Laocoön, by Brian P. Quaranta
Strive to resist the will of the gods, priest,
Bend your honest words against their fatal deceit
And strain your improbable musculature
Against the layered coils of the sea snake,
Coated with the slime of the deep, studded with
Barnacles that rip your flesh,
Pouring in the brine,
As the rings of muscle constrict your legs, abdomen, torso.
But leave your eyes open,
And your ears uncovered;
See the swelling faces and hear the cracking bones
Of your sons,
Paying with their young lives for your righteousness.
The serpent squeezes out the last of their breath and spirit
Then pulls back into the sea,
Dragging you with him,
While the water fills your mouth,
But not your lungs,
Which are already forever closed by the serpent's vice.
And the last thing you see,
As the fading light penetrates the
Retreating surface of the vinaceous waters
To reach your narrowing scope of vision
Is the great horse,
Winking at you as it rolls into the city.
Brian P. Quaranta
Brian P. Quaranta, MD, MA, is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at Duke University School of Medicine, and a Faculty member of the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine. He has an MA from the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon, and a certificate in Theology, Medicine, and Culture from Duke Divinity School. Recent courses taught include Medicine and Human Flourishing, Narrative Medicine, and Plague Literature: Ancient and Modern. Research focuses on how literature can help to form patient-centered physicians. He has published poetry in Practical Radiation Oncology, The Christian Journal of Global Health, and Carmina Magazine (forthcoming).
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