Archive for June, 2014


June 28, 2014



I hate myself
That makes it easy
To always have
Someone to blame
I hate myself
I’ll never please me
Keeps me tame

I hate myself
It’s my boundary
Where I harness
Realms of pain
I hate myself
That’s where you found me
Pain enlightens
And leaves a stain

I hate myself
And pain is fuel
Boundless hurt
Fills my well
I hate myself
I live to rule
Sovereign in
My happy hell

by Richard W. Bray

Best Friend

June 22, 2014


You always listen
To my words
And you never
You’re astute
And self-assured
And wise

When we’re alone
I take solace
And comfort
In your eyes
You’re solid
As a stone
Your presence

We don’t even
Have to talk
I love to
Brush your hair
I love it
When we walk

Thanks for keeping
Me content
And helping
Me survive
Truly heaven-sent
You’re the
Dog alive

by Richard W. Bray

Rinky Dink Shadow

June 20, 2014


Got money in my pants
Got a shiny new car
Got tickets to a dance
Got a seat at the bar
Got everything I earned
From all the work I do
But I never ever learned
That I just needed you

I’m a boat without a sail
I’m a light without a lamp
I’m a letter in the mail
That ain’t got no stamp
I’m a fool without a plan
Darling, can’t you understand?
I’m a rinky dink shadow
Of a man

I’m tearing up the town
I’m breaking all the rules
And I’m rollin all around
With a mighty bunch of fools
Got all my crazy pals
Got a million things to do
Got a thousand horny gals
But I just need you

I’m a boat without a sail
I’m a light without a lamp
I’m a letter in the mail
That ain’t got no stamp
I’m a fool without a plan
Darling, can’t you understand?
I’m a rinky dink shadow
Of a man

by Richard W. Bray

Some Thoughts on Sobering Up: From Temperance to Prohibition in Antebellum America, 1800-1860 by Ian R. Tyrrell

June 17, 2014

A substantial American Temperance movement rose and fell during the first half of the nineteenth century. Prohibitionists are often depicted as reactionaries, but this broadly-based movement was largely fueled by contemporary American notions of progress and self-improvement. And the results were, temporarily, astounding. Relying primarily at first on the power of moral suasion to instigate change in popular attitudes about drinking, the antebellum Temperance movement fomented a drastic reduction per capita consumption of alcohol over the course of a few decades; however, the various and substantial efforts of the Temperance movement backfired when many in their ranks went too far and began to support the outright legal prohibition of alcohol.

Anti-drinking activists eventually succeeded in passing prohibition laws in several municipalities and thirteen states. But these so-called “Maine Laws” proved to be immensely unpopular in practice. And by the end of the 1850s, the per capita level of alcohol consumption was higher than it had been at the beginning of the century (302).

The nineteenth century Temperance movement began in New England, spread quickly to New York City, and “eventually spurred a new wave of political activity in every northern and western state” (260). The story of how this movement grew and transformed “from temperance to teetotalism, and from moral suasion to prohibition” is deftly chronicled in Sobering Up: From Temperance to Prohibition in Antebellum America, 1800-1860 by Ian R. Tyrrell (10).

A common misconception is that the Temperance movement was largely a rural revolt against modernity.
However, the movement’s leaders who “are so often depicted by historians as deeply conservative were in fact encouraging and exploiting change” (128). The early Temperance movement was bolstered by the support of artisans and entrepreneurs, the type of men who saw value in being “temperate, sober, and virtuous in habits because they relied on their own exertions for upward mobility” (141). These forward-looking, upwardly-mobile men “were working to create a society of competitive individuals instilled with the virtues of sobriety and industry” (125). These early leaders of the Temperance movement were hardly reactionaries; on the contrary, they were “(P)rofoundly influenced by the spirit of romantic perfectionism which permeated antebellum social thought, the men who were most strongly committed to temperance reform in the late 1830s expressed a deep and abiding faith in man’s potential for improvement” (126).

