• Veronica Ashenhurst

Hippocrates' Staff

"But I shall let the little I have learnt go forth into the day in order that someone better than I may guess the truth, and in his work may prove and rebuke my error. At this I shall rejoice that I was yet a means whereby this truth has come to light."

—Albrecht Dürer, c. 1513*

Tarnished idol, whom I sought to revere:

awed by your steady surgeon's knife,

the blood and breath that you bequeathed me.

Yet still I chafe under your checkered past.

Once, you avowed women's wombs moved about,

or might fall out, if we ran wild. We were

smaller, shriller men, you held, but procreant,

and too much like the milk-filled moon.

You favoured male cell lines, male mice;

blithely sent us home with stopping hearts,

and peeling myelin sheaths. We were, you claimed,

just hurt by careless love or mired in sulk.

So certain were you that this hamstrung life—

dreams shipwrecked, stripped of rigging, in my depths—

was trifling, girlish neurasthenia:

Paxil and pure thoughts could will me back.

Medicine, will you reprove your faults?

I might still honour you, if I trusted

your variegated history was yet a means

whereby the truth could finally come to light.

*The opening quotation of Introduction, Conjectures and refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge by Karl Popper (1963).

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