Poem introduction

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

I 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

Recordings

Dannie Abse

Dannie Abse Reading from his Poems

1Epithalamion

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2Photograph and White Tulips

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3Mysteries

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4Hunt the thimble

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5Horse

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6Return to Cardiff

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7Cousin Sidney

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8A new diary

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9Not Adlestrop

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10Snake

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11The Relic

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12Pathology of colours

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13Peachstone

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14In the theatre

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15Tuberculosis

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16Pantomime diseases

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17O Taste and See

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18Refugee

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19Meurig Dafydd to his Mistress

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20Lament of Heledd

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21Touch Wood

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22A Letter from Ogmore-by-Sea

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23Last Words

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Books by Dannie Abse