Monday, September 18, 2017

Life In 28 Lines

My life's a map of places that can hide me
But none of them protect me like they should.
I talk to friends as if they're here beside me
But they can't say more than I think they would.

This loneliness is colder then December.
I just hear echoes every time I pray.
I cling to all the good times I remember,
Then wonder why the future slips away.

Each dawn arrives with something to upset me.
By sunset, it defeats me or I grow.
I think the universe is out to get me--
It really likes to tell me where to go.

And every time the moment's crystal clear,
Life is a voice that says "You can't stay here."

No matter where I move, it's a direction.
No matter where I wind up, it's a stand.
Even when I'm withdrawn, it's a connection.
Even when it's spontaneous, it's planned.

Each false step that I take is done to teach me
That I am my own life's most dearest foe.
Each true step sees a goal that wants to reach me--
And when it does, I'll be the last to know.

For knowledge is just ignorance times pride
And learning is a never-ending road.
And even if I travel with a guide,
He passes on a wisdom that's in code--

And every pitfall where I stumble proves
To be the right kind of all the wrong moves.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Broken Eggs

            for Coley Campany

A broken egg reflects upon its mother.
It can't just happen; it must have a cause--
Some flaw, some wrong in her, something or other
That desecrated one of Nature's laws.

A broken egg means heads must look away
And hearts grow cold that used to warm the best,
And those who failed must all, day after day,
Get schooled by those who never took the test.

A broken egg means someone must have dropped it--
Some loser who can't do the simplest jobs.
It didn't--couldn't--hatch, because she stopped it--
A useless piece of damaged goods who sobs.

So says the world, taking away your voice
By telling you that it’s unspeakable,
What happened—that it was somehow your choice,
And you should feel guilt by the bucketful.

A broken egg declares that you're no good
And never will be, because you are broken--
A guilty member of a sisterhood
Of shame, where all your grief must be unspoken.

So speak out. Tell the world how loss has driven
You to an understanding of Life's worth--
That new souls are a gift, and not a given
And all that gets delivered is a birth--

That yes, there's sisterhood, but never shame,
For what they really share is something deep:
Faith based on loss, acceptance without blame,
Compassion that could make an angel weep--

And love, whose strength is born for all to see
In mothers touched by Life's fragility.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Life's Like

Life's like a funeral--the ones you think
Will be there never show, and those who do
Are there because of an unspoken link
Between you--bottomless, unswerving, true.

Life's like your wedding--years from now you'll say
"What happened to my crew? We were a nation!"
And look at all the friends you have today
And know they'd never get an invitation.

Life is like moving--the last place you lived
Is what says home to you. Life is like baking--
You put up with the lumps, until they're sieved
Into whatever crazy cake you're making.

Life is like poetry, for there are times
We all feel like we're words without true rhymes.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Friday, September 1, 2017


I've always chased the story--chased the girl--
The tale that makes my life a book worth reading.
I put words into my heart's mouth, then hurl
Myself after whatever is misleading.
When I hear music, I reach for a dancer
Because I want her to sit on my lap.
I lose my doubts in someone else's answer.
I find myself on someone else's map.

I translate life into my dictionary
And look for meanings that tell me I'm safe.
I only scratch the itch that's momentary.
I cling to pleasures that will make me chafe.
I doubt the instincts I should always trust
And trust what tells me "You don't need to grow."
When someone asks a favor, I hear "must."
When love says "Yes," the fool in me says "No."

My principles give up without a fight
When pleasing someone else makes me feel smart.
I look for wrongs that nothing can make right
And colanders in which to pour my heart.
I suck up to the cool kids so they'll say
"You're one of us!" But every one of them
Treats friendship like a mirror, and will play
"You're So Lame" to whoever they condemn.

The drink I drink is tasteless, till I cut
My tongue out and let it tell me its flavor.
The things I feel are all echoes of what
I don't feel anymore, and so I savor
Each one--not for its body; for its ghost--
And judge a joy by how long it will last
And entertain success so I can boast,
And live not for the future, but the past.

Between them both,  the present whizzes by.
It slips through my life's fingers when I grab it.
It's here and then it's gone, unlike a lie.
It's dead already by the time I stab it.
How strange that what can frustrate, and fulfill,
And stir me up, is what I cannot touch--
Moving through me when I am standing still;
Sharing my life, but never going dutch.

