Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

On this cold night, when year gives way to year
   With laughter, horns and drunken revelry;
When “Thank God that year’s gone!” is all you hear,
   And frozen smiles of hope are all you see:
Tonight, we are the old year’s derelicts—
   Adrift, exposed, begging to be protected—
Till Time, which heals all pain that it inflicts,
   Gives us a present where we’ll feel protected.
So we join crowds in which we feel alone,
   And in a spotlit canyon of concrete
We search for stronger things than steel or stone
   And outcomes where we won’t feel incomplete—
      And when Time takes its midnight breath, we pray
      For something that will take our breath away.


Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Underneath The Tree - Christmas 2013

Outside the snow is falling, but no friends are calling yoo-hoo, because they're all waiting in line to see that documentary about Los Angeles, The Desolation of Smog. 

And here inside Casa Mateo, where Christmas, like Duane Reade, is always just around the corner, I'm getting into the holiday spirit.  I'm putting the finishing touches on a rewrite of the third (angry and hopefully entertaining political) play I've worked on since I left the day job in June.  I'm putting the finishing touches on a poetry collection that makes me think "Gee--if you took every woman I've written a love poem for and laid them all end to end, their boyfriends and husbands would be really pissed."  I'm putting the finishing touches on about a dozen reviews I haven't managed to post since Labor Day.  And (because even in a big year for changes, some things never change) I've actually just finally put the finishing touches on this year's Christmas compilation. 

It's been a very strange six months.  It wasn't really until September that I managed to rehab away the day job addiction and settle into the methadone of writing, and coincidentally that's when I stopped blogging.  My current opinion is that my online silence was a combination of hunkering down and dedicating my time to what I've always thought of as my second job, getting totally turned off by all-caps oversharing on Facebook, and repeatedly coming up with the answer "Nobody in their right mind" to the question "Who wants to hear me rave about Before Midnight really?" 

So, in the hopes that "Some of you" is the answer to "Who wants to hear a couple of hours of holiday music?" here is this year's compilation of toonage.  Fun stuff, sweet stuff, silly stuff, and a couple of song-to-song-to-song in-jokes that I'm particularly proud of, one of which only a dozen people in the world will get, but hell, I know ten of them.

Enjoy, and have a great holiday.

01.  Underneath The Tree   Kelly Clarkson
02.  Kiss Me Beneath The Christmas Tree   Casper and the Cookies
03.  I Saw Mommy Biting Santa Claus   The Dollyrots
04.  Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Christmas   The Robertsons
05.  Whiskey Christmas   Darby O’Gill and the Little People
06.  Santa Stole My Whiskey   The Rimshots
07.  Christmas From A Bar   Mike Ireland
08.  Christmas At The Airport   Nick Lowe
09.  Rockin’ Little Christmas   Carlene Carter
10.  Folsom Prison Christmas (Mr President vs Johnny Cash)    Voicedude
11.  Winter   Ask Embla
12.  Bells of Love (Isabelles of Love)   Erasure
13.  Clint Frostwood   Chillaz
14.  Funky Funky Chritmas   Electric Jungle
15.  Last Christmas (Hip Hop Remix)  Rap Allstars
16.  Happy Christmas Tears   Little Jimmy King with the Memphis Horns
17.  Poor Man’s X-mas  The Smokin’ Joe Kubek Band
18.  Winter Dress   Humming House
19.  Sha La La   Cathy Harrington
20.  Cricket Carols  The Meek
21.  Could Have Been Summer   Maggie Chapman
22.  On This Winter’s Night   Lady Antebellum
23.  Something About December   Christina Perri
24.  Oh, December   Hanne Sørvaag
25.  Xmas In February   Lou Reed
26.  Happy Xmas (War Is Over)   Sleeping At Last
27.  White Christmas   Vonda Shepard and Robert Downey Jr.
28.  Christmas On Interstate 80   5 Chinese Brothers
29.  Christmas Bells   The Bank Cormorants
30.  Will You Sleep Inside This Christmas   Chris Scruggs
31.  Xmas In Bed   Eliza Doolittle
32.  Snowed In   Mindy Smith
33.  Christmas Eve With You   Lindi Ortega
34.  You Never Come Home For Christmas   Caitlin Rose with Keegan DeWit
35.  Everything’s Changed At Christmas But You   Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors
36.  Christmas Time   Piney Gir
37.  Shiny Red Suit   TimLee3
38.  Santa Claus Forgot Me   Old Ugly
39.  Rocket Ship Santa   The BellRays
40.  Christmas Weekend   Los Straitjackets
41.  Kozatsky ‘til You Dropsky   Shirim Klezmer Orchestra
42.  Nutcracker   Straight No Chaser

