London’s Foundling Hospital

Nancy Schoenberger Click to

nschoenberger-270Nancy Schoenberger’s “London Foundling Hospital” is the winner of the 2013 Graybeal-Gowen Contest for Virginia poets.  Dr. Schoenberger is the author of several biographies and several collections of poems, including Girl on a White Porch, The Taxidermist’s Daughter and Long Like a River.

She teaches literature and writing at the College of William and Mary.

“Not Baptize’d.  Pray Let particular Care be Taken’
of this Child as it will be call’d for Again…”

Mary Jane Kelley

Where are they now — four Ribbons narrow (Purpil, pink, blue & yellow)
tyed on yer right wrist and worckt with flowers by my own hand –
whereon was writ My Name is Julia?  Also: a piece of blue silk
pin’d on yer Breast, so as to find ye later among the hundreds
of Exposed and Deserteds left at ‘Ospital.  I had silk then,
fresh from Paris. I had printed calico, and camblet and cream linen.
Also:  cherryderry, calamanco, and satin flowered all over
with sprigs and daisies.  Not this linsey-woolsey, which never rustles.

The weather fleured the day I brought ye in, pink and bawling
and wanting to suckle.  “She has had the Breast so let her continue
to take Nurishment” I wrote in a note pin’d to yer Cap. Yet take her away.

Mr. Flemming tuck’d a playing card with Hearts abounding
among her cloathing, made from my finer cut-down dresses,
to let them know my Tenderness & Care.  Be ye never

as pretty as yer mother, Julia.
Better brown linsey than silks flowered over.

[*Inspired by “Threads of Feeling,” the Foundling Museum of London’s traveling exhibition of token fabrics and mementos left with foundlings so that the abandoned infants might be later reclaimed. Notes left with the infants or stitched on the colorful ribbons and fabrics have been incorporated, with small modifications. “The weather fleured” is from John Berryman’s Dream Song #8.]


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