Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Rik George writes

Making Poems

I stuffed an ibis
I caught one dream
with cotton swabs
from aspirin bottles.
I stitched the skin
with nylon thread
from raveled socks
and waxed the beak
with paraffin
from jelly jars.
I propped it up
against the wall
above my mantel.
It shook its wings
and flew away.



  1. The ibis (ibides, ibes, from the Egyptian “hb” [ hīb]) are long-legged wading birds with long, down-curved bills in the Threskiornithidae family. Two extinct genera were flightless, the kiwi-like Apteribis in the Hawaiian Islands, and the peculiar Xenicibis in Jamaica, uniquely characterized by its club-like wings. Legendary, the ibis were the last wild animals to take shelter before a hurricane and the first to reappear once the storm had passed. A symbol of fertility, the northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremite) was one of the first birds Noah released from the Ark when it was stranded on Mt. Ararat (Ağrı Dağı)in eastern Turkey; it disappeared from Europe over 300 years ago, but as recently as the 1960s a thousand pairs still nested in the area and wintered in the Arabian deserts to guide Hajj pilgrims to Mecca; an annual festival used to be held to celebrate their return north. But there were only 400 left in 1982, five pairs in 1986; only three birds returned from their wintering grounds in 1989, and just one in 1990, and the returning birds died before they could reproduce, thus rendering the species extinct in the wild in Turkey by 1992. A few dozen of these birds remain but are caged in the autumn to prevent migration. In “Antiquities of the Jews,” the 1st-century Romano-Jewish hiostorianTitus Flavius Josephus (Yosef ben Matityahu) sclaimed that the young Egyptian prince Moses was put in charge of repelling an Ethiopian invasion; instead of advancing along the Nile river, he launched a surprise attack from the desert by first clearing it of poisonous snakes: "As soon … as Moses was come to the land which was the breeder of these serpents, he let loose the ibes, and by their means repelled the serpentine kind, and used them for his assistants before the army came upon that ground. When he had therefore proceeded thus on his journey, he came upon the Ethiopians before they expected him; and, joining battle with them, he beat them, and deprived them of the hopes they had of success against the Egyptians, and went on in overthrowing their cities, and indeed made a great slaughter of these Ethiopians."

  2. The bird’s name name was applied to Bubulcus ibis, the cattle egret, which was mistakenly identified in 1757 as the sacred ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus associated with the deity Djehuty (Thoth to the Greeks); his Egyptian name, written as “ḏḥwty,” originated from “ḏḥw,” the oldest known name for the ibis; the addition of “-ty” denoted that he possessed the attributes of the ibis, so his name meant "He who is like the ibis." Originally a moon god, his cycles and phases organized many rituals and events, and Thoth gradually became the the god of wisdom, magic, and the measurement and regulation of time, the sun god Ra’s secretary and counselor whose words always fulfilled the wishes of Ra, with whom (along with his wife Ma'at: the concept of truth, order, balance, harmony, law, morality, and justice, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation and regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of mortals and deities) he rode on the nightly voyage across the sky. Regarded as One, self-begotten, and self-produced, his power rivaled that of Ra and Osiris and was unlimited in the Underworld (Duat), where he reported when the scales weighing the deceased's heart against Ma’at’s feather was exactly even, the measure that determined whether the soul would reach the paradise of afterlife. Making proper use of ma'at (the principle), he was the master of physical and moral (divine) law and was credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the universe, which Ma’at maintained, and directed the motions of the heavenly bodies. Originally, Nut was sterile during 360 days of the year, but Thoth won five additional days from the moon, and she used the time to give birth to Kheru-ur (Horus the Elder, Face of Heaven), Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. Without his words, the gods themselves would not exist. His association with magic, learning, and measurement also connected him to Seshat, an earlier deification of wisdom, who was depicted as his daughter or sometimes his wife. In the three battles between order and chaos (between Ra and Apep, between Heru-Bekhutet and Set, and between Horus and Set), Thoth was the arbitrator; if one god became seriously injured, he healed him in order to maintain balance. After Isis gathered the pieces of Osiris’ dismembered body, Thoth gave her the words to resurrect him so she could be impregnated and bring forth Horus. After Set plucked out Horus’ eye in battle, a battle, Thoth's counsel allowed him to recover it. The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic, and later the Greeks declared him the inventor of astronomy, astrology, the science of numbers, mathematics, geometry, land surveying, medicine, botany, theology, civilized government, the alphabet, reading, writing, and oratory and claimed he was the true author of every work of every branch of knowledge. Human scribes used an iris as a symbol of office. Thoth was generally depicted with the head of an ibis, possibly because its curved beak resembled the crescent moon; in this form he was usually seated in the act of writing and wore on his head a lunar disk on top of a crescent moon. His chief temple was in Khmun, renamed Hermopolis Magna by the Greeks, who identified him with Hermes; millions of ibis were mummified and buried there in his honor.


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