We Know So Much

Tabitha McGowan was the poet in residence at the UK Knowledge Mobilization Forum 2015 in at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Inspired by the 500 years history of the building and its library as well as some helpful hints from Google on the practice of medicine over the years, Tabitha listened for two days and presented this poem at the wrap up of the Forum. We are pleased to publish this poem with her permission. 

Tabitha McGowan était poète en résidence au Royal College of Physicians d’Édimbourg pendant le Forum sur la mobilisation des connaissances du Royaume-Uni de 2015. Inspirée par les 500 ans d’histoire de l’édifice et de sa bibliothèque, et par un coup de pouce de Google sur la pratique de la médecine au fil du temps, Tabitha a tendu l’oreille pendant deux jours. Lors de la clôture du Forum, elle a présenté ce poème, que nous publions ici avec sa permission.   


Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh

Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh

All Knowledge is Mobile: Royal College of Physicians, 2015

Tabitha McGowan 


We know so much.

We know that miasma makes malaria,

That plagues are a punishment,

That an ill-humoured gentleman may be cured of his affliction by application of leeches and letting of blood,

And women should be watched for signs of Too Much Knowing as there is a fine line between learning and devilment.

So if in doubt, incinerate.

We know that we know as much as there is to know.


We know so much.

We know that pustulent matter can prevent the pox,

That all cures can be found between alcohol and opium,

That scurvy can be broadsided by ingestion of limes,

And that knowledge should be captured and kept safe from the grasping hands of The Wrong Sort.

So if in doubt, isolate.

We know that there are others who know things we know to be false.

But we know that we know as much as we can know.


We know so much.

We know that Knowledge is best owned and maintained by bewhiskered white men, for the good of the benighted masses,

That we can sanitise the human race,

That cocaine will cure your baby’s toothache,

And that hysteria can be fixed with good vibrations.

But if in doubt, incarcerate.

Now we know that we know more than we knew.


We know so much.

We know that the mind can be unwrapped and mapped and if antibiotics can fix the physical, lobotomies can fix the mental,

That as one disease is dealt with another will take its place,

That there is a need for breeding to weed out the weak,

And if in doubt, eliminate.

We know we should know better.


We know so little.

But we know that facts can act as traps for the mind,

That what we know today can be blown away with tomorrow’s news.

Today we sit under the gaze of the thinkers of their age, each convinced of the rightness of his universe,

Even as it shifted beneath his feet.

But if we know we know a little, each of us can throw our tiny fragments of imperfect wisdom into the crucible.

And if in doubt, collaborate.

We know the way.


About Tabitha

Tabitha McGowan is a writer of dark romantic fiction. She lives in the north east of England with a long-suffering husband and a surprisingly tolerant teenage daughter, as well as a small menagerie that currently includes three dogs, four cats, two ferrets, and a rabbit that’s allergic to being a rabbit. She has written professionally since graduating from university with a degree in Theatre Studies, and has worked as a scriptwriter for a theatre company, a writer-in-residence for the National Railway Museum and a copywriter.  She’s also a qualified teacher, and sings in a folk/acoustic band when not hunched, cursing loudly, over her laptop keyboard with a quadruple gin and tonic at her side.  Her hobbies include fire-breathing (yes, really…), and being a feminazi intent on destroying civilisation as we know it.

Her first novel, The Tied Man, was released in January 2013, and has been delighting/shocking/sickening readers (usually at the same time) ever since; she’s now working on ‘Unbound’, a sequel to The Tied Man, as well as planning the adventures – romantic and otherwise –  of the rather beautiful Immanuil and Tolly from her short story, ‘Healing’.

She can regularly be found on Facebook and Twitter (@Tabitha_McGowan), usually procrastinating wildly and providing links to cats doing amusing things, and blogs about her writing on Goodreads.



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