Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two choruses from The Anger of Achilles


There is a law above the law of man
  It has no name, but when we think of it
  And feel its power, what can we call it but

 Because we are aware of death
 Because we are aware
 Because, to throne the race of men above
 Creation's beastliness, Prometheus
 Graced mankind with the vanity of mind

 We mind the fleeting when
 Over the harmony of now,
 And fall like lightning to our graves
 Because all things that live are ruled by law

  There is a law above the law of man
  That calls us to rebel against our state
  It has no name, but when we think of it
  And feel its power, what can we call it but

 When Phaeton, son of Apollo, died
 Apollo threw submission to the dogs
 And yoked the tyrant Time to his chariot,
 Driving the flaming stallions of the sun
 Against their given course, to drag the day
 Back to the dawn before

 But he failed, for all his strength
 To do more than abuse the tortured earth
 And fashion failure from a godlike rage
 Because even the gods are ruled by law

  There is a law above the law of man
  That calls us to rebel against our state
  That orders respect even from immortals
  It has no name, but when we think of it
  And feel its power, what can we call it but

 Because we cannot rest until we die
 Because we cannot rest
 Life is the rage of always against never,
 Never to do more than abuse the earth

 And godlike Achilles, complete in revolt
 Drags the dead body of yesterday's triumph
 Down to the unforgiving grave of love

 His is the power of supremacy
 His equal's body fishes back and forth
 Behind his chariot, defiled
 Before the eyes of his father

 But not even Achilles can re-kill the dead
 Because all things that are
 Are ruled

  There is a law above the law of man
  That calls us to rebel against our state
  That orders respect even from immortals
  That unifies the breach of life and death
  It has no name, but when we think of it
  And feel its power, what can we call it but

Here in the kingdom of time everlasting We sit before the life that lies ahead of us Like happy children in an empty theatre Thrilled at the anything-can-happen magic That shines the clearest when the stage is dark But when the play begins, when we have lived The only life we get, we look behind To see that what we once thought was our freedom Was just the prospect of the unportrayed God, let our days be what we do with them Not what they do to us Let us grow taller than the tree that bore us For the generation of men are like leaves Old ones dropped brittle to the withered grass Young shoots full of green promise in the spring Filling the branch and falling, flowering Even as other flowers fall and rise Upon the battlefield of life and death Where we are each besieged and sacked While in rebellious overthrow against The capital decree of flesh and blood Abandoned here by all but history And justice and the cause within ourselves We fight to see the day we fight no more The war for which the human race was made

Copyright ages and ages ago by Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Songs for a Tuesday Morning: Sex Machines and the Broken-Hearted

Texas is burning, New York is drowning, half the people I know are floundering, and the other half are out there somewhere I guess--God knows--I don't.  So until God figures out that you  make it fucking rain where the fires are, let's all boogie down by answering two musical questions:

1.  What do you get when you cross this guy

with these guys?

Answer:  This guy:

Whole Lotta Sex Machine

2. And what happens when you remix Jimmy Ruffin so he sounds like a trailer for an indie movie?

Why this, of course:

Chasing The Broken-Hearted

Take it to the bridge, people, cuz unhappiness is just an illusion.

Monday, April 25, 2011

And boy do I deny it

Sometimes I wonder what you see in me.
   If I were you? God--I would never spend
Five minutes in my worthless company.
   How you can stand it I can’t comprehend.
The signs are bigger than the Zodiac:
   I piss away my gifts, I hold a grudge,
Blame the whole world for all the things I lack,
   Tell jokes and make remarks that always judge--
How you can see those faults and still see me
   Is totally incomprehensible.
Either you like to keep low company
   Or you get snowblind when it comes to bull--
     Or else you see the good in me that I,
     Because I fear to own it, must deny.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Last in a series

Goodbye, my love.  I knew this day would come
   The day we said hello.  It was built in
Like painful death’s built in to martyrdom,
   Like guilt and punishment are part of sin.
This farewell was foretold by our hello.
   I felt it when my eyes locked onto yours
And saw not light but promised afterglow--
   Not open windows, but two unclosed doors.
Our first kiss mingled wine with whiskey’s heat, 
   A kiss that held two promises: the one
We couldn’t keep, and this one--bittersweet--
   Love’s final kiss, waiting like Chekhov’s gun.
       Close the book, sweetheart.  Close those sad eyes too.
       This sonnet is my final kiss to you.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, April 21, 2011

16 things that Shakespeare and I have in common

1. Everybody thinks we’re gay.

2. We own more books than clothes.

3. We never went to university.

4. That high forehead thing.

5.  Three brothers and a sister.

6. We’re total suckers for small and dark.

7. We do a lot of our writing in bars.

8. Our closest friends are theatre people.

9. Any evidence that we were brought up Catholic is purely circumstantial.

10. Blank verse is our natural medium.

11. We’re both haunted by Christopher Marlowe.

12.  The youngest brother was the first to die.

13. A ton of plays, but no royalties.

14. Sonnets.

15. If you lock us in a room with a naked woman and a pun, we’ll go for the pun.

16. When someone asks us, “How’s the wife and kids?” we say “What wife and kids?”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Life in five words

The lowest common denominator rules.

