Thoth, by David Butler


The prints of a moor-hen,
On the soft mud by a river,
So the philosopher says –
Form no more than the trace,
The purest absence,
The hollow cast of a creature,
That (we only suppose) laid them.
But the poet,
if he can be believed,
Says he sees a lost language,
Regular, cuneiform,
A pattern of runes and glyphs,
No less the text, because we cannot read it,
Than the testament of some lost race,
That awaits its Rosetta stone.

Pulling between pure absence,
And a silent alphabet,
These black prints,
Set into the soft mud of the page.

Note: Thoth, the Egyptian God of Writing, is invariably pictured as bird-headed – normally with the head of an ibis.

© David Butler, The Poetry Ireland Review, No. 67

Leave a Comment