Treasure Island

Carl Sandburg

(6 January 1878 – 22 July 1967 / Illinois)

Put Off The Wedding Five Times And Nobody Comes To It


(Handbook for Quarreling Lovers)I THOUGHT of offering you apothegms.
I might have said, 'Dogs bark and the wind carries it away.'
I might have said, 'He who would make a door of gold must knock a nail in every day.'
So easy, so easy it would have been to inaugurate a high impetuous moment for you to look on before the final farewells were spoken.
You who assumed the farewells in the manner of people buying newspapers and reading the headlines-and all peddlers of gossip who buttonhole each other and wag their heads saying, 'Yes, I heard all about it last Wednesday.'

I considered several apothegms.
'There is no love but service,' of course, would only initiate a quarrel over who has served and how and when.
'Love stands against fire and flood and much bitterness,' would only initiate a second misunderstanding, and bickerings with lapses of silence.
What is there in the Bible to cover our case, or Shakespere? What poetry can help? Is there any left but Epictetus?

Since you have already chosen to interpret silence for language and silence for despair and silence for contempt and silence for all things but love,
Since you have already chosen to read ashes where God knows there was something else than ashes,
Since silence and ashes are two identical findings for your eyes and there are no apothegms worth handing out like a hung jury's verdict for a record in our own hearts as well as the community at large,
I can only remember a Russian peasant who told me his grandfather warned him: If you ride too good a horse you will not take the straight road to town.

It will always come back to me in the blur of that hokku: The heart of a woman of thirty is like the red ball of the sun seen through a mist.
Or I will remember the witchery in the eyes of a girl at a barn dance one winter night in Illinois saying: Put off the wedding five times and nobody comes to it.

Submitted: Monday, January 27, 2014

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