the tongue of a wise wag

October 18, 2009

The tongue of a wise wag once wigged “The teeth are hard and fall out — the tongue is soft and remains.” Tell that, I wangle, to those tiny back triangles, those millions years old sharks’ teeth that keep washing up on Florida’s shores – with nary a tongue in sight. Ah, but sorry little teeth they be, teeth without bite, without jaw or gullet, with no use but to hang pathetic, in plastic baggies next to cash registers in museum shops around the world.

While we and I keep talking, wigging and wagging, telling the stories that lift and carry, and carry us with them, for good and for ill, stories of heros and villains, wise men and and war, lies, myths, and conundrums, stories that create and perpetuate war and violence, stories that transform and bring peace, words that cut to the core of our being and heal us and words that merely cut.

Tooth to tongue and tongue to tooth and tongue to tongue these words restless waft. The shark (I am told) can not stop swimming. If it does it dies; these words can not sit still, on the page, off the page, into the mouth the ear, the heart and mind, around us now hanging in the air.

Lying alone in my dusty bed, leafing through a book of Jewish tales, I read: “Words can draw nails from the heart.” Scrawled now on a slip of paper tacked to the wall above my million toothed 6×48 belt sander- words can draw nails from the heart- now hanging in this air, around our heads, entering our hearts, – words can draw nails from the heart.

A man, a singer, an archaeologist of words, finds, in a maritime museum, a tooth from a whale – a whale who met a horrible fate to keep the oil lamps of New England lit. The light is long extinguished, the oil spent, the carcass recycled into 10,000 beings, yet this tooth remains, because it is hard, and because a tongue-wagging, heart-flagging sailor took a knife, another kind of tooth, and scratched into it words. These words now discovered by the folklorist who merges them with the melodies from two old English hymns and sings them while another tooth scratches them into warm soft vinyl, a record purchased and played on my stereo, the words renewed, cut thru the air again.

While on the sea my days are spent in anxious care, oft discontent,
No social circles here are found, few friends to virtue here abound.
I think of home, sweet home denied, with her I love near by my side.

See hoisted high the flag of love, by heavenly breezes waved,
Here sailors stop and orders hear, obey and you’ll be saved.

When will kind fortune smile on me, that I might quit this boisterous sea?
I love my friends, I love the shore, I long to leave this ocean’s roar.
Then home, sweet home will be my pride, with her I love near by my side

See hoisted high the flag of love, by heavenly breezes waved,
Here sailors stop and orders hear, obey and you’ll be saved.


2 Responses to “the tongue of a wise wag”

  1. Catherine Says:

    Beautiful. Almost poetry – I don’t know if that’s a compliment to a purveyor of prose like yourself – but it’s meant as one ;-)
    PS did you mean Nic Jones’ “The Humpbacked Whale”? one of my favorites…

  2. Newton Baker Says:

    Like pictures and latest writing. I am yet to be disappointed. Don’t expect to be. Shant worry if I am! Very nice. Newton

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