Weighed down by all the stuff I hate to carry
And am afraid to drop--because I don't
Know who I am unless my burdens marry
My onerous desires--I say I won't
Let this moment pass by. But all that weight--
The past; my fears; the weariness I bring
To what should be exciting--tells me straight:
I must give up the stuff to find the thing.

All it takes, when the world is dull, and full
Of books that I don't want to feel like reading
Or things that I don't care for, is to pull
My self out of myself, and then start feeding
The hunger in me, not the appetite.
And when I do, the right meal will be there.
It won't be on the menu, but each bite
Will be the answer to a tongueless prayer.

All it takes to move forward is a shift
From what I see to what is really there:
The possibility that is a gift;
The quickstep I can dance without a care.
It's all call and response, if I just keep
Myself tuned to the song my life is playing.
It's all a moment's move, and it will sweep
Me up with it,  like faith does after praying--

For getting what I want is guaranteed
If I let go of what I do not need.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Month of Couplets - August 2017

From The Daily Couplet:


Change is the destiny that can’t escape me.
Growth is my future self trying to shape me.


Through where will happiness come when I’m mopin’?
A door I didn’t know that I left open.


The greatest let-down is the consummation—
The journey is the only destination.


Remember: when you love and live the chase
And it goes nowhere—that, too, is a place.


Each time we meet’s a play in which I’m smitten—
And you refuse to act the part I’ve written.


Losing and loving, killing and creating—
All that we do has its own deathbed waiting.


I like to think my might-have-beens betrayed me,
But all the roads I passed up are what made me.


Ask “Are you happy?” I’ll say “Hold that thought.”
But I know all the ways my friends are not.


We’re costumes on a skeleton of hope,
Dreaming of clothes with which we can elope.


The thing by which I thought I would be killed
Is all part of the wreckage I’ll rebuild.


Praise and salt water are the same way cursed:
The more you drink of them, the more you thirst.


“Find your own voice!” those writing teachers say.
Meaning: “”Choose a dictator to obey.”


Words are the wardrobe that I keep creating;
Photos, the self that I’m impersonating.


Live long enough, and you will cry, forlorn:
“No one's left who’s known me since I was born!”


A moment’s pleasure zips by fleetingly;
A moment’s shame lives on eternally.


Each memory I have is firmly set
Beside what I have chosen to forget.


The house of happiness is full of gloom—
Its whole first floor is one big waiting room.


My hopes are sleight when I give them the gate;
My fears a strain because I give them weight.


The joy’s not in what I know how to do
But learning what I didn’t know was true.


The story’s in the razor, not the edge—
Not jumpers, but what led them to the ledge.


It always starts with darkness to move through,
And always ends with light shining from you.


Hatred’s a gun that decimates the earth;
Love is the only weapon that gives birth.


Those who make promises and then forget them
Will only make you bitter if you let them.


If you want to excel in what you do,
Cling to those who bring out the best in you.


Lust is a blaze that scorches when it craves.
Love is a heat that nourishes and saves.


The new must undermine the old to thrive,
But old turns vicious when it can’t survive.


My past's a meal that I am daily fed
And memories the meat between Time's bread.


Love without wild abandon is a sin
But deadly poison without discipline.


The one great secret behind all great art:
You have to probe the wound to reach the heart.


We all share this same secret, hid from viewing:
No one—none of us—know what we are doing.


Leaving allows your life to change directions;
Goodbyes all say hello to new connections.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Like a Bright Exhalation in the Evening

                   for Claudia Chopek

There is an end to everything we do,
Which means that how we leave is who we are.
We can resent it, or complain and stew,
Or go out blazing, like a shooting star— 

Or play the close so well that blind men see
It’s not about attainment, but the growing,
And that success is more than victory
Or bows that the violist gets for bowing.

And when the time comes for the final note
To sound, let it be like an opening—
Not sad or grieving, but their antidote.
Let music in us find new ways to sing

And stretch the wings we’ve earned until they fly
And, like a comet, scrape stars from the sky.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Friday, August 25, 2017

Dear Ignorance

You sell me lies you know I want to hear.
You make me buy what I'm unworthy of.
There's nothing in your eyes but uptight fear.
There's nothing in your heart but deep self-love.

You keep a string of dopes who idolize you.
They swear you're honest, fair, and captivating.
Your lovers: mirrors that must glamorize you.
Your friends: the lovelorn you're still titillating.

