Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day, Dear




I never knew what it was like to dream
Until the day we met, and hope shook me
Awake, filling my heart with such extreme
Desire, I thought I’d burst with ecstasy.
I never knew what it was like to live
Until I died the day you said goodbye,
Or how much love there was in me to give
Till you returned, and my heart went sky-high.
I never knew how peaceful sleep could be
Until the day I woke up next to you,
Nor how dreams pale next to reality
Till what I dreamed became my dream come true.
I never really knew true happiness
Till you stood next to me and whispered “Yes.”




Even when you are far away, I feel
You next to me, warming me with that look
You have, the one that always keeps me real,
The one that reads me like you wrote the book--
The look I look for and forever find
In no one else--so, dear, this much is true:
The slice of you that lives inside my mind
Speaks more to me than mortal women do.
And how much truer does the real you speak
When we’re together, and the words you say
Make my heart richer and my poor legs weak
And keep me sane, while showing me the way
I can be equal to the challenge of
The truth and inspiration of your love.


Copyright 2011 Matthew J Wells

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Songs for a Tuesday Morning: Everything I Ever Done Was Wrong

(Warning: this post is like one of those really depressing movies that you know you won't be able to sit through unless you're in a good mood, because watching it will be like taking an elevator down to the sub-basement of depression.)

I've been wallowing lately--last week mostly; this week not so much. (To get technical: it's the difference between neck-deep and waist-deep.) And in my self-indulgent despair (which is a hundred times more depressing than my usual devil-may-care Cyranoidal despair), I have been repeatedly listening to one song, a song so depressing that I can't even listen to it twice in a row: "Feel Like Going Home," by Charlie Rich.

Not the original, mind you, which you can find here:

Feel Like Going Home - Charlie Rich

Why not the original? It's not despairing enough. Listen to that piano under everything. It's Gospel piano. And Gospel is never despairing. You could write a song whose lyrics consisted of nothing but synonyms for death, and if you arranged it as a Gospel number, it would still sound hopeful and uplifting. And when I'm wallowing, hopeful and uplifting are the last things I want to feel. I don't want to be lifted up; I want to strap a couple of two-ton weights to that fucking elevator so it'll descend twice as fast, and Galileo be damned. I want this version:

Feel Like Going Home - The Knotting Hillbillies

Now that is depression you can wallow in. It's soft and it's soothing and it's totally unrelieved by anything, even a proper fadeout, because to add insult to injury, the damn song stops just as a really beautiful guitar solo begins. How much like real life can you get, huh?

To me, there's nothing else like this version of this song. If it was a TV show, there would be another episode next week. There isn't. If it was a novel, there would be more than one way to interpret it. There isn't. If it was a play, there would be applause at the end. There isn't. If it was a movie, there would be a comforting moral. There isn't. If it was a film noir movie, there would be light against the shadows. There isn't. Except for the guitars at the end, but to me they have a "See what you lost when you left this world" feel to them. They're like individual eulogies.

And for all the beauty of those eulogies, this song is at heart so dark and so true and so unrelieved that you will never--never--hear it at a funeral, because it would be like opening the door and letting Defeat into the room. Which is not what funerals are about. Funerals are about phrases like "better place" and "at peace now," funerals are about the secret victory, not "Life defeated me at every turn," not "I am such a total failure that I give up. And so should you."

This song is as sweet and as pure as depression gets. It's as beautiful as a sunset.

Your last sunset.

Ever.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Down the rabbit hole

Jeebus, has it actually been two weeks since I posted something on this blog?

OUTLOOK CALENDAR: Yes.

Wow. See what happens when Life takes precedence over Talking About Life? And we’re not even talking about Dealing With Life here either, folks: just Life, in all its time-consuming, energy-sapping glory.

So what’s been happening lately?



Irish Wake. Trained to Cleveland on the 28th for my brother’s Irish wake on the 29th, and trained back to New York on the 30th. That pretty much broke me for the next three days. I’ve been trying to write about it for the last two weeks (without all the unattractive neediness and wallowing) but all I have is therapy rants that will never graduate from my notebook and public-consumption snippets that I’m not happy with. So there may be a therapy rant up here in the next couple of days. Wear something waterproof. You have been warned.



Scarlet Woman. It is a truth universally acknowledged in theatre that, no matter how brilliant your play is on the page, it will need a top-to-bottom rewrite once you put it on the stage. So for the past two weeks I’ve been reworking Scarlet Woman to reflect the input of the actors, the stage manager, and the director, all of whom are asking the questions that need to be asked to make this work. Unfortunately they’re also asking the questions I don’t want them to ask, like, “Why is this character acting that way again?”

CAST & CREW: So wait a minute--why is Marie knocking out Velma again?
ME: Because I wanted to do a Raymond Chandler Murder My Sweet Dick Powell blackout monologue.
CAST & CREW: Yeah but why does she get knocked out in the first place?
ME: Uh . . .
CAST & CREW: And why does this character die again?
ME: Because she has to?
CAST & CREW: Yeah, but who kills her?
ME: Uh . . .
CAST & CREW: And why does--?
ME: Okay, let me think about it.
CAST & CREW: You do that.

Poetry. I’ve been working on two poems since the train ride back from Cleveland, and all I have is a quatrain for each of them. One is love, one is death, and because they’re both written with actual human beings in mind, as opposed to abstractions or ideals, I can’t think of anything else to say. So maybe they’ll just stay this way forever. (Cf. that forever poem I wrote a few weeks back.)

One day I came out of the What-Is-Not
Into What Is, and one day I’ll go back;
Till then, I’ll be where flesh is wed to thought,
Skating between Life’s fullness and its lack.

All that I need to drag my heart from hell
Is to recall the heaven of your face
And those angelic eyes I know so well
Will wing me up out of the foulest place.


ME: I wish to hell they'd wing me into a complete sonnet.



Mistakes Were Made. It's playing through 2/27 at the Barrow Street Theatre, and it is the current definition of Tour De Force in the dictionary. If you want to see an amazing actor at the top of his game, run--don't walk. The play is hilarious, and Michael Shannon is an acting god.

That untitled Western novel. A British publishing company is accepting unsolicited manuscripts in March (first five chapters, then full novel upon request), so in my best let's-bite-off-more-than-we-can-chew manner, I said to myself in January, "I can do that. Just three pages a day between now and mid-March and I'll have 90,000 words, right?"

LIFE: Like hell, pal.

So, okay, I should have 40,000 words by now and I only have 20,000. That's still the first five chapters in rough draft form and outlined notes for the rest of the book, including The Big Gundown at the end. And to answer your questions before you ask them, (1) yes the novel has a title; (2) no, it's not just a Western, it's a Western with a fantasy slant, and the kind of brilliant idea I've been getting lately that I can't talk about out loud because someone else without a day job will hear it in the ether and write it in two weeks; and (3) I am now committing myself to 4 pages a day, which means giving up my post-day-job stress nap. And hiring a porter to carry the bags under my eyes.

Oh yeah. And I'm almost done with the first-act rewrite of Countrie Matters, which (when finished) will (a) require me to write a completely new second act from scratch (b) by 2/21. Which means giving up my pre-day-job night's sleep. But what the hell; it's only what I do to pay the bills.

LIFE: Just wait till mine comes due.
ME: Wait--that could be the third stanza of the death poem!
LIFE: You wish.