“Cures for the 1918 Flu,” by Kathryn Pratt Russell

Aug 20th, 2020 | By | Category: Poetry

Open the farmhouse windows in December. Pack the patient in ice. All nurses must wear fur coats.

Crank start the car. Get some medicine, any medicine, from the general store.

If the mother can’t breastfeed, give the baby coffee with sugar.

See that the children use Lifebuoy Soap before going to school. Link up with Lifebuoy for Health’s Sake.

Wear red. Flu doesn’t like the color.

Take a half handful of aspirin. Do it again.

Keep patient in separate room. Hang Lysol-soaked sheets over the doorway.

Pour rotgut whiskey down the patient’s throat. Get whiskey from the bootlegger.

Build a fire in the middle of the street.

Bathe the child in Listerine.

It is the duty of every loyal American to buy Liberty Bonds and Savings Stamps.

Apply liniment to the chest (hog lard, kerosene, camphor).

Treat the patient with belladonna for asthma and aconite for fever.

Give an enema three times.

Spray the atmosphere of the Home, Factory, Office, Cinema, etc.

Dip the pills in holy water.

Halt the epidemic! Stop spitting—everybody.

Use a quilt of wormwood placed between flannel layers, and dipped in hot vinegar.

Escape the Flu with a New Edison Phonograph. The phonograph with a Soul. No danger of catching the flu from any of the Edison artists.

Drink cough syrup of boiled and strained cherry tree bark.

The women of your household are already acquainted with the merits of Lysol. Your doctor knows all about it.

Eat oatmeal for breakfast.

Inhale nitric acid fumes and gunpowder.

Prepare a white shroud. It will speed their arrival into heaven.


Kathryn Pratt Russell teaches literature at Clayton State University, to students who are much funnier than she is. She has a poem forthcoming in Gargoyle magazine, and she has also published in Black Warrior Review, Red Mountain Review, and Chelsea.

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