"Mountain Path, Crimea," Ivan Shishkin, 1879, WikiArt photo.
“Mountain Path, Crimea,” Ivan Shishkin, 1879, WikiArt photo.

What mountain path is this, heights taken
Many times before? By steps and stones,
Into morning light I ascended, rising turns
Beyond my sight, wheat fields and olive
Groves, companions of earlier journeys,
Greeted me today, welcomed warmth of
Summer sun, clifftops overlooking Kos
Island fishing boats sailing Ægean Seas.

Few more steps, another glance, fields and
Groves of home have fallen fallow, decades
Of neglect. Alone I stand, sea and sun mist-
Obscured, shade amongst soul-benumbing
Gloom, memories wracked, snakes slithering
On my bed, dogs licking infected wounds,
Pungent elixir sent my mind spiraling from
Healing temples of Asklepios.

No recourse, I descended misty slopes towards
Sunny breaks, steps easing, pace increasing
Into redeeming light. My arm must be lanced
And drained, medicinal herbs applied to open
Wound, such teas I must sip daily. Alas! Snakes
And dogs expel corruption. Healers bring knife
And flame to bear; family raise prayers to holy
Gods, or I shall die if morbid fates prevail.

Asclepios with his Daughter Hydieia, Relief, Wikipedia photo.
Asclepios with his Daughter Hygieia, Relief, Wikipedia photo.

From trance of poppy I awakened, family and
Healers at my side, in temple adyton I slept in
State of enkoimesis, wound-licking dogs nearby.
My right arm bound, blood oozing still, advice
Dream-given, physicians surgery performed.
Death I did approach on that rocky path. By
Prayers to Asklepios, his healing medicine,
My chance to live again.

My poetic attempt at relating early Greek medicine,
healing snakes and wound-licking dogs were routinely
used as was drug-induced enkoimesis, where patients
dreamt treatments to cure their ailments. Remains of
an Asclepeion healing temple are located on Isle of Kos.

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