This poem is part of the Poems for doctors project. You can find out more about the project here.

Season 1 : poem 2

Medical Demonstrator Iuliana Kanya reads A Medical Education by Glenn Colquhoun

A Medical Education

Glenn Colquhoun

for Dr Peter Rothwell

In obstetrics I learnt that a woman opens swiftly like an elevator door.
The body wriggles free like people leaving an office on a wet afternoon.

In medicine I learnt that the body is the inside of a watch.
We hunch carefully over tables with blunt instruments.

In paediatrics I learnt that the body is a bird.
I leave small pieces of bread in fine trails.

In geriatrics I saw that the neck becomes the shape of an apple core.

In intensive care I discovered that the body is a number.
The sick sweat like schoolboys studying maths before a test.

In orthopaedics I found that the body can be broken.
Bones make angles under skin as though they were part of a collapsed tent.

In anaesthetics I saw people hang on narrow stalks like ripe apples.

But in the delivery suite I learnt to swear.

from Playing God: Poems about medicine (Steele Roberts, 2002)

Reproduced by permission of the publisher

A moderated Facebook group hosts discussion for medics and others who would like to follow up on ideas arising from ‘Poems for Doctors’.

To ask to join, or add to the discussion if you are already a member, please visit