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Cheap talk and golden silence (10/26/2003)
By Janet Lewis Burns
It's a matter of credibility. Who listens to no-names? Why does one have to be famous to be quoted...or are your words what make you noteworthy? Huh. Hasn't every little and big thing been said by now?

I remember some of the meaningless gibberish we threw around, in the early sixties, while traversing the halls of Lewiston High School. A bottle opener was a "church key." Guys with sleek duck-tails, in hotrods, would "drag the gut" (borrowed from the fifties). We "watched the submarine races" at Lake Winona. "Jinks you owe me a Coke!"

A chorus of "padittle!" rang out, while encountering a burned-out headlight on a nighttime road. I can't for the life of me figure out what it meant, as one classmate and his infectious laughter come to mind. Where did "your mother wears combat boots" ever come from, Jim Duane?

Aphorisms, fables, quotes, and witticisms...like the beautification of a saint-like enigma, once etched in stone "TRUTH" lives on forever. "Word play" can be intriguing...oftentimes the heart echoes through the voice. Logic repeats itself; given time, I, or someone else, may innocently repeat whatever. Chucks!

The "aphorism" must convince every reader that it is universally or culturally true, often proving that two opposing statements can be "truth." The creator does not argue or explain, he asserts. This is what the experts ascertain. (Personally, I think it takes a lofty panache to proclaim one's own statement as undeniable TRUTH.) I have more comradeship with the "Epigram"; it must be amusing and brief, its truth mocks nix.

I read something ironic about plagiary once but, since I can't find the writer's name, I can't share it, huh? Whoever he was, the guy said, "to steal one quote from another is plagiarism; to borrow from several is called research."

Then there was this nationally known, award winning poet and essayist who spoke at Winona State several years ago. A comical Elton John look-alike, by the name of Thomas Lynch, got a rise out of his audience when asked if he's ever "used" someone else's material. He smirked, "Yah, I steal all the time."

Said in jest, the fact is all writers are inspired and goaded by the work of others...it's human nature. We may not be aware that we are using another's thing, but isn't it bound to happen? Aspirations high, cowardice is seldom a writer's forte. It's do or die for the story, that perfected line.

To give credit where credit is due - there have been phenomenal moments in muse, where someone has said that unforgettable, most impacting, and timeless anomaly, that no less than millions have admired and preserved. I remember what poetry critic Donald Hall once stated. "Poetry is the unsayable said." The fact that his word ‘unsayable' isn't in the dictionary doesn't discredit his statement's passion for the written word.

Say the non-word "riverwalking," and its creator, nature enthusiast Kathleen Dean Moore comes to mind. Robert Frost's "fences make good neighbors" is endearing simplicity. Aesop's Fable "The Eagle and the Fox" goes way back to the 6th century, its moral being The Golden Rule: "Treat others as you want them to treat you."

No depth of the wisdom which the Holy Bible espouses exists anywhere. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." Philippians 4:8

A Billie Holiday October night, her husky voice breaks through transparent walls of years...unseasonably warm, crickets and a full moon flooding through an opened house. Lifting my weary sight from these written words, I am drawn to a lit candle breathing life into a hazy photo of my grandson nestled in his mother's arms...

I can feel my son's deep-set love for them, and his need to make his home, his own way, in the shadow of a mother's loss and the fervor of her gain. Sometimes, words don't do justice.

Goodnight - don't let the bed bugs bite. 


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