Archive for April, 2012

Application #2

April 27, 2012


Here’s something I wrote a few years ago in graduate school for Professor Kaplan:

Application #2

Langston Hughes’s poem Harlem complies with Cleanth Brooks’s assessment of modern poetic technique as “full commitment to metaphor.” The poem consists of six cogent metaphors steeped together to create an elixir incomparable to the flavor of any one of these images standing alone. A raisin, an oozing sore, rancid meat, a sugary crust, a sagging load and an explosion are, by themselves, images which either assault or delight the senses. Hughes’s alchemy blends the first four contradictory metaphors, then offers a lull in the image of a sagging load before suggesting the possibility of an explosion.

The splattering of metaphors in Harlem qualifies as irony according to Brooks’s loose definition: “The obvious warping of a statement by context.”

The tension, or “pressure of context,” resulting from the incongruity of the metaphors in Harlem is resolved through the prospect of obliteration (explosion) of the entire batch of metaphors. This final loud, bright, apocalyptic eruption, so inconsistent with the lazy, passive images which precede it, relieves tension by hinting at annihilation.

The liquid quality of the poem’s first four metaphors reveal the fluid quality of human emotions. They also contain three food images and two carnal references, suggesting that the fulfillment of our dreams is a need just as basic and primal as the appetite for food.

by Richard W. Bray

Second-String Chump

April 25, 2012

You sent me a text
When your man was away
Said we could meet
If I wanted some play

Things been ruff since I got dumped
But I ain’t gonna be your second-string chump

You wanted to meet
At the far end of town
So no one would see
You were messin around

I’ve been in one helluva a slump
But I ain’t gonna be your second-string chump

You call me up
At a quarter to four
Ya run outta ice
Can I get you some more?

I’ll do what I do to get over the hump
But I ain’t gonna be your second-string chump

We hooked up once
It wasn’t that good
You never called back
Like you said you would

Things been ruff since I got dumped
But I ain’t gonna be your second-string chump

ain’t gonna be your second-string chump
ain’t gonna be your second-string chump
ain’t gonna be your second-string chump

Richard W. Bray

This Business of Saving Souls

April 20, 2012

Richard Wright

This business of saving souls has no ethics“, writes Richard Wright as he recalls how the entire weight of his community was brought down upon him for rejecting Christianity. Wright is certainly not the first person to point out hypocrisies committed in God’s name, and the cogency of Wright’s irony exposes his utter contempt for organized religion. As the author sees it, Christianity is merely one of several methods which society employs to enforce submission upon the masses in general and upon Richard Wright in particular.

Black Boy is overflowing with social forces designed to break Richard Wright down—domestic violence, white terrorism, the media, the school system and the black church all conspire to bridle his spirit. This only makes him angrier and more productive.

For a man who wears the scars of nonconformity as a badge, Wright’s unwillingness to submit to God is perfectly consistent. Like any memoir, Black Boy is an amalgamation of fact, fantasy, and recollection. But this particular autobiography has a remarkably consistent theme: Always the rebel, Richard Wright heroically reveals all forms of human hypocrisy and confronts every injustice perpetrated against him. The institutional repression of the church is just another cross for him to bear.

Wright’s descriptions of the black church seethe with hostility as he chooses to see only the most negative aspects of religion. He is “disgusted” by the “snobbery, clannishness, gossip, intrigue, petty class rivalry, and conspicuous displays of cheap clothing” which he encounters in church. Of course, with the possible exception of “cheap clothing,” these phenomena are apparent in all human institutions. It’s just the way people are. And this vituperation for the church is a function of Wright’s deep–seated misanthropy.

It is disheartening that Wright’s quest to slay all dragons prevents him from experiencing the virtuous aspects of organized Christianity. He is absolutely blind to the worldly fellowship, charity, comfort, hope and spiritual fulfillment religion has to offer. And the immense beauty of religious art and music are completely lost on him. As Wright sees it, “(t)he naked will to power seemed always to walk in the wake of a hymn”.

But this cannot be dismissed as a simple outgrowth of Wright’s Marxist/humanist philosophy. Many confirmed atheists are willing to concede that organized religion can be beneficial to society in various ways despite the plethora of grievous wrongs committed in its name. (Full disclosure: I am a devout deist, but I reject the smugness with which many of the so-called New Atheists attack religion.) The roots of Wright’s profound enmity towards the black church stem from the part of him which could never find solace in groups, not even in a political party which reflected his beliefs.

