Adagia for the End of Our World
Proverbs are a treasure house or live within
a lake held in common property. We
fish for them like trout
and recipients nod and reckon
they have heard this one before.
If I were to tell my ancestors about our heat, they
would detect a tall tale,
I would hear them hiss: go fish.
Erasmus thought proverbs were
we set, and deemed it garish to use too many.
He used the following metaphor: a painter
projects figures in a painting so that the shadows
do not overlap with other figures. But take
and his Netherlandish Proverbs. He fit 119 in his.
Here, already: our house is on fire.
Yet, what can smoke do to iron? It takes a level
of picturacy to work one’s way through
this painting. And there are so many proverbs here
we can no longer read: taxidermy of lost tongues,
frozen in oils, crimson, earth, azure. Memento mori.
Proverbs are as weak as life.
Consider the frailty of the crocodile
always shedding so many tears in vain.
Dropping tears worth nothing.
There are tears that are worth something,
There are things of capital
importance. Sit tibi Terra levis.
Netherlandish always sounded
like Outlandish to me, which is how I think
of the Earth.
In Bruegel’s Netherlandish Proverbs:
Some catch fish without a net. One
shears sheep; the other, pigs, but mostly,
albeit the proverb’s predilection
for housing animals within its walls,
I see humans, almost a hundred,
a house, a yard or inlet, densely
pressing one against the other,
teeming. Foregrounded. Anthropocene.
The world turned upside down. A man yells
to the heavens for mercy.
Another is armed to the teeth:
expecting the unexpected, in shining armor,
blade between two lips.
Proverbs shelter our faith in murmurs.
They exceed time: in them, things happen
aren’t happening, unlike in Bruegel’s
painting where simultaneous scenes are happening
and overlap, for a second. I blink.
This is the way of the world:
Big fish eat. Small fish never had a chance.
Stones can duplicate
in mid-flight to kill
two birds, whose fall
in mid-air is only like a book falling
defoliating itself in wounds.
Finders, seekers. What killed the cat?
She was a hard-working cat, came home on Sundays.
Fed her children, a cluster of grapes
but tarter, with lactic acid.
What killed her? We need to know, we need
answers. Wisdom is wisdom is
wisdom. Intertextuality is a form of
expropriation. Expropriation is
God kicking Adam out of heaven.
The original sin all along was
being an owner
of property. All roses are not not
roses. Not all that glitters is mine. A mine
a day keeps the miners away--
or dead, or both, like parrots underground, faint, feathered.
Alea iacta est. Proverbially. Better late than--
Oil is thicker than water. Marbled film of
fuchsia and patent jet. So don’t cry cat tears
the day of weakened bonds.
Don’t cast pearl drops before the swine, not over
spilt oil, plastic, milk. Better to
business as usual. Consider Bruegel’s crane
starting its migration, right
next to our house on fire, leaving
towards another land, more temperate,
her white span feathering, untarnished,
gleaming in sun spill
and maybe returning
and returning here
never pausing her flight
waiting only for us, the blind leading the
blinded, to give her a signal
María Gómez de León
María Gómez de León is a Mexican writer, based in Mexico City, where she studied English Literature at UNAM. She is currently assembling her first collection of poetry, nestled in a 215-square-feet apartment in Colonia del Valle, at times longing to be outside, where jacaranda and colorín flowers stipple the sidewalks in scarlet and lilac; at times, outside.
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