Off the Shelf
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Count The Snakes You See

you may have seen
serpents before

on a white coat lapel
or a hospital door

keep your eyes open
count the snakes you see

one snake or two
keep track with me

count one count two
on caduceus there

find wings at the top?
its owner is clear

hermes — greek god
of commerce and thieves

messenger, trickster
this staff up his sleeves

not owned by a doctor
not held by a nurse

if you see this
keep hold of your purse

now turn your gaze
a rod with one snake

in hand of the one
soothing each ache

asclepius, healer
on olympus mount

his waiting room full
too many to count

medicine’s symbol
from epochs before

not one billing code
or prior auth chore

not a single drug rep
no devices to sell

just a rod with one snake
making sick well

now it matters not how
it matters not when

we lost count of snakes
healer’s art or thieves’ den?

and before you retort
“it’s all greek to me”

do you want your doctor
to be healer or thief?

what does it mean
that physicians forgot?

a convenient mistake
shows what’s at our heart

Emily Kirchner Emily Kirchner (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Originally from Western PA, Emily Kirchner is third year student pursuing a dual MD/MA in urban bioethics at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. She wants to be an old-fashioned family doc who works alongside marginalized communities.