This is another of the poems that I wrote for an exhibit at the Henry Sheldon Museum. And here’s a link to an article about the exhibit.
NOTES CONCERNING THE PETRIFIED INDIAN BOY
Henry’s Accession Book. . indicates Leland gave it to museum for safe keeping —
“It was left with him by Woodard. . .
who sold it to parties near here.”
~email from Liz Bless, Middlebury College
History is a cob-web,
a tangle of strands,
flakes and pigments, letters
and scraps stashed in
baskets and chests of drawers.
It’s a pellet of feathers and hair.
Pick it apart with a finger bone.
Here, in the file concerning
the Petrified Indian Boy, we find:
bird tracks at Turners Falls,
a rabbit hole, a dog name Boz,
George Parsons the carriage painter,
a great deal of money,
a hundred barrels of whisky,
a flight to Canada, the law,
and Mrs. Sarah Henry Cross of Brandon
who saw it at the fair.
Was it a broken-off toe, or a crack in the ankle
that revealed the truth?
Did Mr. Parsons know of the Cardiff Giant?
Why did Mr. Harwood visit Newfane?
What happened to the whiskey?
Who brought the Boy to which express office?
Who was Mr. Douglas, who
bought the image for an immense sum?
Did Mr. Brainerd, scientist and historian,
president of Middlebury College
know the local men who raised the money
and did he himself contribute?
Where did Mr. Leland get it?
Safekeeping from what?
How much did Henry Sheldon know?
In the meantime, the Boy
in his coffin in the Museum
has slept away the years,
keeping his secret silent as stone,
or plaster, or pigmented clay.