Crawl.  Walk.  Run.  Walk.  Crawl.

It's never what you expect.

It's always the first time.

This will never happen again.

Cry. Talk. Cheer. Complain. Die.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

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 than 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, beware of 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 be the thing you need
And your back will be unbroken

Copyright 2011 Mathew J Wells

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

cardiac larceny

Since you stole my heart,
the one thing I can’t die of?
A coronary.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Monday, April 18, 2011

skin game

Love’s the lingerie
that propagation puts on
to look dead sexy

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sonnet Composed of 13 Aphorisms

Death is the precondition of our birth.
   Nothing’s more holy than a man who sins.
We always let the worthless judge our worth.
   Don’t ever trust someone who always wins.
Those who have everything are never whole.
   In every jewel, the flaw is what attracts.
The things you fear become your heart and soul.
   One well-told lie is truer than ten facts.
Like many disappointments, life’s a pleasure.
   The ones who grade you never took the test.
All hearts look shallow when depth is the measure.
   Propriety’s the vice of the repressed.
      Rich, powerful, weak, ignorant, poor, clever:
      Only names writ in water live forever.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shakespeare 101

All inland countries have a sea-coast harbor.
  All cities have a forest close at hand.
The banished will find kingdoms in an arbor,
  The shipwrecked reunite on foreign sand.
Folly is barnacled to sway and power.
  Wisdom will nest in fools and fly alone.
Rulers are crowned and fall in half an hour.
  The lost are found when no man is his own.
True love means you can both ad-lib a sonnet.
  The doomed will kill or kiss the thing they hate.
When there’s a river, men will Rubicon it.
  The innocent will mortify the great.
     Creation kneels to daughters, births and laughter.
     Why?  All will be explained to you hereafter.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

"The Seven Sisters" - Good Luck Mountain - 4/12/11

Friday, April 15, 2011

Forget about chromosomes

If the guy just shares
what he does, not what he feels,
then I'm the girl here.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nymph, on the horizon beyond my sins, remember

Nymph, on the horizon beyond my sins,
remember this poor fool with a fool's gold
god for a patron; this self-professed slave
to passion who is frozen in his ways;
one who loves thunder and yet runs from lightning --
a man who fears his destiny is loss,
yet revels in that fear the way another
leaps for joy at winning against the odds.
Do not forget that, for one brilliant day
in the world's life, we held each other soul
against soul; and when we would put our ears
up to each other's hearts, we would always
hear a deep ocean of undying love.
And if someday we feel ourselves at sea,
let us look back at what we shared, as ships
look back at lighthouses, which beckon and
farewell at once, telling us where we were
and where we should not go. Remember that
more than the reefs and shoals we raced against,
and we will never fail to chart a course
to some new land beneath uncommon stars.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

in the eye of the hurricane heart

Here in the eye of the hurricane heart
     cribbed by the wind
          bobbing, fishing

watching each other drift slowly apart
          spurned by the land
               thirsting, wishing

Hugged by the stillness of comfort and peace
          flat and becalmed
               rolling, drifting

rocked in a cradle of motionless cease
          huddled and numbed
               cramping, shifting

Feeling between us the width of the ocean
we loom against each other 

beyond touch but not sight  
knitting a sail by day
undoing it all by night

 the brothers and the sisters of Penelope
  adrift here
   bobbing and weaving
     and waiting
      for the yarn to end

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Ballad of Richard Burton

The sky is a coal and the sun has gone gray
And time is undiscussed
The stars that are comforts for weariness
Are overwhelmed with dust
        And Burton stands as old as time
        Dead horses haunt him for a crime
        He contemplated past his prime
His voice is cracking  
brittle as a crust
Do not forget me  
though I know you must

The nobles approach with a threatening glee
But Burton turns to pray
Though his best friend begged the Deity
To end his life this day
        He prays for life but doesn't run
        When he finds out God's only son
        Answers petitions one by one
His eyes reflecting  
whimsical disgust
Do not forget me  
though I know you must

He won his wife from a suitor host
But love's a two-edged sword
Her father got him his teaching post
And she got the award
        His blue-haired boy is never born
        And even though his heart is torn
        He has the courage left to warn:
When love becomes the  
darker side of lust
Do not forget me  
though I know you must

The wall sits high and the price has been paid
So Burton leads her through
But Smiley's made sure that the payment was made
For only half of two
        Still Burton reaches down to stake
        His life for one he can't forsake
        Whispering as his fingers shake:
Life has its justice  
ah, but only just
Do not forget me  
though I know you must

And he junks his tarnished blade and frets
That glory too can rust
And he knows that the memories he forgets
Are all that he can trust:
        Make me an eagle!  Make me a star!
        Make me a drink or I’ll trash the bar!
        And if you remember, wherever you are
Plant me a wet rose  
on a beach of dust
Do not forget me  
though I know you must

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Songs for a Tuesday Morning - I am so easily deceived

It was 80 degrees in New York on Monday. And yes, the last time that happened, it was like the groundhog seeing his shadow--we got eight more weeks of February. 

