Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Eve

I stand by the shell of a dive
That was one of my favorite places
And wait for the snow to arrive
While around me the lonely pieces
Of the city's splintered soul,
With a hermit's scarf on their faces
And their eyes on the ground or the goal,
Like bees from a shaken hive
Swarm through the electric cold.

Past windows that advertise
The price of the latest craze --
The toy that will always please,
The game that will always be played --
Pedestrians on the run
From the job that eats their days
Attack the streets and weave
In search of immediate fun
Like soldiers on short leave.

Armed to the teeth with intent,
Movement is what they are --
I can see them from where I stand
As they arrow past the bar --
The lords of a scurrying race
Who fill the seasonal streets
Day in and day out again --
Not motionless even in sleep;
A race of sharks, not men.

Now snowflakes feather the sky,
And swirl on the whips of the wind
Through canyons that preach the lie
Of civilization's thrust
And the worth of the marked-down buy --
The lie that goods which are sold
Or bought by the shopping cart
Will answer the needs of the soul
Or buy an unquestioning heart.

The truth is a quieter voice,
A whisper which softly sings
That winter was made to rejoice,
And babies are born to bring peace,
And people are worth more than things,
And none of us are alone --
Which we all must learn firsthand
Before our immigrant souls
Return to their native land.

By the light of a pagan tree,
In the heat of a candle's glow,
We are part of a common name
That atomized long ago --
The sparks of a broken flame
That burns for the oystered pearl,
That seeks by uncommon stars
For the leap of persistent joy
And the answer behind the world.

But no stars shine above  --
Just the obstinate distant glow
Of a gray and thoughtless heaven
Which I cannot confront or know --
And there are no easy answers,
Just people with hopes and fears
Who pass by each other blind
On the way to a warm lit room
In the lonely way of their kind.

In this age where we make ends meet
Between the push and the shove
And huddle like lambs in the night
And yearn for a gift from above
To fall, like the snow, at my feet,
We must each do what we can
In the teeth of the old year's death
To affirm the worth of man
And the fellowship of breath.

All we are is a storm --
Like snowflakes we meet the earth
With an individual kiss,
And together we pile and drift
Till the blizzard of our birth,
Like a long-discarded gift,
Is forgotten, and we grow gray
By the side of a shining road
Till we finally melt away.

All we have is a day
In the calendar of Time
To light an affirming flame
Beneath the seasonal dome
Of distant tinselled stars,
To make from this desert a home,
And do our daily part
To keep the soldiers of Rome
From conquering our hearts.

All I can do is my best
To candle against the night --
To swear by each morning sun
That all of us come from light,
So it's all of us or none --
And to stand each day I live
For the rules that I yearly believe
When I bravely play at love
On the day after Christmas Eve.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Lulled by the mundane
we sleepwalk through gleaming knives
and think we're special

 Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cheer Up--It's Christmas - The 2011 Christmas Compilation

And I thought LAST year was tough.  

Outside of the michegas you might already know about, which needs no repeating, I’ve been fighting the sneezes and either an early attack of the Februaries (when the cold makes me curl up into a ball next to a picture of Diana Rigg) or a late attack of the Augusts (when the humidity makes me curl up into a ball next to an open refrigerator).

Plus there was the usual anxiety about actually having anything worth putting into a compilation. It’s the same thing every year. I turn around twice after Thanksgiving and it’s the middle of December, and I have a deadline with nothing but last year’s cast-off tunes to meet it, like the musical version of The Island Of Misfit Toys.  And yet every year, with maybe one or two hours a night of online tune-trolling (it’s a Christmas miracle!), my holiday cup overfloweth with musical cheer.

For this year’s mix, I decided to say screw it to the prescribed 80-minute CD length and just throw in everything that tickled my holiday fancy.  The only other requirement was finding an Australian carol, for obvious reasons.  And one which wasn't their annoying version of "Jingle Bells."  I thought the search would be extremely time-consuming, but, like waiting for a liberal politician to compromise his principles, it didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would (cf. Track 22). 

The set list is below.  In addition to the antipodean, this year’s mix includes the sad and the wistful, the upbeat and the lonely, the silly and the sweet, the sexy and the French (but I repeat myself), and two instant classics (tracks 12 and 13).  Plus a chorus verse that makes the writer in me jealous (track 30).  Plus plus a Bonus Track because (like Russian novels) there must always be a Bonus Track.  The download links to the two zip files with all the songs are below the list.  If you want me to burn you the double-CD version, get back to me offline and it's a done deal.

Haddy Grimble, Randoobs.  And (in the words of Ms Spektor)  a Happy New Year to all that is living--to all that is gentle, kind, and forgiving . . .

