Brooches, the little fixers that keep it all together

cropped-manching-09-brooch-find-5.jpgLast week I wrote and read a poem about Late Iron Age Brooches in Northern France as part of a poetry slam contest.

Being able to write about brooches was really healing. It felt powerful to have fun and be creative with these little objects that I studied for soooo long.  I want to thank Powell River Public Library for holding the Poetry Slam and all the people there for supporting and listening. Looking forward to participating again. Still a bit shy but here is my poem.

The photo is my hand holding a brooch I excavated at the Iron Age site of Manching in Germany.

Brooch

Let me break it to you gently

B-r-o-o-c-h

From Late Iron Age France.
Gaul.
A place known from Caesar and his historical blah blah blah.

Functional ornaments for men and women
who needed to keep their shit together.

Austere more than decorative
They weren’t kidding around.

Let’s get to it. Straight from the gospel,
with data and sources to back it up.

Iron Age.
Iron Made.
Wire Brooches.
Filiform.
Like safety pins.

Rusty and red from the dirt.
Romans called them
Fibulae.
Same as the bone.
known as the “little fixer.”

Affixed.
I will fix you.

Behind the head,
the shoulder.
At the neck.

Bones in bags brought together from the fire
and pinned down for the ritual.

People, pigs, pots and pans.
The whole family eats heartily.
And half a sheep, fully articulated
is buried whole.

Personhood, power and privilege
all boil away in the cauldron.

“What a scene!” say the academics.

Pucker up.
While fire licks the bones clean
and rust falls away with the knock of a hammer.

Three words for the main part of the brooch:
Bügel, bow, corpse.

The little pin takes us back to the time of Caesar’s conquests.

Everything is on fire
and brooches are gathered to hold together the dead.

Vercingetorix King of the Gauls, is brought captive to Rome.

A big parade, a triumph!
Romans watch with glee as he jumps in a hole!
The grand finale is him dying slowly in obscurity
The empire secure once more.

Knotenfibel
becomes Arc Interompu.
The broken bow that points the way forward,
as politics plays itself out.

Betrayal like knives in the senate chamber.

Caesar dies, and then all the other ones.

There’s a whole list of them.
Emperor after Imperator,
right in the back of the book.

These are the names you’re supposed to remember.
There are no sounds attached to the anonymous dead
but dry rattling.

Blow that thought from your mind
and hear the horns of the hunt.

This is culture.
The bent compass
that scores the map.
This piece from that.
And the empire grows.
And walls brick up the frontier.

Because then as now,
power flows from the crucible
and twists upon itself to keep nakedness at bay.

You don’t want your cloak to fall off do you?
Or for your family to lose your bones after you die?

But today
wanderers lost on the shores of Calais
might find themselves in such a place.
With pocketfuls of ancient safety pins
and no safety.

For here we see the ritual happen again.
Whole families eaten heartily
and buried whole,
while we stand around with the other half of the sheep.

No one is kidding around.

Stick it little fixer
Let’s keep our shit together.

 

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