EVERYBODY IN MANHATTAN: Oh great--so it's gonna happen again, right?
ME:  Not meteorologically--only in my soul.
EVERYBODY IN MANHATTAN:  Heh--proves you have one.
ME:  Hey--you oughtta thank me.
EVERYBODY IN MANHATTAN: Why would we do that?
ME:  Well who do you think brought this weather?
ME:  Through the power of musical prayer.
EVERYBODY IN MANHATTAN: You've been whistling again, haven't you.
ME:  Singing.
EVERYBODY IN MANHATTAN: [bemused] Actual singing.
ME:  Oh yeah.  When I'm not talking to myself.
EVERYBODY IN MANHATTAN: And what have you been singing?
ME:  Two songs that feel like spring to me.  Songs that make me feel, oh, 28 again, actually.  And nothing feels more like springlike than that.  Or like these: 

Teacher, Teacher - Rockpile
Heart - Rockpile

ME:  ♪♪♪♪♪
EVERYBODY IN MANHATTAN:  Are you . . . whistling?
ME:  Yes, as a matter of fact, I--

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Two sonnets


I know I’m not your only one and only.
   I know I shouldn’t sulk when we’re apart.
I know it shouldn’t hurt when I feel lonely.
   I know it in my head, but not my heart.
And heart trumps head whenever I’m with you.
   I can play games with logic--I can say
That’s who you are until my face is blue
   And it won’t help, because, at end of day, 
There’s always one spare arrow in your quiver--
   There’s always someone else shaking your tree, 
Someone you smile at as he makes you shiver
   And drop the same fruit that you drop for me.
      You’re never false when you give in to passion--
      You’re always true, but only in your fashion.


Your silence slaps me like an accusation:
  It screams to me that I’ve said something wrong
Or done something to earn this isolation.
  Your distance is a cliff from which, headlong,
I plummet to despair.  I want a knife
  To cut away this paralyzing shame.
Without your smile to bring me back to life,
  I drown in doubt.  When will you say my name?
Tell me--convict me--what drove you away?
  What was the tick that you found sickening?
I’ll sell my soul to bring back yesterday.
  I will apologize for anything.
     Torture and poison both seem heavenly
     Next to the hell of you rejecting me.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Friday, April 8, 2011


You said “I love you”--
three words that gave me new life
your silence murders

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

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 see
our mutual future
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 2011 MatthewJ Wells

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I always miss you
whenever I wake up in
someone else's bed

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I dreamed last night we went to a hotel

I dreamed last night we went to a hotel
   And spent eight hours writhing like tangled vines
On a bed wide as Broadway, till we fell
   Apart like wrestlers undressed to the nines.
My hands could not stop stroking your cool skin.
   You kissed me like you needed one more mouth.
You made me howl when you tickled my shin;
   I made you happy when I went down south.
We bid our inhibitions adios
   And gave in to desire that wouldn’t quit--
And then we talked and held each other close,
   And that was better than the best of it.
      And when I sighed, “Let's do this till we’re dead,”
      I woke up aching in my empty bed.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells


I hate you because
you cannot give me what I need
to despise myself

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


The day I visited you
when you were ill
a mother swallow
fed her chirping children.

Remember? Filled
with words and presents
I repeated myself,
gave you one gift only.

And over your bed
the Japanese print
staring me down:
a man with a half-drawn sword.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Songs for a Tuesday morning: That's where I long to be . . .

"Here comes Randy.  He's alone.  What's his problem?"

That's how Budd Boetticher described the basic set-up of the seven films he made with Randolph Scott in the late 50's. 

Now me, I'm no stranger to the late 50's (except when I wear day makeup).  And yes, I've been depressed lately.  Frankly, I feel like that quote above should read: "Here comes Matthew.  He's alone.  What's his fucking problem anyway?" And because some films are comfort food, I've been spending a lot of time these last few weeks curled up on the couch watching old westerns.  Which means listening to a lot of western title songs.  (And whistling them, too, which has gotten me kicked out of a couple of bars.  With good reason--nothing clears out a Friday night March Madness crowd quicker than a whistled version of "Gunfight At The OK Corral.")

