Heath is a meditation on the life of Alexander Magruder (or McGruder, MacChruiter, McGrowder, MacGregor, etc.) a Scotsman transported to the Roya lColony of Maryland as a prisoner of war in 1652. Alexander was a member of Clan Gregor, who had lost their lands and been persecuted nearly to extinction by the more powerful Clan Campbell in the central Highlands of Scotland. The name MacGregor had been proscribed in 1603; those who would not renounce it were hunted down and killed.
n [ME hethe, fr OE haeth, akin to Ger heide, wasteland, fr IE base kaito‑, forested or uncultivated land] (before 12c) 1: a tract of open wasteland, esp. in the British Isles; moor 2: any plant of the heath family (esp. of genera Erica and Calluna) that grow upon heaths; heather—one's native heath the place of one's birth or childhood
Alexander sumtyme MacGregor, of Clan Landless, Nameless, robbed of election, possessed of employment, arrived a prisoner of war. After five years at hard labor, bondsmen might receive freedom and headright to fifty acres‑prisoners and emigrants, alike, indentured to the promise. New men were sold, then left to season a few months in the lethal climate. And if he survived. Each man come out of his time had first to find his fifty acres, pay the surveyor and the clerk. Fifty acres, without labor‑worth less than a good cow. Tobacco, the only English crop, required three men to turn ten acres to use‑with one expected to die before the harvest. Debts payable in days of work, collectible from a dead man. To own labor‑that was wealth. Importers of men earned their own headrights, or a thousand pounds (tobacco), on each man or woman. But a seasoned hand brought twice as much, for he was less likely to die. Only one jail in the colony. For criminals; debtors; rescued defectors, brought back from refuge with the Indians; any accused of infraction: punishment was bondage: indenture could be extended into smoke.
elegance of conviction
He spake of the temple of his body
trafficke in human boundary
The largest harbor in the world, great navigable rivers, a whole continent behind—nothing done in anie one of them, but all is vanished into smoke. Laws required an acre of corn for so many acres tobacco, but who was counting? Servants who petitioned the court—too little food and too much work—sentenced to thirty lashes for their crime. Trafique is Earth's great Atlas, and leaf was, by then, the currant Coyn. Great protection against robbery. Nor to dirty their Fingers by telling of vast sums. Twenty‑five percent of British customs. Five percent of the Treasury. A seed smaller than mustard seed. Those who owned landing places, by which it reached ship and sea, owned everyone.
power at the level of a molecule
chain unseen storm to the currency
a fair trafficke in sacred
Alexander arrived with a coiled serpent in his hand, power compressed to a goose's quill, that ancient resident in the temple of property. Unlikely, therefore, he ever touched a hoe. His indenture was perhaps one year, servant to two illiterate men, whose land grants to him were signed with the mark of X. It is possible [read: text corrupt] he purchased freedom‑with the gold chain Scots mercenaries wore in case of capture.
five hundred years
palisade only as good as its description
Gregor Aulin, Perfectly Handsome, son of He who Uprooted a Tree to Shield his King, was twelfth in the oral genealogy of the sermachies. With the burial of his son in 1390, at Dalmally, MacGregor chiefs entered the documents of history. He had five sons. And daughters (now) unnamed. The one died young. From the others descend the four principal branches of Clan Gregor, including the thirdborn, Gillespie, a Chruiter, whose sons elected to serve the Word.
scholars who can read this script
becoming slightly drunk as the poem progresses
Alexander MacCruither/McGrowder/McGruder/Magruder/MacGregor was the son of Alexander, the same, second husband of Margaret Campbell Drummond, of Keithick and Balmaclone. Drummond by marriage. Campbell by birth, and act of legitimation: her grandfather was Cistercian Abbot of Coupar Angus, priest abbot until the Reformation‑sweet and plump with the Campbell gift to smell the winds of change. A member of the Convention of Estates, who on 17 August 1560 annulled the Pope's authority in Scotland. (Grandmother unpreserved as the moorhen's footstep.) His father was the MacCaillean Mor who first persewit MacGregor with fire and sword, but four MacGregors attended his son's wedding.
