Libyan Proverbs

By Eliza Griswold b. 1973 Eliza Griswold
The naked man in the caravan
                                                       has peace of mind. He whose covering
belongs to others is uncovered.
                           He who has luck will have the winds
                                                                                  blow him his firewood.
He whose trousers are made of dry grass should not warm himself at
      the fire.
He howled before going mad.
                                                           He led the lion by the ear.
Like the sparrow, he wanted to imitate
                                                             the pigeon’s walk but lost his own.
Walk with sandals till you get good shoes.
                                        Where the turban moves, there moves
the territory. Men meet
                           but mountains don’t. Always taking out
                                                 without giving back, even the mountains
                  will be broken down. Penny piled on penny
will make a heap. Only the unlucky coin
                                 is left in the purse. As long as a human being lives
he will learn.
                                       Learn to shave by shaving orphans.
He who is to be hanged can insult the Pasha.
                                             In the house of a man who has been hanged
don’t talk of rope.
The small donkey is the one that everybody rides.
                                      Fish eat fish
                                                        and he who has no might dies.
                                                                        My belly before my children.

NOTES: Read the Q&A with Eliza Griswold about this poem

Source: Poetry (December 2012).

 Eliza   Griswold

Biography

Eliza Griswold is a poet and reporter whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and the New Republic. Her books include the poetry collection Wideawake Field (2007) and the non-fiction title The Tenth Parallel (2010), which examines Christianity and Islam in Asia and Africa. In 2010, Griswold won the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome for her poetry, and in 2011, . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Aphorism, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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