Thursday, May 30, 2013

Friday Flash 55 "Identification"


Identification

It was no badge of courage,
but it took courage to survive.

Dangled about the neck:
Servant #768, Porter #436,
Carpenter #72, Fisher #93,

and the coveted
Free #156.

Engraved copper
perhaps worn with pride,

each shape unique,
each a life forever unknown.

Highly collectible today,
history sold

to the highest bidder.
Some things never change.

by Margaret Bednar, May 30, 2013


I don't think slavery was anything to take pride in, but I do believe a skill must have made life a bit easier as I can't imagine many slaves wanted to be field hands.  I couldn't help but look through the glass at the Charleston Museum and wonder about each of the lives that these (almost 200 year old) copper numbers represented...

This is linked with Friday Flash 55 - a story in 55 words - no more, no less!

18 comments:

TALON said...

It's hard to imagine wearing a tag and just being a number...

Interesting 55, Margaret.

Mama Zen said...

Brilliant 55, Margaret. Perfect ending.

Alice Audrey said...

Who did a porter belong to? I'd always assumed they were freed.

manicddaily said...

Beautiful photo, Margaret - Agh - moving poem. Sounds like a really fascinating museum. I've never been to Charleston - would like to go. Thanks for the bit of visit. k.

Brian Miller said...

wow. pretty amazing. first can you imagine that tag having to be worn....but then that we still sell the tags as we once did their owners...history sold to the highest bidder...we do that ever presidential election right? smiles...

Fireblossom said...

You know I'm a mail carrier, and I used to wear the old police-style hat. I was the only one who did, and one day the maintenance guy dug up some old badges that went with those hats and gave me two of them. One was a red and silver "special delivery" badge, and the other was a simple silver badge with a black number "75" on it. I wore that number 75 badge on my hat for years.
Then the union came to me and said that one of our old-time carriers, who had retired, was terminally ill and had requested to be buried in old-time postal uniform. They needed a hat, and I was the only one they knew who had one, so even though I hadn't liked the guy very much, I gave them my hat. I mean, it was his dying wish. But I do miss that hat, and yes, a number can be worn with pride.

izzy said...

Oh my Margaret, what a sad but helpful-to-them tags...I thought at first you might be referring to the bottle tags-Thanks for enlightening us!

Other Mary said...

What a striking image and write. I didn't know about the tags. Your closing lines are really powerful and though provoking:

...history sold

to the highest bidder.
Some things never change.

TexWisGirl said...

wow. very powerful.

Linc said...

This hits in deep places and is beautifully composed in both the photo and the words. Not all of us are brave enough to explore ourselves the way you did with this piece. Bravo.

Helen said...

Humans identified as numbers .. Numbers like these (showcased in a great photograph) .. numbers tattooed on skin and bone arms .. numbers of war dead .. numbers.

hedgewitch said...

Margaret, you continue to educate me. I'm sure those tags were worn, at least in many cases, with the pride of having an identity, and some sort of position besides 'two-legged stock used for hard labor.' How terrifying is the human animal, with its compartmentalization and rationalization of horrors. An excellent 55, though that number is out-shown by your others.

razzamadazzle said...

This is a very touching tribute to those who wore the tags.

Poet Laundry said...

Wow. This photo paired with your words sucked the breath out of me. So poignant. History and truth...you do this so well Margaret.

Doctor FTSE said...

Excellent pairing of picture and words.

G-Man said...

Margaret....
Slave tags are worth MEGA bucks today. Historical posts are my favorite.
Loved your remembrance 55.
You'd make a terrific teacher.
Thanks for playing, thanks for your wonderful support, and have a Kick Ass Week-End

Kerry O'Connor said...

I didn't know that such tags were used - I have learnt something more about the history of slavery. Thank you, Margaret.

Vanessa V Kilmer said...

Wow, interesting. I never heard of medallions like those.

Flash 55 - prick lee