Monday, September 29, 2014


for Hilary Bettis

I look around sometimes and only see
   The mountain range of what I haven’t done—
Discovered, named, and unexplored by me—
   Begun: each one of them; completed: none.
And then I look and see the future dwindling
   Down to what I must do during what’s left:
Choose what to write and what to use for kindling;
   And then be focused, disciplined, and deft.
Panic’s the enemy—it always scatters
   My energy to every tempting notion.
I must be calm, committed to what matters,
   And always aim for movement, not just motion—
      And watch the pages slowly grow beside me
      To make the mountain that was once inside me.


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells


Friday, September 26, 2014

Great Women

For Jenna, Alyssa, Kelly, Tara, Brooke and Kendall 

Great women are all eloquent grenades—
   The ones you study are an education.
The ones who know their minds make lousy maids.
   The ones who speak their minds take bad dictation.
Women whose wings are clipped still fly like jets;
   Those who spend all their strength are never broke.
Women who dare will never have regrets;
   Women who laugh at men all get the joke.
And when those who have pride are an affront,
   And those with self-respect are all called shrew,
Bitch, dyke, whore, man-hater and rhymes-with-punt,
   The problem is not them—the problem’s you.
      All doors men lock open with this one key:
      Well-behaved women don’t make history.

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ne Dis Rien

I would have run if I had seen you coming.
   I would have fled if you gave me the chance.
Now you’re the French pop tune I can’t stop humming,
   The song that magics me into a trance.
Don’t say a thing; just lead me and I’ll follow.
   Don’t be afraid; just put your hand in mine.
We’ll waltz to where there’s nothing false or hollow;
   I’m with you to the dark end of the line.
Today’s for life—forget about tomorrow.
   No more sad solos—now it’s all duets.
Tonight our love will dig a grave for sorrow
   And when the night ends, we’ll have no regrets.
      When Life sings out, it's folly not to dance;
      When Love says “Now!” we have to take the chance.

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Ne Dis Rien


Monday, September 22, 2014

Coming Of Age Stories


For boys, it’s who they are when they’re alone,
   And what their lives will make them masters of
After they’ve journeyed, battled, learned and grown.
   For girls, it’s all about the boys they love.
For boys, it’s how they handle loss and fear,
   Whether they try to help or break each other,
And the importance of a good career.
   For girls, it’s whether they’re a wife and mother.
Boys are all future winners; girls all womb.
   Boys are congratulated; girls get blamed.
Boys get the road; girls only get the room
   To choose the man by whom they will be tamed.
      There are exceptions, but the law is firm:
      A boy’s a person and a girl’s a worm.


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells


Friday, September 19, 2014

What Remains

You see in me the remains of what Life
   Has yet to melt: my hardest, coldest part.
It will be shattered, or pared with the knife,
   Till there’s a chilly puddle where my heart
Used to be. Can you see that drifting mist?
   Those were my dreams, all vanished into air,
Into thin air.  Words unsaid, lips unkissed—
   Part of me once, and now the world’s nowhere.
So while those dreams are mine, before Life shrinks
   My glacier to a cube, before I see
My days become the nightcap that Death drinks,
   I give you what remains of love in me.
      I give it all to you today—with sorrow
      That there’ll be always less to give tomorrow. 


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells


Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Those who waste time are those Time loves the most—
   It gives them slowly creeping years to squander
On busy work, which then becomes a host
   Of life’s missed opportunities to ponder.
Those who spend time are Time’s arch-enemies—
   To them, it doles out minutes like a miser.
It makes a day feel briefer than a sneeze
   And months get spent as quickly as a geyser.
Time knows that every single second counts
   And wins the day each second I forget it.
Time loses when I see my chance and pounce,
   Think of the past and never once regret it,
      And leave behind distractions I’ve resisted
      To die after I’ve lived, not just existed.

