The Stethoscope (Dannie Abse)

Through it,
over young women’s tense abdomens,
I have heard the sound of creation
and, in a dead man’s chest, the silence before creation began.

Should I
pray therefore? Hold this instrument in awe
and aloft a procession of banners?
Hang this thing in the interior
of a cold, mushroom-dark church?

Should I
kneel before it, chant an apophthegm
from a small text? Mimic priest or rabbi,
the swaying noises of religious men?
Never! Yet I could praise it.

I should
by doing so celebrate my own ears,
by praising them praise speech at midnight
when men become philosophers;
laughter of the sane and insane;

night cries
of injured creatures, wide-eyed or blind;
moonlight sonatas on a needle;
lovers with doves in their throats; the wind
travelling from where it began.

Discussion Questions
What does the stethoscope symbolize?
What do you think the narrator believes underlies the truly successful practice of medicine?

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