Dr. Thoth and the Heresy of Art


SCENE: Burning books, a crowd, three judges, a stake and a soon-to-be martyr.

ENTER DR. THOTH, our beloved ibis-headed hero. He observes the scene with beady interest.

JUDGE WANDA CROSHAW: - don’t seem to recognise the seriousness of the charge –

MARTYR: How can I take a charge seriously when it defies sweet logic herself?

JUDGE COLIN ODONAL: And, pray exactly how does it defy logic? Those wiser than yourself have seen fit to cleanse our great land of heresy and you have written the following poem:

“Paper and skin are one and the same:
Soft and supple
With the fresh smell of newness at youth
And the musty smell of decay in their later days.

Every word, freckle, hair, sentence line and mark
Tell of a story
A story whose secrets
Are laid naked
By the caress of eyes.

Some may shrink from the stories that they see
And seek to burn them to prevent them from being beholden again
Little do they know
That when they burn the pages –
The skin lives on.
If they burn the skin
The pages live on
And if they burn both pages and skin
Their own skin will be burnt in the process
And will now bear the marks
Of the story that was lost.”

This is vile, disgusting, seditious refuse and an obvious falsehood designed to create dissent for your own unknown murderous purposes and you are charged as such!

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: Don’t forget that it doesn’t rhyme!

MARTYR: Rhyme! I am an artisan. I am above rhyming…

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: Well, when I was a youth, a poem wasn’t a …

JUDGES and MARTYR continue to bicker in background. DR. THOTH is distracted by a little girl eating a sweet in front of him. He pushes the girl causing her to drop her sweet in the dirt.

GIRL: Oof. Hey, he took my sweet!

DR. THOTH: Finders keepers.

He gleefully eats the dirt covered sweet.

JUDGE WANDA CROSHAW: Now that defendant has been gagged, we may proceed with the matter at hand. Will anyone come forward on behalf of the defendant before we pass judgement?

The crowd is silent except for DR. THOTH making crunching noises. He stops for a moment and steps forward.

DR. THOTH: Ahem. Well, I’m not one to stick my beak where it doesn’t belong, but I believe I may be able to assist you in your judgement.

JUDGE COLIN ODONAL: Assist us! And who do you think you are?

DR. THOTH: Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr. Thoth, a humble adventurer. I was attracted to your village by those pretty little flames over there. I must commend you on that novel idea of yours to use the library. It gives off a most splendid warmth. Reminds me of back home.

JUDGE WANDA CROSHAW: You are a doctor? Where did you study?

DR. THOTH: Hmmmm. The title is mostly honorific, if you get my drift.

JUDGE COLIN ODONAL: Bah! He is of no use to us. This court does not recognise you…sir.

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: What does it matter whether he is a doctor or not – more to the point sir, can you rhyme?

DR. THOTH: I can do so, anytime.

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: Aha! A worthy opponent.

DR. THOTH: You might say I was heaven sent.

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: A most excellent riposte!

JUDGE COLIN ODONAL: Elwood cease this nonsense at once! The court does not recognise –

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: Be quiet Colin! I have the highest authority here and I have him on the run!

DR. THOTH: Indeed, my lord. I am undone.

DR. THOTH bows slightly.

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: Don’t be too hard on yourself, my dear doctor, for I was known as Elwood the Eloquent and none have bested me yet, as I was telling that chap over there.

He gestures towards the gagged MARTYR.

And as you obviously must be a learned man to compete with me, you may speak before the court on my approval.

DR. THOTH: You are most gracious. I merely wished to render assistance to your honours by pointing out that there may be a small problem with burning this man for heresy.

JUDGE WANDA CROSHAW: I am afraid not, the law is quite clear on the matter. We too, must abide by the law.

DR. THOTH: Hehmmm. The poem is a vicious lie, is it not?

JUDGE WANDA CROSHAW: Of course. Our lords cleanse the land of heresy for our own protection.

DR. THOTH: You agree that the poem states that if the author and poem are burnt, the poem shall live on in the memory of the executors?

JUDGE COLIN ODONAL: Yes, yes, what does this –

DR. THOTH: And you agree that you would remember this poem after it and its author had been burnt?

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: I know I’d remember such an awful “poem”.

JUDGE COLIN ODONAL: But what does –

DR. THOTH: Herein lies your quandary. If you burn this man and his books, you will be making his heresy into the truth. Your very own actions will confirm its content.



DR. THOTH: And if you confirm heresy, then you judges are nothing more than heretics yourselves. And as you know, all heretics must be burnt to protect the people. So, in the interest of protecting your esteemed lives, I move that the poet be found not guilty and sent on his way.

JUDGE WANDA CROSHAW: I hardly think our lords would welcome news that we have left a heretic to his own devices.

DR. THOTH: Perhaps they might be happier with that news, than news of this court turning heresy into truth and three eminent judges into heretics.

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: I say we let him go. Not worth risking our own necks. And besides, how dangerous a heretic can he be? Nobody ever listens to poetry that doesn’t rhyme. Wanda?




Several half-hearted cheers and disappointed boos emanate from the crowd.

JUDGE ELWOOD GARDINER: Then it pleases me

To set you free
By reason of being Not Guilty
And now do you see
How easy
It can be
To use a rhyme or three?

The MARTYR is ungagged and begins to shout.

DR. THOTH pulls out the sweet and begins to crunch again.


DR. THOTH: Really,
There was no need for obscenity.

He wanders off on his merry way.




Copyright: Jasmine Choinski

Organic Divination for the Urban Jungle

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