Should the symbol of medicine bear one snake or two?
If you answered two, then the joke is on you!
Or, at least, that’s the current popular view.
Is the single-serpent symbol the one that’s correct?
Or the rod carried by Hermes, known for his tricks?
Perhaps, there is more to this god than you’d expect.
Known for carrying a bloated purse by his side,
without healing powers to summon or provide,
but he did serve as a necessary guide.
Not just a bringer of luck or patron of outlaws
but there when your bodily functions halt,
and the thread of life can no longer be drawn.
What happens next to your fleeing soul?
Where to go next is the great unknown.
At least on this journey, you won’t travel alone.
As your vacated body is laid to rest,
Hermes is there for each uncertain step,
from the physical world and into the depths.
It may be true that he lacks healing powers,
but he’s there in moments that certainly matter —
those frightening, dark, final hours.
You may still prefer the staff of Asclepius.
The physician god may be easier to trust,
unless, of course, you dwell on Mount Olympus.
The number of snakes surrounding a rod,
and a choice between two ancient gods —
the legend of the caduceus continues on.
Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.