Archive for May, 2011

Other People’s Problems

May 31, 2011

Other People’s Problems


Ever’body got a gift
And I was born to see
Other people’s problems
It’s my spesh-ee-al-i-tee
I’m just here to help them
Be the best they’ll ever be
Got so much time to do it
Cuz there’s nothing wrong with me

My daddy is a sweetheart
But he likes to take a swig
He lives to serve his country
When he ain’t in the brig
And you know I love my mama
Despite everywhere she been
And all my friends and neighbors
Are such paragons of sin:

Sarah is a diva,
Lester is a drunk
Harold is a pervert,
And a weasel and a punk
They tell me “mind your business”
But I know it’s bunk
They pretend that they’re all rosy
When they really smell like skunk

Ever’body got a gift
And I was born to see
Other people’s problems
It’s my spesh-ee-al-i-tee
An Egyptian river is
Where I ought to be
Thinking about you
Replaces thinking about me

by Richard W. Bray

Eleven Stanzas that Strike Like a Chime through the Mind

May 29, 2011

Christina Rossetti

Richard Wilbur

e e cummings

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

from Uphill by Christina Rossetti

Let Observation with extensive view,
Survey mankind, from China to Peru:
Reark each anxious toil, each eager strife:
Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate,
O’spread with snares the clouded maze of fate,
Where wavering man, betrayed by venomous pride,
To tread the dreary paths without a guide,
But scarce observed, the knowing and the bold
Fall in the general massacre of gold;
Wide-wasting pest! That rages unconfined,
And crowds with crimes the record of mankind;
For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws,
For gold the hirling judge distorts the laws;
Wealth heaped on wealth, not truth nor safety buys,
The Dangers Gather as the Treasures rise

from The Vanity of Human Wishes (The Tenth Satire of Juvenal Imitated) by Samuel Johnson

We have it and it doesn’t do us any
Good because nobody gets what they
Deserve more than everybody else.

from Family Values by Robert Pinsky

I am tired of tears and laughter,
And men that laugh and weep;
Of what may come hereafter
For men that sow to reap:
I am weary of days and hours,
Blown buds of barren flowers,
Desires and dreams and powers
And everything but sleep.

from Garden of Proserpine by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

from The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd by Sir Walter Ralegh

Joy’s trick is to supply
Dry lips with what can cool and slake,
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache
Nothing can satisfy.

from Hamlen Brook by Richard Wilbur

“I see the guilty world forgiven,”
Dreamer and drunkard sing,
“The ladders let down out of heaven,
The laurel springing from the martyr’s blood,
The children skipping where the weeper stood,
The lovers natural and the beasts all good.”
So dreamer and drunkard sing
Till day their sobriety bring:
Parrotwise with Death’s reply
From whelping fear and nesting lie,
Woods and their echoes ring.
The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews,
Not to be born is the best for man;
The second-best is a formal order,
The dance’s pattern; dance while you can.

from Death’s Echo by W. H. Auden

To fight aloud, is very brave —
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Cavalry of Woe —

from To Fight Aloud is Very Brave by Emily Dickinson

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

from I Knew a Woman by Theodore Roethke

and nothing quite so least as truth
—i say though hate were why man breathe—
because my father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

from my father moved through dooms of love by e.e. cummings

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard
Or keeps the end from being hard.

from Provide, Provide by Robert Frost

by Richard W. Bray

For Emily

May 22, 2011

For Emily


Syllables of glee–
Of bobolink and bee—
Her diadem of brain
Where lavish joy is pain

Temerity of breath
Seek ecstasy in death—
The doom of dim and wise
Is dust of paradise—

Inward—fighting woe,
Circumference of know—
Her raiment will reveal
Our sumptuous little meal

by Richard W. Bray

talk

May 19, 2011


dont be
comin round
to bring me down
with tales you
pass around
dont need that strife
go live your life
somewhere else
you clown

it aint my job
to explain
the ways of me
to you
and I aint here
to live my life
like you want
me to

i dont care
what they say
i dont care
what you hear
so take
your talk
and your self
far away
from here

by Richard W. Bray

That’s How Easy War Can Be

May 16, 2011

american
bombs
courageously
dropped.
everybody
feels
great
here.
imperial
justice
keeps
liberating
manifold
nonhumans.
only
pacifists
queasy.
reality
shows
transmit
universal
values.
we’re
xceptional,
you’re
zapped.

by Richard W. Bray

Downright Victimy

May 12, 2011

Downright Victimy

We all know it’s tragic
When a lover gets the boot
Sometimes it’s no biggie
Sometimes it’s acute
I’ve seen guys who got whupped
For bein’ Passion’s slave
And quite a few that drunk themselves
To an early grave
But I ain’t seen’ nuthin’
Like my buddy Billy Ray
He rewrote the Book of Crazy
When his woman run away
With his little brother
On his thirty-third birthday…

He hunts grizzlies with a penknife
He cleans his pistols with his tongue
He wrassles crocodiles
He eats salads made of dung
He wears a barb wire choker
He pours gunpowder on his eggs
He takes shooters of Tabasco
He drinks malt liquor by the keg


He don’t just look sick to me
The dude is downright victimy
Won’t live to see the next full moon
If he don’t get some help real soon

by Richard W. Bray

Celebrating the Violent Death of a Wicked Man

May 5, 2011

any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind

John Donne

My grandfather lived to be a hundred years old. He had a remarkable career in which he enriched the lives of thousands of people. In fact, he loved his job teaching Geology so much that he continued to go to work every day for over thirty years after he retired. He was a respected family man and a pillar of the community. None of us could reasonably ask for anything more out of life.

If every person’s death makes me smaller, then it would be natural to assume that the passing of a kind, decent, and noble man like my grandfather would represent the greatest type of loss for humanity.

However, I believe that, paradoxically, the opposite is true: A life squandered in pursuit of violent and vindictive hatred is a failure for all of humanity because, as Donne noted in his famous sermon, no man is an island.

I’m not saying this to scold people who exalt in the death of someone who has committed heinous crimes. This is perfectly natural and I am in no way superior to anyone who would cheer when a bad man gets a bullet to the head. I feel petty and vindictive impulses every day, which are usually directed towards those whom I love the most. That’s simply a function of having an ego.

Being human, the best that I can ever hope to achieve is pity for the wicked in the rag and bone shop of my crooked heart.

by Richard W. Bray