The Temperance movement, which included but was not limited to The American Temperance Society, The American Temperance Union, The New England Tract Society, The Massachusetts Society for the Suppression of Intemperance, The Sons of Temperance and The Washingtonians, represented a variegated coalition of interests which included secular, spiritual, industrial, professional, and Nativist elements. In Democracy in America Alex de Tocqueville chronicles the dynamics that would propel the antebellum Temperance movement. And Tyrrell describes the impressive power and reach of voluntary democratic American organizations at this time:

Given the structure of American political and legal institution and American conceptions of democratic values, there was a premium placed upon voluntary organizations to effect change. Under such a system, it was possible for articulate and well-organized minorities to achieve much more success and influence than their sheer numbers would indicate (10).

Temperance was a thoroughly middle-class movement and it is therefore unsurprising that single factor which “most disturbed these promoters of social change was the role of liquor within lower-class life” (8). A major aim of the early Temperance movement was to “mobilize the respectable population first, so they would encourage temperance in the larger society” (8). In this spirit, it was argued that “the moderate drinker set the worst example for his fellow man” (72).

Starting in the 1830s, as the Temperance movement veered in the direction of promoting total abstinence, and its leaders began to challenge the common American assumption that the “ideal” approach to alcohol consumption was “moderation and not abstinence” (16). This was a radical shift in American attitude towards the consumption of alcohol. As Terrell notes the “popular belief that Puritans condemned the consumption of alcohol has no basis in fact” (16). On the contrary, the consumption of fermented ciders was an “integral part colonial fabric” (18).

Originally, “Temperance societies did not condemn moderate drinking because it was practiced by too many of its supporters” (42). These early activists “did not, like later temperance reformers, try to eliminate the liquor traffic but sought to regulate it” (43). In Massachusetts reformers originally “urged” the merchants of alcohol “to suspend the sale of liquor to minors and to habitual drunkards” (43). Furthermore, the “first temperance reformers especially railed against the sale of liquor by the drink to local townspeople in small retail shops licensed only to sell for consumption off the premises” (43). In the eyes of reformers, such “dramshops” did not offer any of the “socially useful purpose”, of taverns, such as “providing refreshment for the weary traveler” (43).

But support for total abstinence from alcohol would soon garner remarkable public support as demonstrated by the astronomical success of the American Temperance Society.

Within five years of the inception of its program of reform, The American Temperance Society could point to 2,200 temperance societies in the United States, embracing 170,000 members. By 1833, there were more than 6,000 societies and a million members pledged to total abstinence from the use of spirits (87).

The Washingtonians were another immensely successful pro-abstinence organization. Founded in May of 1840, the Washington Temperance Society of Baltimore was dedicated to the “growing conviction among Temperance supporters that drunkards could be saved” (160). They chose their name based upon the audacious premise that President “Washington had delivered he country from its political oppression; the teetotalers believed they would liberate Americans from the greater social oppression of alcohol” (160). And their growth was spectacular. “By the end of 1841, Washingtonians claimed 12,00 adherents in Baltimore, 10,000 in New York, 5,000 in Boston, and a total of 200,000 throughout the North (160).

At their “experience meetings,” Washingtonians employed strategies that were remarkably similar to the what we see today at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting: “By publicly confessing sins, reformed men felt a sense of atonement for their past. They could put their sins behind them and assert their new sobriety” (172-173). Also like AA, Washingtonians “substituted emotional and psychological appeal for the rational arguments against liquor” and functioned on the belief that “by saving others they (alcoholics) simultaneously saved themselves (163; 174) (Curiously, neither of AAs founders, William Griffith Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith, had heard of the Washingtonians.)

But many in the Temperance movement began to look for political rather than personal solutions to alcoholism. For example, The American Temperance Union

clashed with the Washingtonians over the issue of prohibition. While temperance regulars had adopted general prohibition as the ultimate aim of reform by 1840, the Washingtonians renounced all reliance on legal measures (199)

Starting in New England, a new movement for local “prohibition was a spontaneous movement without central direction from the American Temperance Society or from professional agents of any of the other temperance societies” (226). This mutation of the Temperance movement was led by people who believed that “the community had the right and the obligation to regulate the morality of the individual through law” (227). The prohibitionists were frustrated by the limitations of local solutions; therefore, over time

their concern moved outward from the local level to the state level, as they discovered the magnitude and the complexity of obtaining local solutions for intemperance (226).

