For years I practised as a doctor and eventually I managed to write poems that had a medical thrust to them. I used to be asked at poetry readings sometimes - "You're a doctor but you don't seem to write poems which have a medical undertone," and I think I felt I ought to call upon my experience, however traumatic it might have been. And the first of the medical poems I really wrote was this one called 'Pathology of colours'.

Pathology of colours

 know the colour rose, and it is lovely,
but not when it ripens in a tumour;
and healing greens, leaves and grass, so springlike,
in limbs that fester are not springlike.

I have seen red-blue tinged with hirsute mauve
in the plum-skin face of a suicide.
I have seen white, china white almost, stare
from behaind the smashed windscreen of a car.

And the criminal, multi-coloured flash
of an H-bomb is no more beautiful
than an autopsy when the belly’s opened –
to show cathedral windows never opened.

So in the simple blessing of a rainbow,
in the bevelled edge of a sunlit mirror,
I have seen, visible, Death’s artifact
like a soldier’s ribbon on a tunic tacked.

from New and Collected Poems (Hutchinson, 2003), copyright ? Dannie Abse 2003, used by permission of the author

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