The Talisman

You look at me.
What do you see?
I am corroded, indistinct, metal.
Dull, dark colour; years of tarnish and dirt.
A hole, old but not mine; I hung from a cord.
Sweat: sweat from hands, sweat from bodies.

Newly minted I gleamed.
Imprint crisp, lettering clear.
Emperor with radiate crown, walking lion.
Taken to Isca Silurum to pay the legion.
Snagged in a fold of the leather pouch strung from the waist of Decanus Carinus.
Tessarus Severus calls my man to carry a message to the Legate Legionis.

The vexillation, just ten men, set off
Marching to Calleva, across the wide river at the port of Glevum.
Into the hills along Ermin Way. Towards Corinium
Unhappy farmers baited them.
Meat, bread, beer;
Glutted, the soldiers snored.
Murdered and their goods looted.
Bodies buried on the hill, the hill with the mounds.
Buried among the witching mounds where the spirits wail with the wind.

I tumbled into the earth, into the limestone brash.
The rain washed me deep.
I waited.
Dirt, from the ground where I lay buried so many years, seeped into my soul.
Empires failed, empires grew, blossomed, and faded
It was dark. It was dank.
I waited.

The earth moved, a plough turned the heavy soil.
A child lifted me from the dirt, transfixed,
He held me, he brushed away the mire.
What strange marks.
A head with spikes “Is it the Lord Jesus with his crown of thorns?
A dog? No. A cat? Neither. It walks.”
Fear! He feared, he dropped me and ran.

Years passed, I was lost among stones, ploughed in, ploughed up.
I corroded.
His son came to find me, took me from my bed, bored a hole for a cord.
I was worn by generations, generations who belonged to one another.
Slowly smoothing, losing crispness, becoming indistinct,
Sweat soaking into my soul.
For each one I was a tangible memory of their forebears
It is from me they knew their place, who they were.

I am the talisman of belonging.

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