43.  Merry Christmas Baby   Trijntje Oosterhuis (featuring Candy Dulfer)
44.  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)   Leona Lewis
45.  Winter Wonderland   Glen Burtnik
46.  Lonely This Christmas   Traitors!

Zip File downloads:

2013 Xmas Compilation - Part 1

2013 Xmas Compilation - Part 2


Monday, September 30, 2013

Love and Understanding


Of all the gifts you offer me, the ones
   I dread the most are love and understanding.
They are Hope’s allies, and the only guns
   Deadly enough to halt Fear’s D-Day landing.
Your love will kill my lonely certainty
   That I’m unworthy of true happiness.
Your understanding will forgive the me
   Who thinks he’s nothing but a shameful mess.
Beware: this is a man who’ll never trust
   A dream that’s been awakened with a kiss.
Tell him his fears are groundless, if you must;
   But if you’d know the truth of them, know this:
      Devotion never gives me what I need.
      You want to win me?  Hurt me till I bleed.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells



Friday, September 27, 2013


Woman, if we lived in a simpler age,
   You would have poets for your retinue.
There would be books in which, page after page,
   Sages would try and fail to fathom you.
To win your smile, there would be temples built;
   Kings would compete to lie in your embrace,
Wars would end with your kiss; and blood be spilt
   Each time a frown flashed on your perfect face.
But these days, when all coins have been debased
   And value is a fraction of its worth,
Each rare ability with which you’re graced
   Goes all untreasured on this sorry earth
      And goddesses like you must sadly be
      Ignored by all but worshippers like me.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Because Why

I live in the small principality
   That stands between the great Kingdom of Whys
And the Republic of Because.  The key
   To my continued independence lies
In making sure I never put my trust
   In either neighbor, for they covet me. 
Each says “I am your friend,” but they are just
   Two enemies who hate that I am free.
So, since Whys tell me answers are all lies,
   And, to the great Because, questions are traitors,
I play at friends, work out a compromise,
   And squirm like virtue trapped between two satyrs:
      Because I know, questions will grow like cancer;
      Because I ask, I'll never trust the answer.

 Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jottings from the notebook

INTERVIEWER:  Do you have any advice for young writers starting out?
JAMES TATE:  No—if a writer is going to get anywhere, he doesn’t listen to anybody.

Write as if you live in an occupied country.
     —Edwin Rolfe

We’re not calling them “divorced” anymore—we’re calling them certified pre-owned spouses.

Still, repression’s
got a lot going for it: from the repressed mind
comes beautiful stories, whereas from the liberated mind comes
websites that show women having sex with vegetables.
      — David Kirby, “Pink is the Navy Blue of India”

Weepers choose the music.
     —Vera Pavlova

Every birth a crime, every sentence life.
     —Basil Bunting

I try to surround myself with people who can never disappoint high expectations.

We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery.
     —HG Wells

A liberated woman is a fish that has fought its way ashore.
     —Karl Kraus

The lesser of two evils: a choice that evil always demands we make, revealing itself in the demand.
     —Clive James

The dawn has to kill
A universe of stars every morning
Just to get born.

Most people are other people.
     —Oscar Wilde

The sea depends on the drop of water. 
      —Franz Kafka

Kings do not touch doors.
     —Francis Ponge

Inside is the only kind of baseball in poetry, which is why it’s so hard to keep score.
     —Michael Robbins

Nobody walks away from an argument thinking “I lost.”

A muse inspires when she comes.
A wife inspires when she leaves.
A mistress inspires when she does not come.
     —Vera Pavlova

There are two sets of principles: power and privilege, and truth and justice.  If you pursue one, it is always at the expense of the other.
     —Julien Benda

The simplest way to stop a revolution?
Give it an office in the institution. 