You told me how to feel and what to do.
I called you on your shit; you cut me dead,
And now you're cold 'cuz I'm not hot for you.
And though you hate me when I use my head,

Life's not what I believe--it's what I learn.
Yours was a bridge that my soul had to burn.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Monday, August 21, 2017

Card Reading in Union Square 8/13/17

“Keep your eyes on the big idea,” said
U, the reader in Union Square, her eyes
Seeing a future in which I’d be fed
What my soul hungers for. “You’re not unwise,”
She said. “But now it’s time for you to be 
The right kind of stupid.” God knows I've been
The wrong kind lately, so it’s time to see
If mindless  faith can be my mortal sin.

U said: “Put your faith in the process, and
Connections will appear.” And I thought of
All the ones that I've severed—planned, unplanned;
From public cut-her-dead to private shove.
They all make me look like a shameless cur,
But I took pride in being so ice cold
That they would see how catty my fake purr
Of friendship was, that once they thought was gold

But turned out to be badly-painted lead.

And as I thought of how all hearts deceive,
“When it comes to your emotions,” U said,
Reading my mind, “don’t weigh them on your sleeve.”
Guilty as charged. And “weigh,” not “wear,” is right.
My feels are heavier than white dwarf stars.
Their gravity weighs down all of my light
So when I give my heart, you see its scars. 

“Create yourself,” U said, “and come to life.”

The artist in me grinned. Identity
Is paint applied with a slim palette knife.
New coats make a new personality.
“What can you do to make yourself the one
Who will go out and change the world?” U asked.
I sighed and thought: yes, but what can be done
When those of us with gifts are always tasked 

By what takes them away, or makes us lose

The urge to use them? What can one soul do
When all feels soulless? Except, maybe, choose
To be a living vessel for the true—
To love the dispossessed and the despised—
To shift a condescending paradigm
That uses data like it’s weaponized
And change the pic one pixel at a time? 

“You will,” U said, “find unconditional

Love—it may be romantic, or just friends.”
And knowing me, I thought, it won’t be dull.
I just hope that it breaks less than it mends.
U said: “You’re moving in the Vortex now
Where the Source lives.” And me, I’m such a geek—
I saw Jack Kirby’s New Gods, and the Tao
Of Physics illustrating what I seek.

“Keep your eyes on your vision,” U declared,

“And you will see abundance fall on you.
It is your time to make what will be shared.
It is your time, not to sit back, but do.
“It’s all about,” she said, “your life’s perfection,”
And I heard: “Make your goal to do the work;
Let more than thoughts come out of introspection;
And when events and people peeve and irk,

Don’t take it personally, but forgive—

And make your heart a home where love can live.”

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Weight Behind

I look ahead and it’s all haze and fog.
I look behind and it feels safe and true
Each step ahead feels like I’m in a bog.
Each step behind as snug as an old shoe.

I dream of all the mountains I can climb.
I wake up with a rock inside my gut.
No matter what I do, it’s the wrong time.
Yesterday tugs my leash like I’m its mutt.

But it’s my forward motion that is yanking
The rope around my neck that’s choking me.
So I can stand here, stationary--banking
On Time to cut the cord eventually--

Or reach out for tomorrow’s golden knife
And cut myself free from my former life.

Copyrght 2017 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Amor Fati

             for Coley Campany

Losing is failure—that’s the old equation.
Not winning points to some deficiency.
But underneath the death of deprivation,
Life blows a kiss of opportunity:

The privilege of facing down an end
And forging a beginning out of it—
Which makes disaster or a loss transcend
Failure, till it becomes the opposite.

The soul attracts the reckoning it needs.
With all it faces, nothing’s a mistake.
And if you see no avenue that leads
Beyond calamity, it’s yours to make—

For that by which we thought we would be killed
Is all part of the wreckage we’ll rebuild.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Life In 14 Lines - 30

I look back at the places where I’ve been
And only see the ones I never went to.
I’m told how much I’m blessed, but hear the sin
Of failing to accomplish what I meant to.

I feel regret for missteps, like each towed
Me down a path that led to imperfection.
But one step won’t put me on the wrong road
Unless I choose to walk in that direction.

And what else can I do when I look back
Except perceive the single path I carved
Through possibilities, and feel the lack
Of all that could have fed me when I starved?