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Monday, September 15, 2014


Thanks for a family that puts up with all
   My quirks and faults and treats me like a friend.
Thanks for the great souls in my life I call
   My non-blood family, faithful to the end.
Thanks for the years I’ve had to write and speak.
   Thanks for the heart that’s kept me young so long.
Thanks for the love I’ve felt that left me weak.
   Thanks for the pain and loss that made me strong.
Thanks for the lies that make me seek the true,
   The wrongs that clearly show me what is right,
The doubt that fact checks everything I do,
   The faith to battle darkness with the light—
      But most of all, thanks for the chance to be,
      Under the sun, the only one who’s me. 


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells


Friday, September 12, 2014

Love Goes Like This

Love goes like this—an itch becomes a heat,
   A step becomes a trip becomes a fall—
A hunger that expands the more you eat
   Like mud becomes a brick becomes a wall.
Love lives like this: with after-dinner treats
   To make up for the suppers of barbed wire;
With gifts attached to credit card receipts
   And cuddling that dodges sniper fire.
Love dies like this: a chill becomes a freeze,
   A dig becomes attacks becomes a war
Both sides will lose—so keep in mind that these
   Two things alone make love worth fighting for:
      Not toughness, but the courage to be tender;
      Not total victory—total surrender.


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

You Have To Learn To See Beyond

You have to learn to see beyond what meets
   Your mortal eyes to recognize the truth
Behind appearances.  The world that greets
   Us with a smile is sharp of claw and tooth.
It suffers us to trespass on its turf
   As if we own the place; so, in our pride,
We come and go like whitecaps on the surf
   And think we rule the ocean that we ride.
And when one of us drowns, we raise a cry
   For answers we can cling to or create.
But there is no Because to Life’s cruel Why.
   There is no tragedy.  It is not fate.
      It’s just the Real, appearing suddenly
      In what we like to call Reality.


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Monday, September 8, 2014

Like Stones at Sunrise Beach


Look at these stones.  Weren’t here yesterday.
   And the odds are they won’t be here tomorrow.
The tide that brought them will take them away.
   No one will miss them, never mind feel sorrow.
That daily tide sets free all that it owns;
   The same thing happens up and down the shore.
Tomorrow’s beach will have tomorrow’s stones—
   Maybe fewer in number, maybe more.
Who knows?  I won’t.  I’m just here for the day.
   I’ll ride a wave or two, soak up some sun,
Salute my footprints as they’re washed away,
   And all too soon my time here will be done
      And I’ll be nothing but a memory
      By the great tide that rules this mortal sea.


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Road To Love

The road to love ends, not with nudity,
   But nakedness; we think flesh is the goal
And believe that, when others let us see
   Uncovered body parts, we know their soul.
But how can someone’s soul be subject to
   Time? —Gravity? —A diet?  When my hands
Reach out to touch the flesh that houses you,
   They stroke not soul but what your soul commands:
The pretty body you were born into,
   The flesh for which my flesh feels low desires.
But what ignites me when I look at you
   Is not the oven’s beauty, but the fire’s—
      Beauty that burns in your most precious part—
      What my soul burns to see: your naked heart.

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Movie Night at the Ribalow Ranch

for Meir Ribalow


Dino or Mitchum—who’s the better drunk?
   “Let’s see,” says Meir.  He plays Rio Bravo,
And we watch Dino’s Dude, all sweat and funk,
   A souse whose life ain’t worth a plugged centavo
Till he lifts himself up out of the stews,
   A feat which truly merits our acclaim:
The scene where Dude pours back his shot of booze
   Is right there in the Cowboy Hall Of Fame.
It’s Ricky Nelson who’s the weak link here.
   Saddled with him, Hawks did the best he could,
But every time he shows up, we can hear
   The film deflate from excellent to good.
      As for the Duke?  This role is, in the main,
      What people think of when they think “John Wayne.”


He just needs another bar of soap.