01 Cheer Up (It's Christmas) - People On Vacation
02 It's Christmas Day - Family Force 5
03 A Little More Time With You - Greg Sczebe
04 Holiday (What Do You Want) - Mike Doughty (with Rosanne Cash)
05 Baby It's Christmas - Bananarama
06 Party Hard - Zach Gill
07 Lollie Holiday - Craig Wedren
08 Candy Cane - Caspar Babypants
09 I Want A Casting Couch For Christmas -  Kay Martin and her Bodyguards
10 I'll Be Home for Christmas - Tift Merritt
11 Dear Mrs Claus - The Barr Brothers
12 (Don't Call Me) Mrs. Christmas - Emmy The Great and Tim Wheeler
13 Who Needs Mistletoe - Julie Roberts
14 Christmas When You Were Mine - Taylor Swift
15 Christmas in London - Krista Detor
16 Christmas On Ward 7 - Chris Flew
17 Cinnamon & Chocolate - Butterfly Boucher
18 Little Drummer Boy - Nicole Atkins
19 Lonely This Christmas - KT Tunstall
20 I Lose a Little Bit of You - Jessie Torrisi
21 Maybe This Christmas - Leigh Nash
22 The Three Drovers - Chris Sporton
23 Christmas at the Trailer Park - Antsy Mcclain
24 The Cowboys' Christmas Ball - The Killers
25 X-mas Song - Fireflies
26 It's Almost Christmas - Chris Garneau
27 Kill a Tree For Christ - Celtic Elvis
28 Douce Nuit - Calogero and Zazie
29 Boom Boom - Maryse Letart
30 Hallelujah (Christmas Is Here) - Sunturns
31 Reset Holiday - Set Your Goals
32 Danse des Mirlitons - Xavier Cugat
33 Happy Holidays (Beef Wellington Remix) - Bing Crosby
34 What Are You Doing New Year's Eve (Mangini Vs. Pallin Mix) - Ella Fitzgerald
35 My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year) - Regina Spektor

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Winter nights are full
of human hearts like crickets
all chirping for love

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sonnet for Gary

Based on a line written by Carlos Fuentes.

Some people die so we can love them more
   Than we would love them if they were alive--
Death coffins up the flaws life can’t ignore,
   Loss weeds the bad to help the good survive;
Grief bleaches every stain, every disgrace;
   Time blizzards biting edges into curves
Until in death we happily embrace
   Somebody who in life got on our nerves,
Like you, my brother.  Every time we met,
   God, how I bit my tongue and rolled my eyes.
But now your death embraced by my regret
   Blinds me to what in life I did despise--
      And though your faults I never once forgave,
      I’ll keep your best alive beyond the grave.

Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Monday, December 5, 2011

When bad things happen to good friends: five thoughts

Neediness.  My response to tragedy is pretty consistent: I get grabbier than a lonely octopus.  This grabbiness totally ruined a relationship I was in when my mother passed away, and last year, when my brother died, it deluded me into thinking that someone was actually considering me as a destination and not a road.  (Cue Shaw’s final stage direction in Man and Superman, thank you very much.)  And the same weed is popping up all over the place now, continually sprouting afresh somewhere else whenever I yank it away by the roots.  Which makes it impossible to be around or in touch with anyone who might serve as a vessel for that neediness.  (Cue the final song from Bernstein’s Candide.)  

Condolences.  When something bad happens to a friend of mine, I feel more than a little dishonest and unworthy when people express their sorrow to me personally, as if it were a first-degree loss.  It’s not--it’s second-degree at best--and my initial reaction is to hand them a phone number or an e-mail address and say, “Here--get in touch with the person who really needs to hear what you just said.”  Which is the wrong reaction.  Because I am the person my friends see, and (because they are my friends) they see how I am affected (even when I don’t), the condolences are honest.  And yet, at the same time, they should never be taken personally, because that way leads to pride and vanity.  I cannot treat them as a crutch to lean on, but as a comforter, to pass on.

Support.  All true friendships are located on a seesaw which is poised between Sympathy and Advice.  ("Do you want me to just listen, or do you want to hear what I think?")  Tragedy changes those two drop points to Dwelling and Escaping--or (since I’ve been harping on this for  a while now and it totally fits) Destination and Road.  (“Do you want me to dwell, or do you want to go somewhere else?”)

Reflection.  Which is my personal (yup) destination, and since it shares its Zip Code with Wallowing, I have to be very careful about how long I stay there.  If it results in an activity, then I’m okay.  But if it doesn’t, then it’s like quicksand.

Perspective.  There are very few personal life-or-death issues that don’t become trivial when confronted by real tragedy.  One does not realize how often one indulges in the sweet self-delusion that this or that feeling or desire is all-important, until one is  either sideswiped or head-on’d by Life in all its senselessness.  Which at one and the same time reaffirms how unimportant mortal concerns are, and galvanizes every concerned mortal soul into a response that can affirm the opposite.  With the right perspective, quicksand becomes dishwater, weeds wither into dust, and that which is truly important--the community of mortality--takes precedence over everything trivial, and points us (if I can be allowed to paraphrase myself) down a road to the only destination that matters:

All we can do is our best
To candle against the night --
To swear by each morning sun
That all of us come from light,
So it's all of us or none.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fun facts: Spencer Tracy Edition

Middle name: Bonaventure.  Now THERE'S a trivia question.

And according to IMDB:

Tracy was offered the role of The Penguin in the TV series "Batman" (1966) before Burgess Meredith. He said he would only accept the role if he was allowed to kill Batman.

How awesome would THAT have been?