the sacred ibis: “hope is a thing with feathers”

haiku a day to midwinter | world aids day 2019

“Australian White or Sacred Ibis” by magdalena_b is licensed under CC0 1.0

haiku: the sacred ibis

swiftest of gliders
once you were swimming this pond
a lotus now blooms

the story of the african sacred ibis

It is estimated that millions of the birds were sacrificed by Egyptians to Thoth, a deity commonly represented in art as a human with the head of the bird. Thoth was endowed with the gifts of wisdom, science, written language, judicious thought, magic, and art. Toth was held as a deity between 6000 to 30 BCE. It’s long been held that the Egyptians must have farmed the birds to keep a steady supply for ritual sacrifice. There is very recent DNA evidence from bird mummies suggesting they may have only been wild caught and kept in some sort of stockyards. It’s too early in the research to flip the the long held theories.

The African Sacred Ibis is extinct in Egypt, but prolific in sub-Saharan Africa. It is unlikely that it will be re-populated in Egypt. The immense expense and effort seems to be only justified by cultural interest.

“Hope is a thing with feathers…”

With its standing in spiritual history symbolizing intellect, wisdom, art and judgement; that it was sacrificed in large numbers; that it is extinct in parts of Africa but thriving in others, all make the bird, I think, an approriate symbol for the difficult history of the AIDS epidemic, our responses to it and the new hope in our world’s time for recovery. That recovery is one of our souls as we find the will to help our beloved people in both the broad daylight of nearby locales and the forgotten corners of the world still suffering without prevention knowledge and appropriate care. I will invoke the most durable quotation I know on the subject of hope on any occassion it is needed:

"Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops-At all-"
-Emily Dickinson

Hope is fair treatment and prevention, erradication of stigmatizing prejudice, education and compassion. “Hope is a thing with feathers” and, indeed, “it never stops” and because of this, it will never be lost.

Published by Vincent Hostak

Vincent Hostak, vmh, is a writer, podcaster and filmmaker. His poetry has appeared in Sonder Midwest, Tejascovido and the Langdon Review of the Arts. Vince is Executive Producer of Crossings-the Refugee Experience in America Podcast.

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