The opening line of a poem is like finding a piece of fruit on the ground, a piece of fallen fruit that you’ve never seen before.  The poet’s task is to create the tree from which such a fruit would fall.
     —Paul Valery

We each really only speak one sentence in our lifetime.  If you are blessed, it is heard by someone who knows you and loves you and will be sorry to hear the sentence end.
     —Ernest Fenollosa to Ezra Pound

A girl has her dreams; a boy has his fantasies.
     —Teo Pozzi

Every good joke must be a small revolution.
     —Peter Barnes

No intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed in with it.
     —Fernando Pessoa




Friday, September 20, 2013

The Morning After

Sweet angel with a devil in her tongue,
   What do I think of as I wake beside you?
—Why couldn’t we have met when I was young
   —Dear God, I hope to hell I satisfied you
—The way your belly slaloms to your hips
   —The brush of stubble on your inner thighs
—How yes and no lie teasing on your lips
   —How passion makes a lighthouse of your eyes
 —And even though I know your heart’s a shore
   With footprints everywhere, I will die trying
To be for you what no one’s been before:
   A sheltered harbor full of love undying—
      Empty of all but safety, rest and ease
      Where you can anchor any time you please.


Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Weight of Time and Grief

It feels like years.  It feels like yesterday.
   The loss.  So close I smell its frantic breath
Against my face, and yet so far away
   It looks like rubbed-out chalk, and not a death.
Sometimes grief beats on me like I’m his drum;
   Sometimes I ache as if it just took place—
And then, a moment later, I grow numb
   And it’s light years away in outer space.
Like a black hole, Death too has gravity:
   It weighs Time down into an endless crawl,
Then speeds it up, and crams eternity
   Into an instant’s shell—and through it all
      Time avalanches as it drips like tears.
      It feels like yesterday.  It feels like years.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells


Monday, September 16, 2013

I know my death's the end my birth foretold

I know my death’s the end my birth foretold;
   But sometimes, in the dark, I hear the telling
And feel the moment of it manifold
   Itself inside me like a black bell knelling
Till my soul shudders to its fatal beat
   And I know—know with total certainty—
Not only that my end and I will meet
   But it’s so near now that it answers me
With doom’s irrevocable vertigo
   Down to a black hole full of empty laughter—
With Nowhere when I cry “Where will I go?”—
   With Nothing when I wail “What happens after?”
      Each time we meet, Death leaves one more harpoon
      In me, then sails away and whispers: “Soon.”

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Time stole another day from me this week

Time stole another day from me this week.
   I turned around twice and it disappeared.
It’s like Time’s got a razor that’s so sleek
   I only feel it after I’ve been sheared.
And then sometimes I wake up and the day
   Will flesh out like a light year, and I’ll be
Ambered in moments, lost in the array
   Where fading instants kiss infinity.
Time’s like a weepy alcoholic friend
   Who steals my scotch and then buys me champagne—
A pawnbroker who promises to lend
   Me all, then zip—a door to joy, then pain—
      Who’ll rob and bless me day by day, because
      Time is a thief who's also Santa Claus.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Monday, September 9, 2013

Death is not sleep

Death is not sleep; sleep takes me unawares,
   Cutting away the anchor chains that keep
My mind from drifting off, before it dares
   To board me and then sail me to the deep.
In sleep, my consciousness fades long before
   My body can succumb to slumber’s kiss.
In death, I’ll feel it all from skin to core
   As my soul plummets from Life’s precipice.
That fall will be the final thing I feel,
   And when I hit the bottom, it will break
My self from this frail shell it calls the real
   With that one shuteye from which none can wake
       And in which all that I have ever done
       Will fall with me into oblivion.


Copyright 2013 by Matthew J Wells


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Prodigies are a cinch to make your heart Gallop like Secretariat

