Posts Tagged ‘pain’

False Cures

September 1, 2014


People start dispersing
When I bitch and bray
But you can’t cure the anger
By sending folks away

Doctor gives me pills
To remedy the pain
But you can’t cure the body
By lying to the brain

Shutting down my feelings
Is my only goal
But you can’t cure the heart
My murdering the soul

by Richard W. Bray


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

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


May 25, 2014


so many times
so many ways
i hurt you
for what I am
and who
i want to be

i devour
i disrupt and
i endure
my hunger
slashes you
it nibbles me

a thousand times
i can say
i’m sorry
but that’s
a stupid song
i sing for me

by Richard W. Bray

Hiding from the Hurt

May 13, 2014


You can take a bunch of pills
Drink that whiskey by the cup
But your anguish and your ills
Will survive if you wake up

Can’t hide from the hurt
You gotta love it like a friend
It tells you who you are
It tells you what you gotta mend

You can pack up all that pain
You can shove it down deep
But the hurt will still remain
It’ll surface when you sleep

Can’t hide from the hurt
You gotta love it like a friend
It tells you who you are
It tells you what you gotta mend

You can fill up every day
You can work around the clock
You can play and play and play
You can talk and talk and talk

Can’t hide from the hurt
You gotta love it like a friend
It tells you who you are
It tells you what you gotta mend

by Richard W. Bray

A Guy I Saw

August 14, 2013


Life could never punish me enough
For everything I did

I struggle just to say my name
A single word could knock me down
It hurts to breathe
It hurts to think
It hurts to move

Helpers tell me it’s ok:
The sky won’t shatter if I smile

by Richard W. Bray

All the Suffering the World Can Feel: The Pain and the Glory of Graham Greene’s Catholicism

September 2, 2012


About twenty years ago I entered a Catholic church for the first time.  It was a funeral mass for the father of a colleague delivered at Our Lady of the Assumption, a small church in Claremont, California.  I felt almost suffocated by the large, bleeding Christ hanging from a cross by the altar with its dreary promise of agony.

My first thought was: “Someone should really cover that thing up.”

My second thought was: “How many times do they kneel during a service?”  Herb (an Evangelical from work) and I kept looking over at each other as we struggled to figure out when to sit and when to stand and when to kneel.  (I had not been expecting an aerobic workout.)  Afterwords Herb said, “Damn, I’ve never been in a church with so much kneeling.”

My third thought was: “These people are incredibly masochistic.”

Over the years I’ve attended masses in other Catholic churches for various reasons.  There is usually less kneeling than there was that day at OLA and crucifixes are generally less prominently displayed, but pain is always the dominant motif.  This has long perplexed me.

With the help of Graham Greene, I’m finally beginning to appreciate the allure of a pain-stricken God.  Perhaps the agony of Christ is the mechanism by which Catholics negotiate the incomprehensible chasm between the finite and the infinite.  (As the saying goes, a God who does not suffer is insufferable.)

Sarah Miles, the self-loathing, self–described “bitch and a fake” from The End of the Affair, Greene’s marvelously–constructed novel of wartime infidelity, is drawn to Roman Catholicism despite her strong misgivings (76).  Similar to my own revulsion for the celebration of physical pain in the figure of a massive, bleeding Christ right next to the alter, Sarah “hated the statues, the crucifix, all the emphasis on the human body.” Sarah was “trying to escape from the human body and all it needed” (87).

Sarah Miles’ lover, the God-hating utterly recalcitrant atheist Maurice Bendrix who narrates The End of the Affair, provides some cogent elucidations of Greene’s idiosyncratic variety of Catholicism.  Bendrix explains why agony is a much more substantial emotion than joy:

The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness.  In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other.  But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity (36).

Along with fear, pain is the overriding, omnipresent truth of existence for all sentient beings.  Pain, as Emily Dickinson noted, has “infinite realms,” and “new periods of pain” are always foreseeable.  Pain has no ending, and its existence predates human consciousness on Earth by millions of years:

Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there was
A time when it was not.

Nobody really knew how long a second of pain could be.  It might last a whole purgatory–or for ever(133).  Thus laments the Whiskey Priest, the forlorn and touchingly human hero from Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory.  The Whiskey Priest is the last practicing Padre in the Mexican state of Tabasco during the rabidly anticlerical governor Tomás Garrido Canabal’s reign of terror when Catholicism was banned and every church in the state was shuttered.

From Greene’s perspective, a hapless drunkard who impregnates a parishioner is the ideal hero in this fallen world because:

It was for this world that Christ had died; the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater glory lay around the death.  It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization—it needed a God to die for the half–hearted and the corrupt (97).

There is much paradox here:  We need a perfect God who is also human to deliver us from our imperfection.  And we also require our sin-hungry flesh in order to fully appreciate God’s perfection.  As the Whiskey Priest is “praying against [the] pain” of his own corruption, he comes to the realization that through death and resurrection, “[t]his is what we escape at no cost at all, sacrificing an unimportant motion of the body (66).

Alden Pyle is Graham Greene’s repugnant eponymous Quiet American CIA officer who callously perpetuates human suffering in the name of something he calls Democracy.  When explosives supplied by Pyle kill several civilians, he dismissively notes that “[i]t was a pity, but you can’t always hit your target.  Anyway, they died in the right cause (171).”  Pyle is truly monstrous because “he was as incapable of imagining pain or danger to himself as he was incapable of conceiving the pain he might cause others” (53).

Suffering is the cornerstone of Graham Green’s unique strain of Catholicism.  I am a devout deist who will never share Greene’s faith.  But, paradoxically, his novels inform my existential humanist perspective in ways that no atheist author ever could.  And all humanists would do well to remain cognizant of Thomas Fowler’s important observation: “Suffering is not increased by numbers: one body can contain all the suffering the world can feel” (TQA 175).

by Richard W. Bray

Things that Matter

August 20, 2012

Pack a lunch
And fix her face
Today your little girl’s
Gonna join the race
She’s got a bag
That’s half her size
Time to swallow tears
And kiss goodbye

Got no choice
But to let her go
It’s a mighty pain
No one else could know
One last hug
Wish her well
Things that matter
Hurt like hell

Tempers shattered
All your light
Now the golden glow
Is an endless night
She held you up
For half a life
Nothing prepares you
To lose a wife

Got no choice
But to let her go
It’s a mighty pain
No one else could know
One last hug
Wish her well
Things that matter
Hurt like hell

by Richard W. Bray


August 15, 2012

Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul—

—Emily Dickinson



Pain’s not something I should fear
From feel to think there is no line
Pain got me from there to here

I try to keep my feelings near
What else is completely mine?
Pain’s not something I should fear

My troubles aren’t for you to hear
I’m not the type to sit and whine
Pain got me from there to here

Pain is something I hold dear
Bounty from a winding vine
Pain’s not something I should fear

I think I’ll have another beer
I won’t stop till I’m feeling fine
Pain got me from there to here

My shaking hands must be a sign
All night long my teeth will grind
Pain’s not something I should fear
Pain got me from there to here

by Richard W. Bray


March 23, 2012

Sam thinks
ten drinks
will clean
his spleen
and puke
such thoughts
have brought

Bart buys
new tie
with cash
from Nash
gets job
from Bob
next day

Meg mopes
no hope
her guts
since Ted
switched bed
time flows
pain grows

life hard
says bard
thought makes
hearts break
breathe, cry
soon die
in choice

Richard W. Bray