Thursday, November 27, 2014

To Absent Friends


I wish that you were hear to hear me say
   “Thank you for everything.”  I can just see
You shake your head and mutter: “That’s okay,”
   Or say: “Oh no—thank you,” and smile at me
Like I did anything that could compare
   With what you did for me without a thought.
To find someone with heart like yours is rare;
   It can’t be measured and it can’t be taught—
Just missed and mourned so much after it ends.
   You were the definition of sincere,
And in your memory I’ll give my friends
   The hug that you’d give me if you were here—
      And be there for them all unselfishly
      The way that you were always there for me. 

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Catch Of Wings

When it came to romance, no one could top us.
   We met and it was instant chemistry.
We knew the arms of love would never drop us,
   So when we fell, we fell gloriously.
We shared the heights and never shunned the deep.
   We defined “precious” by each other’s worth.
We had a love that made the angels weep
   To see true heaven in two souls on earth.
And then it went to hell, in flames that seared
   A hundred times more than the fires of love,
When all we hoped was killed by all we feared
   And we became the haunted victims of
      A love that ruled the heavens like a hawk
      And crashed to earth the day we tried to walk. 


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells


Monday, November 24, 2014

Dear Death

You’ve got a lot to answer for, you cold
   Son of a bitch—the way you work your trade
Sucks knives—taking the young before the old,
   Ignoring Kissinger (I bet he paid
You off with the Vietnamese he killed
   To get that Peace Prize)—letting monsters live
And profit while the world’s caskets are filled
   With innocents.  Just once, please, put a shiv
Between a tyrant’s ribs—just once I’d like to see
   The harmless make it out alive instead
Of being slaughtered by the conscience-free—
   Just once give those who deserve to be dead
      The dark dirt nap of your eternal slumber.
      And if you need that shiv, you’ve got my number. 


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No Man's Land

When I was little I could barely see
For all the family surrounding me.
My parents and their parents arm in arm,
Uncles and aunts protecting me from harm— 

Making a special place for me to hide,
My brothers, friends, and sister at my side.
And when we marched, I moved where they directed.
No matter where we went, I felt protected. 

I took them all for granted, like you do
When those you love become a part of you.
So when the end began, I cannot say,
But one by one they slowly dropped away

Until one day I looked around to see
That there was no one else in front of me.
Great-grandparents, uncles and aunts, my mother,
Grandparents, father, friends, my youngest brother 

Had all, all fallen, all fallen away,
And left me there alone to face the day
With nothing up ahead but No Man’s Land
And no one at my side to hold my hand. 

And now, as darkness overwhelms the day,
Like all who followed, I must lead the way
Exposed and frightened, wishing I could flee—
But it is my responsibility 

To be a comfort and protect from harm
The ones who walk behind me, arm in arm—
And make a special place where they can hide
With brothers, friends and sisters at their side 

And let them see me marching strong and tall
And make them feel protected, till I fall;
And one by one they take my place and stand
Upon the endless verge of No Man’s Land.

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells






Monday, November 17, 2014

Byron and Shelley and Buddhism

When Byron decided to become a Buddhist, he gave up all but five shirts, four pair of pants, three jackets, two pair of shoes, and one household appliance, a state of the art vacuum cleaner. 

One afternoon, when Shelley was visiting Byron’s Spartan accommodations, he noticed that while the floors of every room were immaculate, each and every corner was grimy with dust and grit. 

”I don’t Understand,” Shelley said. 

Byron, who was seated in the lotus position, replied in a low monotone: “Of course you don’t; it is the common lot of mankind.” 

“I’m not talking about Mankind, I’m talking about your Living Room,” Shelley cried.  “You obviously vacuum the Floors, but what I don’t Understand is, when you’re doing it, why don’t you vacuum the Corners as well?”

"Because," said Byron sadly, "I don't have any attachments."


Friday, November 14, 2014

A Delicate Balance

The plague takes many forms—a brassy lush,
   A daughter’s failure at the marriage game,
A wife who has to rouge her face to blush,
   A dead son who’s little more than a name,
And your best friends, blasé and terrified,
   Who only have to ask and you obey,
For in a world where love is petrified,
   The rights they have give them the right to stay.
And when the scale of what the years have lost
   Has overwhelmed you, and the scales you hold
Tip down to guilt, and you must face the cost
   Of that hard-fought retreat called getting old,
      You toss the verdict out and share the crime,
      Off-balance for the first and final time.


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

The Plague

If you didn’t see the 1996 revival of A Delicate Balance with George Grizzard, Rosemary Harris and Elaine Stritch, then you will undoubtedly enjoy the current revival with John Lithgow, Glenn Close and Lindsay Duncan. Close uses the logic of Agnes like a weapon and a shield; Lithgow embraces the lost, bemused distance of Tobias; Lindsay Duncan (I dare you to find a syllable of her American accent that isn’t authentic) makes Claire a lost soul as well as a spirit guide (spirit as in liquor, mostly);  and Bob Balaban and Clare Higgins as Harry and Edna are fabulously offbeat, with Balaban down for a drink one moment and down the rabbit hole the next, and Higgins making you hate Edna almost immediately.  Only Martha Plimpton  as daughter Julia feels like she’s in a different play.  She is all bark and no bite—literally:  she delivers her lines like a tourist in a foreign country who thinks that speaking English loud enough will make the  natives understand her. 