Prodigies are a cinch to make your heart
   Gallop like Secretariat around
That last turn at the Belmont—looks apart,
   Perfection always winds up triple-crowned.
But it’s not like you have to be real deep
   To love the loveable.  Hell—love like that’s
Like dreaming—you can do it in your sleep.
   What gives me coronary pitapats
Is when I know someone who’s flawed and real
   And still commit my heart eternally,
Hoping that she’ll be deep enough to feel
   True love in spite of what is false in me.
      To love because is effortless and trite;
      Love is more loving when we love despite.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Last night I dreamed you called me on the phone

for Meir Ribalow

Last night I dreamed you called me on the phone
   To talk about both versions of The Killers
The brilliant way Lee Marvin dies alone;
   How Ava Gardner should have done more thrillers.
“I got her new book and I thought of you,”
   I said, and you replied, “You’ll have to tell
Me what you think of it.”  I said, “Will do.”
   And then we talked Wilde (Oscar and Cornell),
Till you asked me what I was working on.
   After I told you, you said, “Good, but why?
Because you want to be Fame’s Myrmidon?
   That’s a low goal for anyone.  Aim high.”
      “And then,” I said, “shoot higher, right?  I knew it.” 
      And you said, "Good.  Stop dreaming now and do it."
Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In the words of Kay Ryan: ha ha perfect Pessoa


Some people have one great dream in life which they fail to fulfill. Others have no dream at all and fail to fulfill even that.

       — Fernando Pessoa, Livro Do Desassossego

More Ashley Wilkes, please

Paint scenes like diamonds in the world’s tiara,
   Write verse like Shakespeare and John Keats combined—
The world will always be Scarlett O’Hara:
   One eye on Ashley Wilkes, the other blind.
She has glaucoma when she looks at art—
   She doesn’t see; she only recognizes
Something that strikes an echo in her heart
   Or strokes her ego—and she hates surprises.
So when there’s something that could change the game,
   It must obey the rules (and she’s the ref).
Exceptions?  Dozens.  But to make their name
   They had to shout (she’s also kinda deaf).
      Sadly, the quickest path to recognition?
      Go sculpt your work to pass the world's audition.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy 96th birthday, Jack

I’ll be the fog if you’ll be San Francisco

I’ll be the fog if you’ll be San Francisco.
   I’ll be the lighthouse if you’ll be the reef.
I’ll be the glitter ball if you’ll be Disco.
   I’ll be your treasure if you’ll be my thief.
I’ll be the beach if you’ll be the vacation.
   I’ll be your lamb if you’ll be my Bopeep.
I’ll be the grief if you’ll be consolation.
   I’ll be your dream if you’ll just be my sleep.
I’ll be the fulcrum if you’ll be the lever.
   I’ll be your bargain if you’ll be my store.
I’ll be your now if you’ll be my forever.
   I’ll be your ocean if you’ll be my shore.
      And if those choices feel too limiting?
      Be nothing—and I’ll be your everything.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells

Monday, August 26, 2013

The eternal scapegrace

Each time I make the tiniest mistake,
   I’m filled with terror that my shameful guilt
Condemns me to be shunned more than the snake
   Lucifer turned into.  And that’s the hilt
Of it—the blade goes twenty times as deep,
   Down to the particles below my quarks,
Till all the molecules inside me weep
   Because my soul is riddled with  black marks.
You guessed it—I’m a Catholic boy—redeemed
   From sin (but not for joy), to quote Jim Carroll;
And when I mess up, I know I’ll get reamed
   ‘Cause I’m the baddest apple in the barrel.
      And that’s the cause (to my eternal shame)
      Why I deserve not mercy, but the blame.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells


Friday, August 23, 2013

In Memory of Meir Ribalow

You were the midwife at the long gestation
   Of work that itched like sand till it was pearled.
You gladly gave the breast to each creation
   And proudly sent them off into the world—
Not just with your unique seal of approval
   But something like the writer’s kiss of peace:
What you took on yourself was the removal
   Of all that blocked a perfect birth’s release.
God grant I learn all that you knew so well;
   God help me keep you in my memory
To be my Virgil in this barren hell—
   To guide, inspire, and leave the path to me—
      Your standard of good work my daily goal;
      And to that end, God never rest your soul.

for Meir Ribalow

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Devilish Love

I love you like the winter hates the spring:
   Because it’s hot and wild and full of youth.
I want you like a lie wants everything
   To kneel to its perversion of the truth.
I think of you the way life thinks of death:
   As something that will end my lonely state.
I reach for you the way lungs reach for breath
   When a man tries not to asphyxiate.
I need you like the healthy need no cure.
   I venerate you like Scrooge covets gold.
I fear you like an angel trusts the pure.
   I worship you like youth pities the old.
      From one to ten, I love you at eleven
      The way hell hates all things that smell of heaven.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells



