Saturday, March 14, 2009

Old remedies

Old Remedies

Apply a scalding poultice
to lance the boil. Let maggots
gnaw at mouldering flesh.
Wash noxious odours
from fevered skin, then loose
the leeches from the purdah
of their porcelain jar. Purge
me of both black and yellow bile.

Once cured prescribe
an indeterminate absence
in a warmer clime
to prevent recurrence
of my ill humour and caustic

I've been reading about a specialist "maggot nurse" who uses maggots to treat necrotic wounds, and wrote this afterwards.

Irene Brown's pamphlet launch last night was really good and her final poem, a comic villanelle was excellent - I've never heard the form treated like that before and it really works. Good to hear some west coast humour in Embra.


Blogger Jan said...

(That was the scalding poultice!) Great idea.

5:45 pm  
Blogger Rouchswalwe said...

My mother remembers seeing an actual leech treatment when she was a little girl, so we love teasing her with little rubber doodads when the opportunity presents itself (we are a family of jokesters).

5:57 pm  
Blogger Lucy said...

My mum nursed from the late 30s into the war, and remembered a matron who had used maggots in the first world war. Mum described it as 'probably a counsel of despair'. Leeches were used until quite recently, I think, for a condition of some kind of haematoma on the eyelid, where they were the most delicate method available.

Mum also kept a tin of some weird substance known as anti-phlegestin (?), which she used on us for hot poultices in serious cases, such as when my brother got a huge splinter in his bottom! Don't know what it was - I seem to think 'phlegestin' was some erroneous idea connected with the humours that went out some time in the 18th century. Got the splinter out though.

6:27 am  
Blogger apprentice said...

Thanks all. I find these things fancinating. They use leeches to keep blood supply to areas of accidental amputation, like fingers etc, as it helps to keep the tissue alive while they try to sew digits and limbs back on. but some folk are so revolted that they've invented a mechanical leeches to use instead. They also help in breast reconstruction.

Maggots are added wounds already sewn into the dressing.

I'm not sure I could stomach either

2:36 pm  
Blogger PI said...

My Grandma applied burning antiphlogistene poultices at the drop of a hat - like red hot putty which didn't cool in a hurry. Then we would be treated to scalding fomentations, which thankfully cooled more quickly. Thank God for penicillin:)
Just seen Lucy. The antiphlogistene had 'drawing powers' and would draw out all the infection - pus. Custard creams anyone?

10:52 am  
Blogger apprentice said...

Thanks Pat!! I agree antibiotics are wonderful, but with the resistance that we're building up maybe it will be back to the future, as lobg as there are painkillers........

11:13 am  
Blogger BarbaraS said...

I like this a lot. Ever read anything by Medbh McGuckian?

4:25 pm  
Blogger apprentice said...

Thanks Barbara - it's a work in progress.

I don't know MM's work, so I'm off to Google ...

5:09 pm  
Blogger Colin Will said...

Medbh's very very good.

5:35 pm  

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