We know far more about the philosophical underpinnings of
Puritanism than we do about what its practitioners consumed
at countless meals. James Deetz
Yes. So we must reconnect
ideas of God, and the definitions of "liberty,"
and the psychology of our earliest models of governance, with
oyster peeces in barley beer & wheet,
chopt cod & venyson seethed in a blood broth,
hominy pottage, also squirell.
Their heads might well have brimmed with heaven
and its airborne personnel, but still their mouths were a mash
of white meat [cheese] and a motley collation
of eel leavings, a fine samp, and a roast Fowl.
Worshipp first, then afterbutter Biskuits!
but loving bread"
And it is easy to get lost in abstraction,
as if smoke, and dream, and quantum ersatz-states
and our proper environment . . . it's easy to conceptualize in "politics"
and not in the clack of the black or white dried bean
we drop in the voting bowl. In some tribes, there's a designated
"reminderer," and when the shaman novitiateor sometimes
simply a mournful family memberfollows the star trail
into the country of ghosts, and lingers there, this person tugs
the wanderer back home: perhaps a light thwack
with a broom-shock, or the rising steam of a broth that one
can hungrily shinny down to Earth like a rope.
In the Mesopotamian Inanna myth, it's water and bread
that resurrect the goddess and allow her
to begin the long ascent out from the craters of Hell.
We can spend all day, and many days, and years, in theorizing.
"A Computer Recreation of Proto-Hominid Dietary Intake: An Analysis"
. . . we'll float off, through these foggy lands of argot,
in the way that someone else might dissolve in the blue cloud
of an opium den . . . no wonder there's such pleasure in uncovering
the solid fossil record of those appetites, and in emptying out
its evidence grain by grain, a stone pinata. How often
the stories bring us back to that grounding! In 1620,
a first exploratory party from the Mayflower went ashore
on the northern Cape Cod coast. The weather was bad
and disorienting: a half a foot of snow, in air
so thick as to be directionless. But we sense they recouped
their spirits that night, from three fat Geese
and six Ducks whitch we ate with Soldiers stomackes.
And it is too easy to lose ourselves in cyberthink,
untethered from the touchable, from even the cohesive force
suffusing through one atom. "What we keep,"
reports an archivist at the New York Times, "is the information,
not the paper" . . . everything e-storaged now.
A thousand years of pages, pffft: dismissiveness
as obliterative as a bonfire, in the long run. Oh, yes,
easy to cease to exist as an actual shape, inside the huge,
occluding mists of legalese: we say "repatriation
of native archaeological remains," and we mean
human bones, that's what we mean: hard and dear
and contested. We say "ritual signifier of threat," but
what the Narragansetts sent to the colonists at Plymouth
was a bundl of thair Arrows tyed about in a mightie Snake skin.
I died. And I was stolen
into a land of strangersof not-the-People.
I floated all day, many days. And here
the ribs of my cage were empty: always
I was hungry, for the things that People need.
But this was not the sun, and this was not the soil,
of the People; and I was restless, I had no one
for between my legs, and no drum in my chest.
There was much war from this: the People
desired me back, they said "this one
is part of many-ones," and after words and words,
their word was so. One day the breezes sent the fishes
and savory beaver parts, and I knew at last
that I was home: my mouth of my skull watered.
"When hegemonic identity-structures systemize cognition" whoa.
There are times I think my friends might flimmer away in that
high-minded mush . . . and I concentrate, then, on the names
of those people from 1621, names that are true, specific
labor and specific, beautiful common things. Cooper.
Fletcher. Glover. Miller. Glazer. Mason. Carpenter.
Lydia Fish, Nathaniel Fish and Steadfast Fish, of Sandwich.
Zachariah Field, father, and daughter Dutiful Field.
Who wouldn't care to meet Peregrine Soule?
And who could wish to let go of this life
when faced by Countenance Bountie?
Albert Goldbarth, The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems 1972-2007,
Graywolf Press, 2007.