Monday, August 19, 2013

The incurable romantic deals with reality

Some men dream of a swimsuit-model wife;
  I dream of being worshipped like a pharaoh.
But when the dreamy women in my life
  Say “love,” it’s not “Te amo” but “Te quiero”—
Which means it’s sayonara Casanova,
  Goodbye “Let’s do it!”  and hello “Let’s don’t!”
Because God knows not even great Jehovah
  Can make a woman love me when she won’t.
So I can’t bake false hope into the real,
   Or think a dinner date means breakfast too;
I must not let love’s dream behind the wheel
   And must hear “like” when they say “I love you”—
      And live the vow true love cannot betray:
      To love, without love getting in the way.


Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Down on the beach, I see your young ghost play

Down on the beach, I see your young ghost play
   While your much older ghost, totally smashed,
Topples and falls into a tall wave’s spray,
   Getting your toddler ghost happily splashed.
A reef of ghosts—none of them real; all true—
   Just waves that roll in and retreat again:
A sleepless tide of all that once was you,
   Dragging this beach down to the deep of then.
One day—one day too soon—my ghosts will rise
   Up from that deep to splash against each other
And smile at life with hopeful, haunted eyes—
   The way your ghosts all smile at me, my brother—
      Till off they swim, like minnows in a school,
      To vanish hissing in Time's tidal pool.

for Gary

Copyright 2013 by Matthew J Wells

Friday, August 16, 2013

Love Prayer

Let no one come between you and your dream.
   Never be warm to those who’d see you fleeced.
You were not born to cure low self-esteem.
   Settle for sixty-sixty at the least.
Avoid all those who fetishize their rage
   Or use your body as a carnal toy
Or see your wildness and construct a cage
   Or promise silk but give you corduroy.
May you be keen enough to spot a faker
   And wise enough to know desire from need.
If you must give, find one who’s not a taker.
   Love is a garden that four hands must weed.
      God keep you safe, and free from yoke or branding,
      And always one thought past Love’s understanding.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells




Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Incurable Romantic Seeks Dirty Filthy Whore

The other day, I was searching online for an image that might go well with the phrase “incurable romantic.” This is because I was working on a speech—well, more like a riff, really—about curable romantics. 

What is a curable romantic?  Somebody who only catches yearning like the flu?  Somebody who wants to believe that love conquers less than all--like maybe Poland but not the rest of Europe?  Somebody who wades into the idea of love, but only up to the knees, because sharks? And is there a vaccine for this?  How exactly do you cure a curable  romantic—besides forcing a man to watch Jennifer Aniston movies, and a woman to watch a man watching American football?  (After which you become an incurable cynic.)  (So what’s a curable cynic then?  Besides maybe Scrooge before he’s visited by the ghosts.  Or is Scrooge a curable misanthrope?) 

(You get the idea—I’m an incurable monologist.) 
So I go to Google Images and I type in the phrase "incurable romantic," and I get a screen that looks like this

—where 9 out of 20 images refer back to the same phrase:  

ME:  Now THAT’S something you don’t see every day.
MY LIBIDO:  File under S for sadly.

And when I click on the image, I start reading about this artist called Harland Miller, who creates paintings like old Penguin book covers, with the craziest titles ever.  Which sent me to his website, which I scrolled through while I opened up another window and started searching for all the Penguin paintings of his that I could find. 

There are a ton of them out there.  Some of my favorites are below.  And if you want to read about Miller, here’s his website:
Harland Miller website

(I especially like the Hemingway and the Mailer titles. Not just because I’d pay cash money to read them, but because, when I think about it, I kind of already have.)



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fool for love

Love is not love that cannot turn some tsar
   Of abstinence into a chump du jour
Who’ll spring for double shots at Cupid’s bar
   And blow it like a landmine.  Ah, l’amour.
It makes the clumsy bold enough to dance,  
   It guides the lost and faithless to Nirvana;
It lets the helpless think they have a chance
   And makes Paul Pessimist a Pollyanna.
True love’s most real when it reveals how fake
   I am. It swears that if I want to live,
Then I must die for someone else’s sake,
   And never think of taking when I give,
      And dare to be a fool—for in Love’s eyes
      Only the foolish heart is counted wise.

Copyright 2013 Matthew J Wells