Stomackes

By Albert Goldbarth b. 1948 Albert Goldbarth

We know far more about the philosophical underpinnings of Puritanism than we do about what its practitioners consumed at countless meals.
—James Deetz

1

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 after—butter Biskuits!
David Ignatow:   
“seeking transcendence   
but loving bread”   

2

And it is too easy to get lost in abstraction,   
as if smoke, and dream, and quantum ersatz-states   
are 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 novitiate—or sometimes   
simply a mournful family member—follows 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 piñata. 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.

3

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 archeological 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 strangers—of 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.   

4

“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.   
Cheerfull Winter.   
Oceanus Hopkins.   
Lydia Fish, Nathaniel Fish and Steadfast Fish, of Sandwich.   
Zachariah Field, father, and daughter Dutiful Field.   
Pandora Sparrow.   
Who wouldn’t care to meet Peregrine Soule?   
And who could wish to let go of this life   
when faced by Countenance Bountie?

Source: Poetry (February 2006).

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Poetry magazine

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February 2006
 Albert  Goldbarth

Biography

Acclaimed for its dense, expansive form and linguistic energy, Albert Goldbarth’s poetry covers everything from historical and scientific concerns to private and ordinary matters. His numerous, highly-regarded collections are often filled with long poems which range in style from playful and conversational to serious and philosophical. Goldbarth’s unique style is a mix of complex ideas and detailed descriptions woven together . . .

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