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A Mother Survives Verulamium

Don’t you go giving tribute to her
As the mother of her people - not while I breathe
To tell about the slaughter at Verulamium.
I went there so my son could have something
Better than what that pair of royal leeches
Taxed from all of us. Clean and rich and well fed,
The Romans gave us a chance to move up
In their city and their world. What did I owe her
And her family - here only for a handful
Of generations, no better than the Romans?
She conquered my ancestors - what's all this about
Being one people against the invaders?
That's a quick lesson on how to become a noble -
Move elsewhere and take armies with you.
There are older clans on this island than hers.

Don’t talk to me, either, about loyalty to culture
If I’ve a starving boy. Fill a bowl -
I don’t care if it’s gold or clay, Iceni or Roman -
With hot food and I’ll feed my child from it.
You people who talk of culture and society
Have the time, I guess, to think of ways
A people thinks like you, thinks alike, and then
More time to make everyone think they need to be the same.
But we're all the same because we need to eat
Or maybe I want new fine clothes, some quarters
For slaves of my own - a bit of class,
A few people waiting for my demands.
If we're all so noble inside, then why can't we
All live as if we were born to greatness?
That's what everyone wants - someone to listen
To us when we speak, even if all we have
To talk about is our culture.

We might have run with the others when we heard
The armies were coming, but we’d made our choice
For Rome and a promise of prosperity, not
The thin gruel that heritage always becomes.
Me - I think that Boudicca wasn’t my queen
For killing my son that day. She killed them all
Because they wouldn’t drink from her bowl.
It's not fair that I never had the chance
To sit back and eat the food he would have spent
His best days harvesting for me, the family
That I would have grown to love and lead,
Wise but firm, against all your pathetic families.
We would never have treated outsiders
As cruelly as you treat me.

Now the Romans are everywhere calling us traitors -
See these scars on my back, sword and whipmarks
Side by side - Iceni and Roman - cutting me in half
In the name of culture. But they can’t get my son
Because when he died I saw his blood in heavy drops
Go up to the blue bowl of the sky. That’s why
I stand in the rain so many days
To feel him drench me with his touch.

Don’t push me - I’m moving along all right enough.
Don’t I have the right to walk
Through my own village without someone shoving
Me back into my home? Can’t a body be allowed
To get outside, to get out of this village
Someone makes me live in? The roof someone
I can’t remember built for me is terrible -
Are you listening? It's only full enough of holes
To let in leaks, but never light enough to see the sky.