Archive for February, 2013

Toil

February 23, 2013

toil

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
   Yes, to the very end.

—Christina Rossetti

life’s a road
that runs uphill
strife and toil
always will
be the daily
plight of all
who breathe

cursing fate’s
a waste of time
find your beat
and live your rhyme
cherish all
you can before
you leave

Richard W. Bray

Under an Arch of the Railway: In Praise of W. H. Auden on his One Hundredth Birthday

February 21, 2013

railway arch

I’d like to read one of W. H. Auden’s best-known poems and one of the best-known poems, I suppose, modern poems of the last ten years. Probably someone will find that it was written in the last nine years, but it doesn’t matter…”As I walked Out One Evening.”

—Dylan Thomas (from the Caedmon Collection)

No poet consistently knocks me on my tailbone the way W.H. Auden does. Listening to Auden read Death’s Echo from the Voice of the Poet recordings makes me want to lie down in the fetal position and turn out all the lights.

As I Walked Out One Evening, depressing as it is, leaves me with some hope, however. At my lowest points, I try to remind myself that my life remains a blessing although I cannot bless.

Each stanza of “As I Walked out One Evening” is by itself a masterpiece, containing more literary merit than you will find on this entire blog.

The theme of the poem is certainly nothing new: Everything human beings do and feel is ephemeral. But a poet’s task is not to discover new themes. As Richard Wilbur notes, the “urge of poetry” is to bring its subject matter “into the felt world.”

The poem has many notable lines, but I’d like to focus on one that seems mundane at first reading, line seven:

“Under an arch of the railway”

There are, of course, many less lovely ways to express this particular image: Beneath the railroad line, below the arch which a train passes over, underneath the elevated train tracks, etc. But Auden’s construction magically sings itself off the page and into my brain where it will remain until such time as I am forced to surrender my smidge of nitrogen to the World Fund

Richard W. Bray

The Three Don’ts of Divorce and an Amusing Preschool Teacher Story

February 19, 2013

kids playing with fire truck

I took it as a compliment when someone chastised me for being “schoolmarmish” on a blog discussion thread. I assume the commenter was suggesting that it was prudish of me to describe reality tv as human cockfighting. (We were discussing the Real Housewives of somewhere or other, as I recall). I was tempted to respond that I’m very proud of the years I spent schoolmarming. Teaching kids is an important, demanding, and rewarding job.

Teaching elementary school is also very educational for teachers who keep their ears open. Not only do kids say the darnedest thing, but parents have a curious tendency to mistake teachers for Marriage and Family Therapists, particularly during parent conference season. And bitter divorcees of both genders are prone to inappropriate disclosures, a mistake which is compounded when done in front of one’s children.

This brings me back to my faded recollection of a long ago teacher’s lounge discussion about The Three Don’ts of Divorce:

#1 Don’t rag on your ex in front of the kids. Making stupid decisions with your life is nothing to brag about. And you really aren’t impressing people when you tell them that you chose to make babies with a pathetic loser. Furthermore, a relationship is not a competition; nobody wins when the final whistle blows. And the biggest losers will be your kids if you embarrass them by unraveling a giant ball of bitter in front of their teachers.

#2 Don’t ask your kids to spy on your ex. If you can’t let it go, try yoga. Deep breathing is not only good for the body, but it’s a wonderful metaphor for life; taking in and letting go is a continuous process. Struggling to hold on to something that no longer exists will rot your spirit; it will also turn you into an insufferable pain in the keyster.

#3 Don’t talk about details of the divorce in front of your kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents trying to justify X,Y, and Z by scapegoating a parent who isn’t in the room. Of course, sometimes it is necessary to divulge sensitive personal information to your child’s teacher. (Like when you’ve have to get a restraining order.) But it’s a good idea to send your kid out to the playground first.

An Amusing Day Care Teaching Story

In college I worked at a very hoity toity day care center on the north side of Berkeley which was run by a friend of my family. Because I was a part-time substitute, no one ever took the time to fill me in on the finer points of local etiquette.

One day I was supervising the sandbox during free play when a three-year-old boy smacked another kid over the head with a toy firetruck.

“Cut that out,” I insisted.

The offending child immediately stopped assaulting his playmate. He turned towards me and gave me a stern glare.

Cut that out is not nice, ” He instructed severely. “We don’t use words like the at the Child Education Center.”

I was taken aback by the rebuke, but I sensibly resisted the nearly overwhelming impulse to say, “Listen pal, we put people in jail for things like that.”

Richard W. Bray

Dexter McTexter

February 10, 2013

mctexter

Dexter McTexter
Cooked some food to eat
He had to brag
So he sent his bros a tweet

Dexter McTexter
Heard a funny joke
Got out his thumbs
And told a thousand folk

Dexter McTexter
Stopped at a red light
Just long enough
To publicize his plight

Dexter McTexter
Scratched his derrière
It felt so good
He made his friends aware

Dexter is connected
Every second he’s awake
His overburdened brain
Never takes a break

Dexter needs the chatter
So he won’t feel alone
So damn helpless
Can’t do nothing on his own

Richard W. Bray

A Brand New Bunch of Lies

February 8, 2013

Denial

I know my baby loves me
Cuz he makes me moan and coo
Sometimes he wreaks of perfume
But what’s a girl to do?
I should feel flattered
Other women want him too

Pondering reality
Is never very wise
I can only take the truth
In disguise
Time for me to find myself
A brand new bunch of lies

I’m just a social drinker
I never drink alone
There’s fifty-seven bars
Where I am widely known
I ain’t an alcoholic
I don’t even drink at home

Pondering reality
Is never very wise
I can only take the truth
In disguise
Time for me to find myself
A brand new bunch of lies

They say my boy’s a bully
Cuz he had a couple fights
He ain’t no troublemaker
He just stands up for his rights
Bail bonds and sirens
Fill my sleepless nights

Pondering reality
Is never very wise
I can only take the truth
In disguise
Time for me to find myself
A brand new bunch of lies

Richard W. Bray