At the end of a sunny parquet corridor:
the shock of mud dumped
on the pristine, polished floor.

Closer in, vision adjusts;
the lump seems like a salt-rasp sob
that clots the building’s throat.

Dread-dense as a sea mine,
heavy as a bell cut dumb,
little ditched anchor of gone away,

the baby crouches, sleep-sunk
as if in air’s last sweet under-layer
as the planet burns.

No eyes, but it sucks a thumb
that our own tongues know
would give the blunt, cold tang of flint

like the jungle-bars we licked at school,
even taste like the salted-plum
of lips split by a swing’s chain-links.

Though my own sons are old enough to lift —
one even to raise —
this earth-brown lostling,

she seems like a cast taken
of grief’s naked wail,
the raw howl of denial

of the void space
in a child’s form
that makes a vilomah.

It’s all I can do not to clutch her dark ice mouth
to breasts that sting with milk’s phantom,
drawn because I’m her alloy;

all I can do not to rock and cry
as when my own sons made day break
with the red-hot radicles of their spines

that shed me  — peach flesh parted on stone,
agate cored with fire — as together we strove
for them both to enter

the shape and light of their names
that seem now to speak
in love’s translation

for keep, for safe and sound, for found.



Emma Neale is the author of six novels and six collections of poetry. She works as an editor and is the recent recipient of the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for a Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand Poetry. Website:


Note: After Antony Gormley’s cast iron sculpture ‘Found’, often also called the Iron Baby, exhibited at the Foundling Museum, London