English poetry

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Elusive wisdom

Elusive wisdom

thoth (who became hermes who became mercury)
Who was both moon and wisdom to the egyptians
Manifested himself mainly as an ibis – a watery bird
A restless creature that could not stop searching
Through marshy ground with its sickle-shaped beak

So to the christians the bird became a scavenger
The worst sinner from whom sins sprout forth and grow
Sacred ibises have had to learn (like any living body)
You can’t do a thing in this damned contrary world
Without someone somewhere tearing out its guts

And if you see two ibises (say) standing together
By a river waiting for their friend the moon to appear
They do have the stance of a couple of old professors
Who have said all there is to say about the fraught
Histories of every species that has got itself a life

Not that they disguise their own frailties – any joker
Could knock their legs from under them – they have
Such a tenuous touch on earth you’d have to guess
Their brains were in their beaks which maybe sums up
The base nature of wisdom – a glimpse of the innate

Shrouded in moon darting through water gasping for
Its last touch of air in a slithery marsh – somewhere
There is a store (a golden sump) of truths all life
Has gleaned about itself (indiana jones can’t find it)
The querulous beak of the ibis is our frail best bet

Poem Elusive wisdom - Rg Gregory