These antebellum Prohibition laws mostly came and went in a spasm of self-righteousness. As Tyrrell notes, the year “1855 represented the pinnacle of achievement for the organized temperance movement in terms of power and influence” (282). Those who had dreamed that “the nation would soon be one sober republic from the Atlantic to the Pacific” were soon disappointed (282). After the ratification of the

New Hampshire prohibitory law in August 1855, not a single new state adopted prohibition for the next twenty-five years, and most of the states which had embraced prohibition in the early 1850s modified or repealed their Maine Laws in the late 1850s and 1860s (282).

The 1850s was a tempestuous decade which culminated in the massive conflagration of the Civil War. The antebellum Temperance movement went down in ashes, but it rose like a Phoenix during the twentieth century. Sadly, Americans still have not learned a major lesson of our history—when it comes to efforts to reduce the consumption of controlled substances, moral suasion is much more effective than prohibition.

by Richard W. Bray

If I Let You Love Me

June 16, 2014


If I let you love me
I will let you down
And when our love is done
A part of us will drown

If I let you love me
I’ll start to love you too
We’ll tear at one another
Cuz that’s what lovers do

If I let you love me
I’m taking on your weight
And someone will get hurt
And hurt will turn to hate

I won’t let you love me
Cuz I care for you too much
Attachment is no match
For the malady of touch

by Richard W. Bray


June 13, 2014


Anybody sitting here?
Good Lord, I need a drink
Let me offer you some beer
You can tell me what you think
I’m in here every day
Drinking is my life
Wanna throw it all away
Since I lost my wife
She ran off to Beijing
With my business partner, Ted
She says he’s more exciting
And an animal in bed
So tell me, What’s your story?
It can’t be sad as mine
My father never liked me
And my mother dated swine
My people are afflicted
When it comes to crime
My sister was convicted
And my brother’s doing time
I didn’t catch your name
Would you like another shot?
They tell me I’m insane
I’ve mortgaged all I got
I’ve always been unhappy
You look like you work out
I’m doing pretty crappy
With psoriasis and gout
Didn’t mean to bend your ear
It’s just what I do
I’ve never seen you here
So tell me about you

by Richard W. Bray

Here is Who I Am

June 8, 2014

Throw down the mattock and dance while you can.

W.H. Auden

Life pushes “Play”
We get a dance
We can shimmy
We will slip
We don’t get a
Second chance
It’s a one-way trip

I took a road
It got me here
A stack of choices
Make a man
Don’t make no sense
To shed no tears
Here is who I am

My life’s been good
And it’s been bad
But it’s the only
One I get
It would be stupid
And so sad
To waste it with regret

by Richard W. Bray

Flying in the Dark

June 5, 2014


pain and pity
i lit out
for the city
and ran
away from home
sometimes a body
gotta roam

I just wanted to be free
Thought I had to make a mark
But this city ain’t for me
Flying home in the dark

by the light
i didn’t foresee
an endless night
had enough of
snow and ice
going back where
folks are nice

Won’t you please deliver me
From all the jackals and the sharks
Lord knows this city ain’t for me
Flying home in the dark

by Richard W. Bray

Circle of Hate

June 1, 2014

line people

Strangers sharing all their troubles
Actors living inside bubbles
Lucky, privileged, pampered babies
Make me foam like I got rabies

I got a list inside my head
Of all the people I want dead
I focus focus all my spite
On other people day and night

And I could torture all the swine
Who don’t decide when they’re in line
Chatting up the checkout gal
Like she’s their oldest living pal

I got a list inside my head
Of all the people I want dead
I push my anger far and wide
Cuz I don’t wanna look inside

I ruminate with all my might
On every slander, every slight
The lineup is a mile long
Of all the folks who done me wrong

I got a list inside my head
Of all the people I want dead
I try and try and try and try
To swallow hate until they die

by Richard W. Bray