The first migraine-plagued caveman
who countered his aching cranium
with crudely pounded flint (and lived)
surely shared his medical breakthrough.

Headcutting is old as woodcutting.
Andean shaman or alpine physician,
a good doctor knew the value
of airing out a fevered brain.

In dark ages before Lister and Pasteur,
chirurgeons didn’t know a virus
from a curse, but they needed a name
for the rusty saw they used to open
a blow-swelled skull: the trepane
saved careless patricians from coma.

Modern surgeons’ steel is clean, but treat
tyro trepanation with trepidation. Teen
mystics sing high of tuning third eyes
and praise their cordless doorknob drills
for opening new windows of perception
even as they lie blinded, bacterial feasts.

This poem first appeared at Strange Horizons.

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