So yes, on its own merits, this production is funny, it’s sharp, it’s disturbing, and it’s very entertaining.  The thing is, the 1996 version was all those things plus terrifying, which exposed a level in the play that is only glimpsed in one or two moments in this production. 

What’s this production missing?  I think of it as the Undertoad.  (And thanks for embedding that one in my brain 36 years ago, John Irving.)  In this play, there’s a crack in the ice that everyone ignores.  Agnes skates around it, Claire drinks so she won’t see it (and then drinks some more so she can get the courage to jump up and down on it), daughter Julia gets married to run away from it, Harry and Edna acknowledge it, and Tobias goes along to get around it.  Without that crack in the ice, the play runs the risk of being a glib comedy of bad manners, with a lot of laughs that should be nervous and add to the tension, instead of being, well, comforting.  And Tobias becomes a henpecked hubbie instead of someone who’s so afraid of thin ice that he measures and weighs every step he takes.  And because Lithgow doesn’t do that, there’s no sense of the lava in Tobias that causes his eruption in Act Three. 

Also (and I don’t think there’s a word for this, so let’s call it hop scotching) a lot of the time, the actors are moving before they’re grounded—reacting before they’ve taken in the thing they’re reacting to.  If this was music, they’d be coming in before the downbeat, and with the same off-tempo result.  The strong moments are weakened and diminished because characters are acting out the results of a decision that is skipped over—they’re hop scotching over the moment when they take in the fact that they’ve been attacked or questioned or defeated, a moment they have to acknowledge before responding to it or else there’s no gravity behind anything they do. 

The only one not guilty of this is Lindsay Duncan, who spends a great deal of this production living in and reacting to a deeper version of the play than is presented onstage.  Her reactions retroactively raise the bar on everything that’s going on.  But never to the level of the bar that was set by the 1996 revival.

So if you never saw that revival, go see this one. 
And if you did see that revival, go see this one as well—because it will, by what is absent in it, reinforce everything that made the 1996 revival a classic.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


When something in you hurts or causes pain,
   You fight it with a dose of something strong—
Take medicine until disease is slain;
   Pop pills to counteract whatever’s wrong.
And that’s what Feminism is: a cure
   To stabilize the body politic—
Fighting an ill with medicine so pure,
   The fear of taking it makes some men sick.
Like casts are burdens once you heal the break
   And wheelchairs useless once you’re on your feet,
The point of Feminism is to make
   The need for Feminism obsolete.
      It’s not about enforced diversity—
      It’s about healing inequality.
Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Monday, November 10, 2014

Byron and Shelley at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

While attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Byron and Shelley obtained lodgings from a local lawyer who had two beautiful daughters named Faith and Hope.  Because of the thickness of their accents, Shelley thought of them as Feth and Hawp, and while Feth was the prettier of the two, she did not hesitate to express a flood of aggressively vocal opinions about everything from the weather to politics, and spoke so constantly that it would have taken a medical examination to determine exactly how she managed to breathe.  Shelley much preferred Hawp, a demure and respectful creature who had little to say about anything at all while in her sister’s presence, but she was smitten with Byron.  

On their second night in town, Shelley took Feth to see a comedy from England, during which she continually whispered comments, questions and opinions about the acting.  Meanwhile, Byron took Hawp out to dinner, and the moment they sat down, Byron found himself in the company of a woman who was just as vocal, twice as opinionated, and ten times as discontented as her sister.  His sole contribution to her unceasing flow of invective and dissatisfaction was the occasional grunt of sympathy and the infrequent interjection of the words “Oh really?”  “Do you now?” and “Is that so?” 

At the end of the evening, having bid their respective dates good night, the two men retired to their chambers in a state of wearisome distemper. 

“How was your evening?” Byron asked. 

“Oh it was Intolerable,” Shelley declared.  “The Creature chattered away throughout the entire Performance.  She is a sad Paradox, Byron—her opinions are as Odious as her features are Beautiful.  And how was your dinner with Hawp?”
Byron shook his head sadly. “It was a date worse than Feth,” he replied.

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lear's Daughters

Three Daughters Of King Lear by Gustav Pope

There were three sisters once upon a time:
   One sister was as brutal as a fact,
One sister spoke of law and dreamed of crime,
   And one had all the heart the others lacked.
There were three girls who served an angry fool:
   One kept the peace, one tried to be endearing,
One gave advice that hid her ridicule,
   And all three learned the trick of disappearing.
There were three daughters of a lonely queen:
   One was the softness that she had to hide,
One was the need that made her feel unclean,
   And one the hate that burned her up inside.
      Three princesses: one hard, one soft, one shrew;
      One warm, one cool, one sly—and all untrue.

Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells

Monday, November 3, 2014

Everything that our eyes see is a vision

Everything that our eyes see is a vision
   That our eyes were constructed to believe
Is worth a look.  Each glance makes a decision
   About what it will not or will perceive.
Sight is a tool that’s differently endowed—
   Dogs can’t see colors, cats stare at a ghost,
And we see faces in a passing cloud
   And Jesus in a piece of melba toast.
We look upon the world like it’s our book,
   But it’s a mirror—it needs us to be.
We see ourselves no matter where we look
   And never see past what we need to see.
      So tell me, love, and always tell me true,
      What I’m not seeing when I look at you. 


Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells