Participants in the Stories of Care creative writing project responded creatively to stories about 18th and 19th century Foundling Hospital pupils. Here are AFK’s poems inspired by the experiences of Foundling pupils and the story of John Bowles. Click on the dropdowns below to see the poems. You can also watch a video of AFK performing their poem at our showcase.
Based on the feelings a foundling would experience when starting a new chapter of their lives
You’d think I would be used to it by now.
This initial fear-based feeling of anxiety.
When arriving into a new place.
A space, a home, or job or life or this
My first apprenticeship.
I’m 14 now and long gone are the days
That I used to play, in the Foundling Hospital playground
I’m well past the stage of wondering, hoping, praying.
Praying for my mother to return
Hoping she would have the other half of our locket
Wondering if possibly she had lost it, forgotten it,
But alas, as I say
Those days are long gone away
And here in its absence, I have found familiarity
In a life where I’ve been labelled as a charity.
You get used to the constant change.
So this initial fear-based feeling of anxiety
Is really just another part of me.
You see I do feel fear, it’s true
When I’m arriving in a place that’s new.
Inspired by a word I heard used in reference to the foundling children
Charity child, that’s what they called me. Us. All of us.
A whole classroom’s worth of children.
We’re reduced price, knock offs. Charity.
Unwanted. Left of the shelf.
Who’s Charity? Am I asking for your charity? Your pity?
I never asked to be put here, on this reduced offer shelf (this ‘foundling’ hospital).
A place, a space for unwanted items.
But I am not an item. I am a child.
A poor, misfortunate, charity child.
With nothing to my name or to my number
And no mother or father to blame
I guess I’ll just stay here then, on my reduced offer shelf
Half price. Cheap.
Story in Life of John Bowles
From the exercise using the five senses, I wrote a story from the perspective of my chosen foundling, John Bowles
This is it. I’ve spent weeks going back and forth in my mind, thinking about doing this, or not. For the last three years I have spent in this apprenticeship, I have worked hard and proven my worth, my value to this house. And yet I have not felt it. Unappreciated, that is how I have felt. And for too long now.
So here I am, standing before the grand, ornate doors of Mr Gladstone’s office. I can not only feel but hear my heart pounding beneath my ribs. As I inch closer to the door, the brass knocker glistens, shines, beckoning me forward. I pause momentarily before I knock. Suppressing my feelings of anxiety as a waft of freshly baked bread drifts towards me from the kitchen and the promise of a substantial lunch brings me hope.
I look down at myself, my nails still showing debris from the morning’s gardening tasks. My trousers showing pleats and creases. “How improper,” Mr Coram would say. I think back to those days in the Foundling Hospital and the manners I had learned there…
An abrupt slam of a window in the house jolts me back into the present and the ornate doors looming over me, daunting and unnerving.
The taste of my teeth creates a tack on my tongue, and my hands begin to stick.
But I am here, right now and I must walk in, and so I knock on the door.
(THREE KNOCKS SOUND)
“ E N T E R” A corporal roar emanates from behind the door as Mr Gladstone calls me to my fate.
I feel the sharp squeak of the door as I push it open, sending a surge of cigar smoke that engulfs me, consuming my lungs.
I push aside the nagging self doubt as I walk into the office. Knowing that this is what I have to do. For me.