Archive for July, 2015

Ugly Talk

July 27, 2015


The motivation
For your allegations
Is a stupid inclination
For classification
Your speculation
Is an irritation
Put away your provocation
Find a new fixation

Gonna do what do
Gonna live my life
Ain’t got no time
I ain’t inclined
To justify…

I ain’t no public relations
Got no obligation
To give documentation
Of my situation
No contamination
Don’t need validation
Or your confirmation
Got my contemplation
And my liberation

by Richard W. Bray

Never Felt Better

July 22, 2015
Dr. David Perlmutter

Dr. David Perlmutter

Sugar hurts your brain
And bread isn’t food
Dr. Perlmutter is a real smart dude

I cut down on carbs
I lost twenty-two pounds
Never felt better
But my pants are fallin down

Fight the Parkinson’s
Fight the Alzheimer’s
Eliminate the glutens
You’ll be stronger and wiser

by Richard W.  Bray

Sorry, Mr. Keats

July 15, 2015

You aren’t influenced by that Beauty is Truth claptrap.
Robert Frost


If ancient Greeks were
And if that urn
Were decimated
Life would go on

There ain’t no Truth
And Beauty’s overrated
But Love can never
Be calculated

by Richard W. Bray

Earth Water Sun

July 10, 2015


Cantaloupes or peaches
Figs or watermelons
Huckleberry, cumquat
Give me what you’re selling

Radishes or cauliflower
Broccoli or beets
Serve it up and I’ll devour
Healthy garden eats

Don’t require chemicals
To fix a healthy feed
Earth water sun
Are everything you need

by Richard W. Bray

Hostility Don’t Turn Me On

July 8, 2015


Some folks like to
Sass and fuss
Then hop in bed
And both go nuts

Some folks wasting
All their days
Seeking targets
For their rage

This lovely life
Is much too brief
For instigating
Mindless grief

A love that starts
In acrimony
Is sure to end
In alimony

Hostility don’t turn me on
Fight and holler
I’ll be gone
If you wanna clash and feud
Find yourself another dude

by Richard W. Bray

A Journey Across Syllables

July 5, 2015
I Rode My Ten Speed to Pomona to Buy this Single

I Rode My Ten Speed to Pomona to Buy this Single

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio,
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

When songwriter Paul Simon wrote the above lines in his song “Mrs. Robinson” he was grasping after the illusion that the 1950s had been a simpler time than the turbulent 1960s. (But there are no simple times.)

Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio were Yankee teammates and unfriendly rivals. Years after writing Mrs Robinson, Paul Simon met Mickle Mantle. Simon gushed on and on about how Mantle had been his boyhood hero. When Mantle asked Simon why he had chosen to glorify DiMaggio rather than Mantle, Simon replied

“It was syllables, Mickey, the syllables were all wrong.”

A song, like any other type of poem, is a journey across syllables, and syllables are made of sounds. Linguists call these sounds phonemes. Linguists are people who study words. In England linguists are called philologists, which is a wonderful-sounding word. My favorite philologist is Henry Higgins from “My Fair Lady.” (Yes, I know he’s not a real person. So what?)

Linguists name and catalogue the sounds that make up languages. (That’s a lot of work.) They give these sounds really cool-sounding names like “fricatives” and “diphthongs.” Years ago I had to memorize the names of all the English language phonemes and a whole bunch of other stuff for a midterm in my Structure of Language class with Dr. Hilles. It was a tough test. (I got a 96%, thank you very much. But the student who spent her lectures reading fashion magazines got an 18%.)

Anyhow, those hardworking linguists tell us that the total number of phonemes employed in earthling human languages ranges from 11 to 112. The English language provides us with about forty-four phonemes to work with. That’s plenty of sounds for your gifted lyricist.

When Barry Manilow was recording the song that would make him famous, he had a phoneme problem. See if you can spot it.

Well you came and you gave without taking
But I sent you away, oh Brandy
Well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today, oh Brandy

The “b’” sound at the beginning of the word “Brandy” is called a voiced bilabial stop: voiced because it involves the vocal cords; bilabial because it utilizes both lips; and stop because it provides a halt between sounds. (Compare the voiced bilabial stop of the “b” sound with the voiceless bilabial stop of the “p” sound.)

The “br” sound at the beginning of the name “Brandy” was a jarring jolt which interrupted the flow of sounds. When Manilow switched out the name Brandy with the name Mandy, the sounds smoothly melted together, and the rest, as they say, is history. (The “m” sound is called a bilabial nasal)

Now consider the following stanza from Bob Dylan’s song “Shelter from the Storm.

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose
I offered up my innocence I got repaid with scorn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

I lied. We’re not going to consider the whole stanza, with all its wit, humor, irony, imagery, and biblical references. We are only going to talk about the first half of the first line.

Say “in a little hilltop village” to yourself aloud. Now say it again, this time thinking about what your tongue, lips, and teeth are doing. Notice how all the action is happening at the front of your mouth.

And as for those poor benighted souls who don’t think song lyrics are poetry. Well, read the first comment on this blog post. It’s by somebody named Richard W. Bray.

by Richard W. Bray