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