But they're yesterday's hungers: met, or dead.
Look forward. Feed the ones that lie ahead.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Emotional Second Amendment

Each sunrise hands my heart a loaded gun.
   Each sunset counts the bullets that are left.
I lose the day if I shoot even one.
   I have to hold my fire, or I’m effed.
But that hot trigger strokes each angry kink
   In my self-centered soul. It calls me “Stud!”
It tells me I should rage instead of think
   And meet imaginary slights with blood.
Lashing out is so easy, isn’t it?
   Biting like dogs; clawing like feral cats.
But if I would be human, I must pit
   Restraint against revenge, lay down my gats,
      And heal the hurt my hatred is born of,
      And take a bullet in the name of love.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Month of Couplets - July 2017

From The Daily Couplet:


                   Two Ideas of Love

She says “I love you!” and he feels majestic.
He says “I love you!” and she gets domestic.


False friendship is an empty shopping cart.
True friendship is what blood is to the heart.


Today’s two things—the youngest you will be,
And the oldest moment in your history.


To those who make Democracy a hell:
Freedom is not something you buy or sell.


                 The Rouge Gallery 0112

You’re someone I can share fears, shop-talk, doubt,
And joy with—till my vocal cords give out.



Something will always fill an empty cup.
Each time you start the car, the road shows up.


             The Rouge Gallery 0411

I laugh when you say you despise flirtation—
You say “I love you!” like it’s punctuation.


I use my love as a defensive measure
To wound myself before I can feel pleasure.


Opposites will attract, like soft to raw.
But similars all marry flaw to flaw.


                  The Rouge Gallery 0612

Your eyes are like two straws into your soul;
Let my eyes be the lips that drink you whole.


Planted and plucked up, with no hope of pardon:
Every life is a flower in death’s garden.


              The Rouge Gallery 1211

Our souls were once so perfectly attuned.
Now we can’t feel a thing that doesn’t wound.


Blame is a lynch mob looking for a tree;
Forgiveness cuts it down and sets you free.


          The Rouge Gallery 1102

If we were still in touch, I’d tell you this:
Each time you spoke my name, it was a kiss.


Anger dive bombs the guiltless in a flash;
Forgiveness parachutes you from the crash.


My heart knows when love looms ahead, the way
A blind man smells the night replace the day.


“I’m jumping ship!” I cry, and down I drop—
And then get pissed off when the boat won’t stop.


Friends are like bank accounts—never invest
In those who fail to show you interest.


When am I most myself, if not when I
Create something that—unlike me—won’t die?


               The Rouge Gallery 0607

You can’t be why I stay, though we both yearn;
But you might be the reason I return.


God’s silence is a book that I will read
And translate with the alphabet of need.


Once Truth was honest and went undefeated;
Now it’s a lie that’s constantly repeated.


                  The Rouge Gallery 1104

You love to count the hearts that felt love for you.
What really counts: how many still adore you.


God watches us love, suffer, and forgive
Like we’re all starring on One Life To Live.


If I had known I’d live to be this old,
My younger self would have been way more bold.


I feel God’s absence stretch in all directions
Like an unholy map of missed connections.


A good life has no greater dividends
Than the appreciation of great friends.


Let all my future travels be a toast
To all the kindred souls I’ll miss the most.


Our past is not just dead, it’s changed position—
And, like us, altered beyond recognition.


Two demons battle in me while I live:
The urge to curse; the challenge to forgive.


What molting is to birds from pole to pole,
Adversity is to the human soul.


The heart will feel a wound, much deeper than the flesh’ll—
The goodbye hurts because the hello was so special.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Monday, July 31, 2017


Farewell, Athena, for I must set sail
  Beyond the world of gods and goddesses
With no blind bard to help me tell my tale
  And no fond owl to show me where home is.
I am alone all home that I will need:
  My son is grown, my wife is long since dead,
And I’ve gone gray; but in me lies a seed
  From which will spring, like you did from God’s head,
Some new adventure or a final love
  Before my battered body gives the ghost.
Smile as you watch my last days from above.
  Know that I’ll live them to the uttermost.
     Look for the setting sun and there I’ll be, 
     Fading in waves across the wine-dark sea.

Copyright 1975, 2017 by Matthew J Wells

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The View Beyond the Cliff

The view beyond the cliff is deep and high.
I stretch my wings and take a long slow breath.
Will they succeed and lift me to the sky
Or fail, and send me falling to my death?

"God--so DRAMATIC!" says a pal beside me.
I laugh. He's right. It isn't do or die.
It's do and live, and find new stars to guide me
Where falling's just a tougher way to fly.

My friends all say "Goodbye!" "Good luck!" "We'll miss you!"
They leave. One stays. It's just who I expect.
She says "Get over here so I can kiss you."
We hug. I can't let go of her. I'm wrecked.

