Image by James Clarke

Pathology of colours

Dannie Abse


Pathology of colours

Dannie Abse


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

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 Reading from his Poems

1Epithalamion

2Photograph and White Tulips

3Mysteries

4Hunt the thimble

5Horse

6Return to Cardiff

7Cousin Sidney

8A new diary

9Not Adlestrop

10Snake

11The Relic

12Pathology of colours

13Peachstone

14In the theatre

15Tuberculosis

16Pantomime diseases

17O Taste and See

18Refugee

19Meurig Dafydd to his Mistress

20Lament of Heledd

21Touch Wood

22A Letter from Ogmore-by-Sea

23Last Words

Books by Dannie Abse