I thought of including phlegm in this book.
But phlegm is almost exactly like it sounds:
the sticky mucus that coats your throat, choking
you until you expel it with a round

of wet coughs that signals to all around
that you’ve got a cold. But phlegmatic just
means composed, apathetic, abounding
in phlegm, but not in the sickly, disgusting

sense – in the ancient sense of the four
humors, bodily elements thought to
govern a person. Phlegm was the humor
thought to cause sluggishness and calm, imbuing

the person with an evenness of temper. Still,
soothing or not, the word makes you sound ill.

* * * * *

Holly Painter is a Creative Writing MFA graduate of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her poetry has been published on four continents, and in dozens of literary journals and collections, including the New Zealand Listener, Sport, Landfall, JAAM, and the Cream City Review. Holly lives in both Ann Arbor, Michigan and Singapore and works as a copy-editor, a poet-for-hire (, and a volunteer at 826michigan. Her submssions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

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  1. Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. III, Issues 15-17 | Dr. Hurley's Snake-Oil Cure

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