Go Gentle

Anne Ryland

Go gentle
     and all thy life be happiness and love

Note left by a mother with her child at The Foundling Hospital

I nested my daughter in a little basket,
     with three tokens to speak for me:
          an acorn, a violet, an egg-shaped pearl.

I read my daughter a story, to lull her to sleep
     for ever: the polar bear whose bath taps
          were cold and icy. She wanted more, more.

I spilled my daughter a droplet at a time
     in secret. A shame-trail of spots, her footprints.
          She was outside me, and still inside.

I pencilled my daughter into my notebook,
     prayed she would fade. She reappeared
          in my diary; I couldn't not remember.

I tucked my daughter up in one of my dreams,
     somewhere between midnight and dawn,
          so I'd be free in the daylight.

I entrusted my daughter to the castle
     where a green lady with a bundle in her arms
          drifts past the clock tower, to the cliffs.

I surrendered my daughter at the border
     of the debatable land. For years, over and over.
          She was a sunset, a cathedral of colours.

Every time I dropped my daughter like a foundling,
     I ran back to reclaim her,
          to bring her home. Her soft name.

Anne Ryland

'Go Gentle' is from Anne Ryland's second collection, The Unmothering Class (Arrowhead Press, 2011), which was selected for New Writing North's Read Regional Campaign. Her first collection, Autumnologist, was shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2006.

Anne lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed where she works as a freelance tutor of English and Creative Writing, running writing workshops in libraries and other community settings.

This poem was inspired by a collection of tokens exhibited at The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. 'Dropped' became the accepted term for the mothers who left their children in the Foundling Hospital's care.

Anne's previous Poem of the Month is For My Mother.

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Go Gentle © 2011 by Anne Ryland: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.