Richard W. Bray

Time to Run

April 15, 2012

I don’t care about my marriage
I don’t care about the kids
I don’t care who I hurt
And I don’t care what I did

It’s time to have a bottle
It’s time to have some fun
It’s time to find a woman
And forget the things I done
It’s time to hit the honky tonks
It’s time for me to run

I don’t care how much she loved me
I don’t care about her pain
I don’t care if she gets lonely
I don’t care if she’s sane

It’s time to have a bottle
It’s time to have some fun
It’s time to find a woman
And forget the things I done
It’s time to hit the honky tonks
It’s time for me to run

I don’t care about my daughter
I don’t care bout my son
Growin up without a daddy
Never hurt me none

It’s time to have a bottle
It’s time to have some fun
It’s time to find a woman
And forget the things I done
It’s time to hit the honky tonks
It’s time for me to run

Richard W. Bray

Scenarios for Discussing Business Ethics

April 13, 2012


1. Have students rate the awfulness of the following scenarios on a scale from one to ten.

2. Pair and share answers while considering the following questions.

   a) Who gets hurt? How much?
   b) Would you want your mother to know if you did it?
   c) What kind of world would it be if everyone acted like this?

3. Full-class discussion led by teacher.


Dumping toxic waste in a Third World country.

Embezzling from a large corporation.

Embezzling from the widows and orphans fund.

Collecting on a false claim from an insurance company.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Plagiarism in a company report.

Copying computer software without permission.

Bribing foreign officials to get a contract in countries where it is a commonly accepted practice.

Bribing a building inspector instead of fixing faulty electrical equipment.

Only hiring people who belong to the same race or the same gender as you.

Omitting side effect information in a published drug trial.

Profiting from child labor.

Profiting from “sweatshop” labor.

Threatening employees with termination if they don’t work unpaid overtime.

“Spamming” strangers in hopes of attracting clients.

“Cold calling” potential clients in their homes during dinner.

Taking office supplies from your employer on a regular basis.

CEOs getting large compensation and bonuses when they are laying off employees and/or cutting worker salaries and benefits.

Managers who routinely pitch fits and scream at employees.

A restaurant owner skimming money from the tips of waiters and busboys.

Richard W. Bray

In Praise of Clever

April 7, 2012

Clever is underrated.

Clever describes one who possesses brilliance, mental sharpness, originality, or quick intelligence. But the word clever also implies shallowness and superficiality.

Fables teach our children that the clever fox is subordinate to the wise old owl. Cleverness is ephemeral but wisdom abides.

According to this distinction between cleverness and wisdom, cleverness is quick and slick whereas wisdom is an invaluable beverage which must ferment over time: wisdom enlightens; cleverness simply amuses. But without intelligence there is no wisdom; there is merely pablum which seeks to comfort.

And even the least refined cleverness has value. Every flash illuminates, if only for an instant.

I hope you enjoy these witty rhymes from Lyrics on Several Occasions. Ira Gershwin was very clever and that is good enough for me.*

Ira Gershwin rhymed embraceable you with irreplaceable you and silk and laceable you in Embraceable You (29-30)

Ira Gershwin rhymed divorcement with of course, meant and he rhymed painless with ball-and-chainless in Sweet Nevada (78)

Ira Gershwin rhymed enjoyment with for girl and boy meant in Nice Work if You can Get it (96)

Ira Gershwin rhymed caress men with yes men and chessmen in How Long has this Been Going On? (277)

Ira Gershwin rhymed four leaf clover time with (my heart) working overtime in ‘S Wonderful (251)

* I realize, of course, that the word clever has often been used to disparage the accomplishments of Jews, just as the word sinister has often been used to impugn their motives. This is not my intention.

Richard W. Bray


April 3, 2012

rich man’s war
poor man’s fight
buddy, what gave
you the right
to profit offa
blood and misery?

warbucks fill
your bank account
tell me what’s
the right amount
to make you
be the best that you can be

i seen things
you can’t erase
i lost friends
you can’t replace
i pray to God
you worship property

your blood freezes
my blood burns
you seek silver
i just yearn
to be stateside
with my lovin family

Richard W. Bray


April 1, 2012

I fell in love with your heart
Ain’t never been very smart
My passion making me a slave
Love is gonna put me in my grave

I fell in love with your heart
Your eyes are like a paira’ poison darts
Your tender love is hollow and untrue
Lord knows what I ever saw in you

I fell in love with your heart
I knew I shoulda’ run from the start
Smiling while you cut me to the bone
I’d be so much better off alone

I fell in love with your heart
Why you gotta pick my world apart?
My soul is freezing naked in the rain
I guess it ain’t no secret I’m insane

I fell in love with your heart
Ain’t never been very smart
My passion making me a slave
Love is gonna put me in my grave

Richard W. Bray