Right off the bat, James Caan trumps Ricky Nelson.
   Plus John Wayne suffers the indignity
Of a back wound.  Is there anything else in
   Wayne’s films where he’s slowed down by injury?
(Meir says: “Wings of Eagles.”)  So we watch
   As Mitchum tramps down Cheap Drunk Avenue.
We see the height from which whiskey and scotch
   Will make him fall—and get him wounded too.
“Think baseball,” Meir says. “Here’s what you get:
   Dean Martin hits a home run—thus acquitting
Himself well—but! Mitchum’s the greater threat.
   He is to acting what Ruth is to hitting—
      He’s so good, Koufax wouldn’t want to pitch him.
      Mitchum’s the better drunk because it’s Mitchum.”
The Girl Who Comes In On The Stage

 The Oomph Girl at her ooomphiest
And then we speculate about the girl—
   The unnamed girl who comes in on a stage—
And with a look and the coquettish twirl
   Of a lace parasol, can run rampage
Over the hearts of men with hearts of stone.
   A girl whose mouth fires kisses like a trigger—
Whose touch can give you wings—and when she’s flown,
   You drown the loss with jigger after jigger
Of rotgut and regret and deep self-loathing.
   “She’s Death,” says Meir.  “That’s why you don't see her.
To give in to her is a dark betrothing.
   She steals your godhood when you deity her.
      And all those who drink deep of her seduction
      Thirst not for endless love, but self-destruction.”


Build my gallows high, baby.

One night you take a swim in a dark pool
   And the whole course of your sad fate is set:
The future—life, with a sweet fresh-faced girl;
   The past—death, with a lush rotten brunette.
You wake up smitten with the Queen Of Bad
   Who says you’re King now, so of course you love it.
You’re smart enough to know you’re being had
   And dumb enough to want both barrels of it.
And when she shows her stripes, you’re out the door.
   You make a new life that will never last
Because she’s got your number, knows the score,
   And comes alive when you talk of the past:
      A dame who sees your need and strips it bare
      And makes you murmur: “Baby, I don’t care.”

Meir and I agree that there’s no doom
   That can compare to Jane Greer and her lies.
At which the woman in the living room
   Looks at the two of us and rolls her eyes
And says: “A guy would have to be a dunce
   To fall for bad girls.  That’s just lousy writing.”
“Are you kidding me?” we both say at once.
   “The bad is what makes bad girls so exciting!
Why would you fall under a safe girl’s spell
   When you can have the wild dangerous bitch?”
The woman says: “—Who drags you down to hell.”
   And Meir says: “Yeah; but that’s not a hitch.
      We all drive to an end no one deserves.
      It’s not the ride; it’s how you take the curves.”

Paul Kelly as "The Man"

Ah, Meir.  “You can't leave,” you said. “Watch this.”
   Then you put Crossfire on, at the scene where
The young GI whose marriage is amiss
   Wakes up in Gloria Grahame’s pied-à-terre
And listens to the story of a guy
   (Paul Kelly) who remarks, when he is through,
“That story I just told you?  It’s a lie;”
   Then tells one more and says: “That’s a lie too.”
“This guy,” you said, “is noir personified.
   There’s always something in him you can’t see.”
I’ve watched that movie six times since you died,
   And bleed each time Kelly says casually—
      A lifetime in one sentence; sad but true— 
      “We had a lot of plans; they all fell through.”

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Monday, September 1, 2014

On The Beach

It’s hard to think of anything but peace
   When I watch waves curling into the shore.
All my life’s needs and worries drown and cease;
   All cares beyond the moment’s are no more.
The tide comes in without a thought of me;
   The waves curl left, curl right, then lick the land.
I try to fathom its immensity
   But it’s like counting stars or grains of sand.
I feel—I fear—that there’s nothing in me
   As deep as what lies one league from this beach—
No matter how far out I swim or see,
   The shallows are all that I’ll ever reach—
      And that I’ll die without the slightest notion
      Of all that swims in life’s untidy ocean.

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells