©2019 Pericles at Play. Homepage paintings by Annabel Dover

Philoctetes

By James Ackhurst

  

Every morning walking through the park
I’d pass that beggar with his foot bound up.
That whole damn year his foot just never healed,

so I assumed he was playing some kind of trick. 

 

The next year, strolling down a street in Rome,

we see the same guy begging by the road.
I know I’ll have to stop and talk to him;
he’d been there that whole summer that I healed. 

 

Now looking at his unbound foot up close,
I wince – the thing’s deformed with leprosy,

or some obscene disease that’ll never heal.

I buy him food, and then we say goodbye. 

 

Later, I think about the way we heal.
In ancient times, the guards at city gates

would ask all invalids to prove their pain

before they’d let them pass beyond the walls. 

Image: 

François-Xavier Fabre

Ulysses and Neoptolemus take Heracles’ bow and arrows from Philoctetes

1799-1800

Le musée Fabre, Montpellier