Let Others Say It for You, Say It Best

December 30, 2016

in Bookish Babble

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.

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