Abse, Dannie

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Woodcock, John
  • Date of entry: Aug-22-2001
  • Last revised: Jan-09-2007


This is a poem about the doctor-poet's reluctance to view his own mother's X-ray. Addressing his mother, the doctor describes himself as less daring than Harvey and Freud and other "men who would open anything" to advance medical knowledge. In the poem's last line, as the doctor raises the film to the viewing screen, he resists, complaining "I still don't want to know."


Abse's speaker's reluctance is suggestive because not specified. This poem is a fine short piece with which to begin a discussion of the experience and the ethics of "difficult" clinical situations.


Also available in the 3rd edition of On Doctoring, eds. Richard Reynolds, John Stone, Lois LaCivita Nixon, & Delese Wear (New York: Simon & Schuster) 2001.

Primary Source

Literature and Medicine 3:3 (1985)


Johns Hopkins Univ. Press

Place Published