Free for All
IM of Doll Warner
by Sally Flint
Before she turned ten they called her
Little Mother. The oldest of eleven 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 lectures in creative writing and co-edits Riptide Journal at the University of Exeter, and is a tutor with The Poetry School.