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21ST-CENTURY POETRY Free for All by Sally Flint

i.m Doll Warner

Before she turned 10 they called her
Little Mother. The oldest of 11 siblings,
she knew about ailments — how to attach
string tight to a doorknob and extract a tooth.
She could tempt a TB victim with broth and starve
a fever. She knew diphtheria meant death,
that few people had money for medicine,
or a midwife. She’d race to a stranger’s house and boil
water, prepare rags and, often in the dark hours,
persuade a doctor to help for free. For years
she witnessed birth and rigor mortis, saved pennies
to put on dead children’s lids. If she was still alive she’d hunt
down her prayer book, find God and scream to Bevan:
Quick! Someone! Save the Nation’s Health.

Sally Flint is the founder-editor of Riptide short-story journal and Canto Poetry at the University of Exeter. She also works with Devon Drugs Service and Devon Community Foundation. 21st-Century Poetry is edited by Andy Croft, email info@smokestack-books.co.uk.

 

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