Excavated History of the Pinkham Farm
born in a whaling ship
off the coast of sailing vessels and other far places,
a miniature portrait of a long voyage of many months or years,
he found his new name so changed it —
he might have been a sea-faring man
forced to travel over the beautiful Ohio valleys and
to settle there, to get his wife, to bring his family —
in the meantime the German owner had developed a spring —
my great-grandfather was thirteen in the log cabin —
a history reports the same history
believed to have come of the clay on the property,
known to the pioneer community according to the same names
he had visited at sea on the secret mission of a great naval hero —
he got the impression they demanded luxuries, lung disease —
the youngest son in Clermont County had a farm and had one child,
but she had no children who lived to be ninety-one years old —
her last hired man may still be there at Rt. 3, Loveland
as a teenager — we do not know
so probably he was responsible for smallpox there —
who built the house built by his father —
up on the farm, a country where he met Celia —
but after their marriage she remembered the most beautiful handsewn quilts,
some vegetables, the cool water, her mother’s music among the generations,
maple syrup, a kettleful at a time — this maple syrup
she took when at the big right time and how good it was, she said —
my mother had uncles, aunts so that explains how descendants were born
immediately, which took place when I was four years old
and Celia visited us once, this time by Model T Ford —
we were to get face to face to Ohio — illness took his life —
she came but lived only her husband’s death — the same year
the maple sugar operation restored all she could to be buried —
across his grave, some distance — on the opposite side of the rock
we found the date the land was graves — Andrew and Cynthia —
the last two I do not know — good — can tell more
about the day by a horse or horses somehow he was hit —
his head like a book — “George, what has occurred?”
Note on the text:
“Excavation” is my name for a process poetics informed by John Cage’s practice of “writing through.” Excavation starts with a prose piece, typically non-fictional in nature, sometimes written by myself, sometimes by others, as is the case here. I then excavate the physical “core” of the prose piece by reading down the center of the page, rather than from left to right as is standard. This forms a column of text, which is then isolated from the original work. This column is the basis of the resulting poem; it is raw material and can be massaged per the poet’s instincts, but a few rules must be followed:
- No new words can be added to the existing text, but words can be deleted.
- The order of the words cannot be changed.
- The column of text excavated from the prose piece comes with built-in line breaks, but these can be altered —i.e., words can be shuffled between lines so long as their order is not changed.
- Punctuation can be added and deleted at will.
I highly encourage others to try this exercise for themselves.
The source text for “Excavated History of the Pinkham Farm” is “History of the Pinkham Farm” by Frieda C. Walworth, the great-great granddaughter of Captain Andrew Pinkham, published in 1975 and available as a small pamphlet from the Bethel Historical Museum.
View pictures of our visit to the Bethel Historical Museum below. The museum is open on the first Saturday of each month from 1-4 pm.