Flummoxed. Faltering. Discombobulated. Inarticulate. Dumbfounded. Dumbstruck. Nonplussed. Tongue-tied. Tight-lipped. Laconic. Hushed. Speechless.

In other words, dear reader, Scribbleskiff is at a loss for words this week. I’ve been so busy again, getting caught up in the rigmarole of regular life, managing (and being managed by) the important things, that I’ve been unable to get carried away by useless things. When that happens, I turn to other people’s words for inspiration and sustenance.

And what’s kept me going recently? A regular dose of “Daily Issa,” for one thing. Here are a few of his recent, ancient, timely bons mots that I’ve thumbtacked to the bulletin-board:

a bird making a nest
a temple being built…
when will they finish?

on the ancestors’ altar
without fail
a lucky wind blows

in the next life
don’t be a snake!
temple grounds

upon writing a note
of apology, ice
in my ink-stone

And here’s a shard of a gem by Olav H. Hauge, a new-to-me Norwegian poet whose collection, The Dream We Carry, was published by my favorite press, Copper Canyon:

There’s so much to think about here in this world,
one life’s not enough.
After work you can roast pork
and read Chinese poetry.

As Hauge once wrote, “A good poem should smell of tea. Or of raw earth and freshly cut wood.” Hauge offers words to live by, and poems you want to live with every day.

I’ve also been nibbling on some local, home-cooked verse by Steve Ward, the quieter half of the Ward Brothers, legendary decoy carvers. Though known in his hometown as “The Bard of Crisfield,” most of Ward’s poems were never published widely or even collected until now, under the cover of Closed for Business, which my dad gave me for Christmas. This finely carved, touching, little epigraph, in fact, was found written on the bottom of a Canvasback decoy:

The Record I Keep

It isn’t so much what my
neighbor may think
Though I value his friendship a lot.
It isn’t some record they’ve
Written in ink
That I want to keep free
From the blot.
It isn’t some tale people whisper
About the way I gather myself.
I want to keep evil and crookedness
Out of the record
I keep for myself.

And, for a little levity, I’ve been nosing through Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School, which I picked up in the gift shop at Independence Hall last month, on a 5th grade field trip with Will. It’s full of funny, often bawdy bits of Franklin’s wit — including satirical essays, phony letters, cartoons, aphorisms, drinking songs, poems, etc. — much of it not worth a “FARThing,” as he stated, during his lifetime, but all of it worth reading and repeating. Like this pungent apothegm from Poor Richard’s Almanack:

He that is conscious of
A Stink in his Breeches,
is jealous of every Wrinkle
in another’s Nose.

I think I’ll let that be the final word, on this the penultimate day of the year. It’s been a gas, for sure. I’m looking forward to seeing your wrinkling noses poking around here next year.

As always, tell us what you think. Do you have any words of wisdom for the rest of us? Are there books or authors that inspire you during this hectic time of year? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

And be sure to visit (and join) the Scribbleskiff page on Facebook (find it here), where you can partake in wall-to-wall conversations, find additional information and suggestions from readers, and more.

Originally posted on 12/30/2009.


Of Poems and Promises, Meatloaf, Memories, and the Pleasures of Failure

July 27, 2016 Bookish Babble

No one likes to fail. And yet everyone does, every once in awhile. Falling flat on your face is part of being human, though rarely is it anything but terribly embarrassing and painful. I have enough self-respect (well, enough left these days) to know that not trying — a nonattempt, so to speak — is [...]

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Poetry Picks to Suit Your Better Nature

December 29, 2015 Bookish Babble

In December, a young man’s fancy doesn’t normally turn to thoughts of nature, or to the arousing (and consolatory) effects of it. Not in the usual, “greeny flower” ways, that’s for sure. That’s a spring thing. No, common thoughts of nature this time of year usually involve strategies to avoid it. Sure, snowstorms in a [...]

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Edgar Allan Poe Died Here. Let’s Party!

January 19, 2015 Bookish Babble

Sometime last year I wrote about one of my favorite annual autumnal activities, escaping to the imaginary village of Sleepy Hollow and visiting for awhile with its spooky, kooky inhabitants. It’s a ritual I look forward to each year, as summer begins winding down and the natural world puts on one last great display of [...]

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What to Read on the Night Before the Night Before Christmas

December 23, 2014 Bookish Babble

This is the Christmas Eve tradition in our house, as I’m sure it is in many others across the country: before heading off to bed, the children write a note to Santa, set it next to a plate of cookies and carrots, and then settle in by the fire to hear someone read “A Visit [...]

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Apples, Pumpkins, and Stouts — Oh My!

October 28, 2014 Beery Scribblings

I’m a big fan of Halloween. As a kid, I loved getting dressed up in a costume. Coming up with an idea, pulling together the various pieces and accouterments, occasionally teaming up with another fanatic — it was all great fun. And I not only relished what I looked like on the outside, but I also enjoyed playing the [...]

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How to Host Your Own ‘Mencktoberfest’

September 9, 2014 Beery Scribblings

It’s almost mid September, and for every self-respecting, semi-literate Germanophilic Baltimoron — like myself — that can only mean one thing: It’s time to celebrate not one but two holidays: Der Tag and Oktoberfest. The latter, of course, is a wildly popular, mammoth festival held in Germany to promote Bavarian culture and its greatest contributions [...]

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New YA Author Takes His Dragon and Heads Back to the Future

June 3, 2014 Bookish Babble

[Ed. Note: This month, we introduce a new-to-us concept, the “guest blogger.” Our very first is Anna M., who, though a novitiate among e-scribblers, is no novice when it comes to an appreciation for belles lettres. Only a rising college sophomore, Anna has already read more books than all of the staff at Scribbleskiff combined. [...]

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Fathers and Daughters, by the Book

May 16, 2014 Bookish Babble

Recently, I overheard my girls singing the words to “Daughters” by John Mayer. This pleased me, but perhaps not for the reason you’d think. Although I like it when my kids sing, I generally don’t like them singing songs like that written by a guy like this. Nonetheless, I am a big fan of any art [...]

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Who Cares What the Calendar Says, It’s Time to Think (and Drink) Spring

March 4, 2014 Beery Scribblings

A few weeks ago, a well-known and storied prognosticator delivered yet another of his dire predictions about the condition of the world as we know it.  We will be locked in a state of stagnation, he said, a period characterized by frozen assets, low averages, and very little growth. Moreover, he gauged, this predicament would [...]

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