I wanted to give you a sample of what I've been subjecting myself to, and skim the cream rather than scrape the bottom of the barrel (cough)"Liberty Valance"(cough).  So here are two classic Western songs, one from a Howard Hawks film, and one from a John Ford film.  If they're not familiar to you, they deserve to be. 

The Hawks is from Rio Bravo, and if you followed The Sopranos, you heard this played under the credits of one of the episodes in Season 4.  Picture John Wayne listening to this.  Picture John Wayne having to listen to this.  While Walter Brennan makes faces at him off-camera:

My Rifle, Pony and Me - Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson

The Ford is from The Searchers.  It's the title song--not just the two excerpts played at the beginning and the end, but the whole thing.  Which makes you appreciate the genius of Ford.  Because to my tinhorn ear, the whole song is less than the sum of those two excerpted parts.  See if you agree:

The Searchers - Sons of the Pioneers

Till next time, I'm off to ride lonesome; see you seven men from now.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ballade For The One That Got Away

You're the spark that lights the fire;
You're the chill that makes champagne.
You're the voice that lifts the choir;
You're the blood that fills the vein.
You're the only bird that can't be pigeonholed;
You have a heart that always understands.
You're not just the rainbow, you're the pot of gold --
When God made you, He used both hands.

If lies are snow, then you're the plow;
If hate's the wall, then you're the fist.
What you don't have, you don't need now;
Where you can't go, does not exist.
You're the only answer that can silence Job;
You're the shoreline tree where Noah's last dove lands --
If souls have countries, you're the globe.
When God made you, He used both hands.

All heads turn as you walk by.
All cars stop when you hit the street.
Grouches see you and happily sigh.
Strangers throw gifts at your feet.
You're the star on top of every Christmas tree.
You're the green oasis in Sahara sands --
A man born blind can plainly see
When God made you, He used both hands.

Your smile's as nourishing as milk;
Your voice has more music than ten bands. 
You wear your years like pearls on silk --
When God made you, He used both hands.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, April 3, 2011


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

for you see
it has never left my chest

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells


Randomness sometimes will snap into pattern
   And everything that’s mindless will achieve
The rough perfection of the rings of Saturn
   When all Life’s threads are footnotes to the weave.
The world did that to me when I met you.
   That was the afternoon Infinity
Declared: “This woman is the final clue
   Life’s mystery’s been missing.  QED.”
You are the solve for all my nagging doubts--
   The contact lens that sharpens my blurred sight;
The rain that ends my apathetic droughts;
   The ink that makes my empty ballpoint write:
      The centerpiece that makes the puzzle whole
      And gives my lifeless husk a living soul.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Friday, April 1, 2011


On days like this I think about my brother--
days that are cold and gray, days full of rain.
I think of what he'd give to be alive
today--to feel this rain, and see his breath
snake out into the air--to feel the wind
grab at his coat--to feel rain water seep
into his sneakers--what he'd give to feel.

On days like this I wonder what he felt,
what his last frantic thoughts were. "What the fuck?"
"Get your hands off me"! "What just happened here?"
"Who am I?" "Don't! Don't turn off the machines!
It's me! It's me in here! Don't do this! Don't!"
I hear that one a lot, as if he was
some character in Poe, buried alive
in the unyielding coffin of his body--
his mind clawing against a wall of flesh,
his unheard voice screaming till it goes hoarse.

On days like this I feel like I betrayed him.

On days like this, I wonder why I'm here
and he is not, and never will be now.

On days like this I think about Achilles
meeting Odysseus in the fields of Hell
and when Odysseus says "No one has been
more lucky than you, for you were adored
by every living Greek while yet you lived,
and now in Hell you are the greatest prince
among the dead," Achilles frowns and says,
"Say not a single word in praise of death.
I'd rather be a servant in a poor
man's house above the dirt than king of kings
below it." Then he says, "But give me news.
News of my living son." And when he hears
about the earthly glory that was won
by Neoptolemos, Achilles strides
across a field of blooming asphodel,
exulting that his son now has a name
to reckon with up in the breathing world.

On days like this I think of how my brother's
world ended eighteen weeks ago, and yet
my world goes on, part of the big shared world
that will go on long after my world ends,
and it becomes too big a thought for me
to grasp, or even want to grasp, and I
just let it go, and let the breathing world
inhale and exhale me, which it will do
until the day its lungs give out and die,
and my life chokes.

On days like this I close my eyes and smell
the asphodel that waits for all of us
and think how lucky I am to be here
above the dirt, slaving to stay alive,
wishing my brother was here too, so we
could spend just one more day together, like
the end of Our Town--one more day to tell
this world that we have names to reckon with
and things to celebrate on days like this.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells