(after a philosophical argument between
Ludvig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell)
When monkey sees a hippopotamus in the temple grounds
he knows it is grounded in fact.
We really must get rid of it!
It obediently vanishes.
There is a silence in the temple cells
broken only by the broom’s clean sweep
as insects are swept away from the footsteps of the unworthy.
Monkey sees the hippo trapped beneath a chair.
He can feel it struggling to set itself free.
Now hippo gets tangled in monkey’s hair.
Monkey will have its hide for a shield against dark thoughts,
an unbroken umbrella to guard him from this rain of teardrops.
Hippo bathes in a hip bath of crocodile tears:
Sunt rerum lacrimae.
He wallows in philosophical sorrow.
When the hippo leaves the temple,
there is a silence as the unspoken word returns,
a silence broken only by the hum of the hoover,
and the beat of a condor’s invisible wings.