlatives must kill
   The mundane, and to flaws be ever blind.
And what sane woman wants a man whose eyes
   See the unreal each time they look at her?
Oh, she may swallow one or two sweet lies,
   But when she dines, truth is what she’d prefer.
      That’s why, my love, you’ll always hear me say
      That I adore you for the everyday.

Love is like pain--you must lean into it
   Until the ache becomes a part of you
And warms you from the inside, like a spit
   That roasts your bubbling heart till it cooks through.
Love is the hurt you never want to heal--
   It cuts away the tendons of the life
You walked alone, till each stride makes you feel
   The sweetly moaning torture of the knife.
Love is the gravity of soul to soul--
   It weighs us down to make us light and daring--
It carves us into pieces till we’re whole
   And shattered by the holy ache of caring.
      The healing pain of scalpel slicing true:
      That’s what I feel when I lean into you.

We touch, but skin to skin, not soul to soul--
   Scratching each other to relieve the itch
Of Love’s mosquito bite--digging a hole
   Into a wound that Time will try to stitch
And heal, so we can keep it fresh and raw--
   Searching for what is hidden in the bone,
Love’s marrow; and so, hungrily, we gnaw
   Away at flesh so we won’t feel alone.
But flesh is not the answer: it will feed
   Never the hunger, just the appetite.
To crave and gorge will always leave the need
   Starving for more than something sweet to bite
      Until we make meals of what makes us whole
      And love, not skin to skin, but soul to soul.

Copyright 2012 Matthew J Wells