A Local Doc, over Rocky Lunchtime Bourbon, Speaks of Barter and Hopeful Home Remedies

By R. T. Smith b. 1947
Nostrums? Lordy, I have seen them all.
Alcohol’s the favorite. Many a quack’s
panacea bottled in a cellar and hawked
from door to door is thriving still.

Bindweed’s supposed to heal a bruise.
Cherokee remedies still survive,
and slave recipes—hyssop, juniper, chives.
Waitress, freshen this elixir, if you please.

One day a hefty woman who works a loom
down at Pepperell Mills sauntered in
with no appointment and perched herself prim
as an English queen in the waiting room.

What happened next? For a prolapsed
uterus, folk medicine recommends
inserting an Irish potato. It works,
if you can stand the weight, my friends.

Well, she’d relied on that specific
since winter. We’d hit, you understand, July,
and her complaint, not one bit shy,
was, Leaves in my virginia. Not beatific,

no, but she was composed, no maniac,
and it made some sense. What better place
than a protected pocket, warm and moist?
But the spud had sprouted, sent runners amok.

You never know in these flatland burley
counties if your manual skills will bloom
as sawbones or private gardener. Deftly,
I removed the obstruction and took it home.

I’ve raised a whole colony in my window box,
and bake, fry, or boil, I’m proud as hell
of this year’s crop. The woman paid her bill
with eggs and applejack. Life is a paradox.

Now I’ve got to rush back and tend my flock.
Got appointments at four—a pregnant lady,
a leg to set, twins to inspect for chicken pox,
and Marvin with his routine emergency.

I guess you could say my practice is thriving.
Drop by, and I’ll fry you up some shallot
hash browns in Margie’s seasoned skillet,
a flavor I can promise is sure to revive

any ailing soul. Where do I get my onions?
Don’t ask. The whole sweet world is a garden.

R. T. Smith, “A Local Doc, over Rocky Lunchtime Bourbon, Speaks of Barter and Hopeful Home Remedies” from The Hollow Log Lounge. Copyright © 2003 by R. T. Smith. Used with the permission of the poet and the University of Illinois Press.

Source: The Hollow Log Lounge (2003)

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Poet R. T. Smith b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Nature, Health & Illness, Living, Jobs & Working, The Body, Activities

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Dramatic Monologue

 R. T. Smith


Poet R.T. (Rod) Smith was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Georgia and North Carolina. He earned a BA in philosophy from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and an MA in English from Appalachian State University. His collections of poetry include From the High Dive (1983), The Cardinal Heart (1991), Hunter-Gatherer (1996), Trespasser: Poems (1996), Split the Lark: Selected Poems (1999), Messenger (2001), Brightwood . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Health & Illness, Living, Jobs & Working, The Body, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Dramatic Monologue

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