She says "Keep it together" and alone
I step off into the wild blue unknown.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I Didn't Know It Would Be You

                           for Jessica DiGiovanni
                             and Hilary Bettis

I didn’t know it would be you who made
   Me start crying. But when I felt the tears,
I thought: “Of course.” Look at the parts you’ve played
   In everything I’ve done over the years.
I’ve seen you grow and watched you find your way
   When I lost mine; you’ve been a guiding star
Whose brightness glimmered inside every play
   I saw you do. And though I will be far
Away—far far too soon—I will be there
   Beside you—just like you will be with me—
In all you do, no matter when or where,
   Because you’re in my heart eternally.
      Whether your road meets valley, pit, or boulder,
      I’ll be there with you, just beyond your shoulder.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Friday, July 28, 2017


           for Florencia Lozano

I take the time each day to plant a seed,
   And even then, that doesn’t mean it grows.
Burned by the sun or stifled by a weed,
   Drowned by a thunderstorm, devoured by crows—
It may not ever live to bud and flower
   No matter how I tend it, or I pray.
Over its future life, I have no power.
   Which is why I keep planting, day by day.
I will not live to see this garden grow
   And make seeds of its own from what I plant.
Time is the reaper; I am here to sow
   And say “Watch me!” when the world says “You can’t.”
      And do what I do out of love and need
      And make the time each day to plant a seed.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Drunkard's Prayer

Bless me, Father, for I am full of booze.
I know--it’s not exactly breaking news
To see me weaving like a wind-blown kite
And slurring all my words--it’s just tonight.
Forgive me when I’m high on Cabernet
And drop more F-bombs than a Mamet play.
Please let me keep my big stupid mouth shut.
After three pints, I talk out of my butt,
Lecturing everyone like they’re a dope
And I’m one half professor, one half Pope.
Forgive me for that silly incident
That turned into a drunken argument
Where all I did was pound the bar and shout.
I can’t remember what it was about.
I do recall, at some point, someone threw
A pint of Guinness and a punch or two
When I called him a product of inbreeding.
(I guess that’s why my forehead is still bleeding.)
Bless me, Father, for I got truly faced
Not letting shots of whiskey go to waste.
The ones I drank tonight could fill two steins
(That’s why my head is full of cactus spines.)
Don’t let Jack Daniels make me pick a fight
Just because I had ten of him tonight,
But let him make me sappy and forgiving.
And when it comes to how long I’ll be living,
Please let me be a turtle, not a comet.
And please don’t let me wake up in my vomit.
But if I have to throw up, let it be
Where everybody does it—on the G.

Forgive me for the drunken pass I made
At whatsername, hoping that I’d get laid--
Like that could ever happen. Sex is iffy
When you’re too smashed to get a decent stiffy.
Liquored up? I’m a failure at coition:
The best that I can do in my condition
Is hug and kiss and (when I stick my ass out)
Try not to do a face plant when I pass out.
And please don’t let me break my fucking nose—
Just let me wake up to a trail of clothes
That leads from my front door right to my bed,
Where dwarves swing pick-axes inside my head
And I can hear air molecules colliding
And feel my body’s every cell dividing
While Nausea just wants to play Red Rover.
Calling out “Hey—send Matthew’s lunch right over!”

Oh Lord, save me from shakes and hypertension
And those who think I need an intervention.
Save me from blondes, both real and from the bottle.
Save me from brunettes that I want to throttle.
Save me from redheads with their scarlet bangs--
The only sane ones are orangutangs.
Save me from hitting on Jane, Jill or Jenny
Whenever I’ve had ten or twelve too many,
And let me not remember what I said
To try to get their asses into bed
Or all the needy depths I did descend to--
And if I can’t forget, let me pretend to.

Oh Lord, let me get buybacks everywhere,
And let me make a style out of despair.
Let my salvation never quite find me
And desiccation be my destiny.
Let me be laughed with when I’m not laughed at
And never wear a lampshade for a hat.
I don’t care if the world thinks I’m a joke--
Just let my liver work until I croak.

And when I die and finally meet my fate,
And stand there, swaying, at St Peter’s Gate,
And God frowns down on me, as if to say:
“Look at you, man—you drank your life away!”—
I don’t care if I’m bum-rushed down to hell
Or hear the happy sound of Heaven’s bell—
I don’t care if there’s punishment and suffering
And pain worse than my wifi always buffering,
Or if I join heaven’s angelic vocal—
Just send me to the place that has a local.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells