Necklace with lenticular bulla, Ostia, Augustan age, gold, held at Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Vatican Museums; via Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Daderot.

In ancient Rome, those who would inherit the land
were given an amulet, complete
with the family seal. Called the Bulla,
this medallion symbolized a child’s
unalterable place in the family’s future. 

How did the felt figures of very Anglo-Saxon looking
Jewish-Palestinian shepherds
and the magical Sunday School stories
of my tender years harden
into a belief so ardent, I can almost feel its weight
hang down as I tie my son’s shoes and set
to rest upon my chest as I rise again
to greet the day with him?

I could give it away
or lose it. But I would awake
to find this amulet of belief reaffixed
around my neck, restored in the night,
the way a father drapes the fallen
blanket over his sleeping child,
the way my aging father would when
I would arrive jetlagged and red-eyed
to collapse on his sofa.
The blanket’s settle over me
was as comforting as those Bullas
must have been. I leaned in-
to that tenderness the way a child leans
into a rainbow parachute
which reassures them that they are loved.

Shaun McMichael

Since 2007, Shaun McMichael has taught writing to students from around the world, in classrooms, juvenile detention halls, mental health treatment centers, and homeless youth drop-ins throughout the Seattle area. Over 70 of his works have appeared in literary magazines, online, and in print. He lives in Seattle, Wash., with his wife and son. Website:

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