ink very black one can hardly resist
quill of swan goose crow
spiral and interlacement
intricate letters beyond all praise
pagan muscle of luxury
to search for other parts of their bodies
nearly concealed or passing into
a serpentine iconography
reference to representation
twisted, plaited, knotted limb
turn under path meet the lover
(that I beheld, and I a creature)
figure concealed by restlessness
honour foriver unto that fire
(some are exhibited merely
to confirm faith in the marvelous)
Margaret Campbell. She married, first, Andrew Drummond, cousin to the 3rd Lord. His death left her in lifetime possession of a Drummond farm in the lordship of Madertie, sheriffdome of Perth: a widow of some property, during cycles of famine and sword. Abduction of her person meant possession of her land.
rape as ambition
Better to yield to necessity, thing in this world that I best luf, and marry. She chose, second, Alexander, surntyme MacGregor, Chamberlain to James Drummond, Lord Commendator of Inchaffray Abbey. His procurator. Of land. In tile ceremony of giving sassine, possession was transferred before witness of something symbolic, such as earth and stone.
Aye, he married it.
His clan had been nameless for two years. He? Warranted by the left wing of a goose.
Margaret was thirty‑four years old. She owned Balmaclone, now Belliclone. I was there. One wall she touched still stands. I was there. Near Comrie, on the old Perth Road. All interest in the farm belonged to her Drummond children. Thus, Alexander the Younger, her eighth surviving child, left, walking down that gravel road to encounter his.
peril of my gratitude
black umbilicus, affection
for to comfort us hereafter
bloody silence carried in you
In the Highlands, Civil War took the shape of a struggle between the Grahame, Marquis of Montrose, and Clan Gregor's great persecutor: MacCailean Mor, the Campbell, Earl of Argyll. In the fastness of Rannoch, Balquidder, Glen Gyle; on the heights of Craig Chroistan, the shore at Portnellan: everywhere MacGregor was still spoken, men unburied their swords‑our harts war sae to vice inclyndeif not for the King and Montrose, then surely against MacCailean Mor.
oh innocence restore my name
dread integer redemption
Of the Drummond lords, now Earls of Perth, we know they received in August 1645, moneys due them for forty bolls of meal supplied to the Army of the Covenant. Or, rather, that James McGruther, Alexander's brother, now Chamberlain, received. Though a bare month after the King's beheading, James McGruder, with most of his countrymen, had turned against the regicides.
s'riogall mo dhream
erased in metrical vow
from Banqueting House to the scaffold
forged dishonest instigator
change thy mirth to melancholy
And Alexander? He, great‑nephew to John Drummond‑ernoch, King's Forester at Glen Artney, murdered by MacGregors for enforcing the king's game laws. He who would have known that story and that sister, fox‑mad. Not through his mother's Drummond connections, but through that Margaret McGruder marrying into the families. He, that He, arrested for deer‑hunting, 1622.
clear view of what we came for
calligraphic pedestal in trees
window now without its glass
scholars at the altar cloth
consult in order to disregard
For twenty‑four years from that teen‑age arrest, Alexander appears nowhere in the kingdom of ink. He does not marry. He does not die. He does not give or receive in the name of his lord. He does not witness. He is not arrested. He is not cautioned to keep the peace. Minor clerk to the Drummonds? Perhaps. Student at Dunblaine? Perhaps. Name lost to English soldiers burning abbey records to keep warm through a long winter? Perhaps. Did bury himself, a scholar, in dust‑damp rooms? Or sell himself to the Continent's wars? Did he take back the name MacGregor and with it his word?
how track a deer slayer
out of kingdome's reach
for once our sources uncontaminated
fixity of symbol and
an unnatural interest in restraint
If I was a blackbird could whistle and sing
Id follow the vessel my true love sails in
And in the top rigging I would there build my nest
how travel through silence
check prisoner lists and ladings
study the operation of 17th c. [blank]
ask archivist to check the date
[palisade in flames
remark that the family retains a suspicion of Catholics
walk the perimeter
overcome fear of men encountered in darkness
Encounters in darkness:
Gillawnene MacChruiter, James, John. Witness charter of 1447 by Patrick de Cumry to John de Cumry, for lands in Cumry, Kapaleany, Glenmayok. Page to Lord Drummond.. Scribe to Lord Drummond. Bands of caution, witness or named. Raid with Lord Ruthven and Protestant lords on Leith, 1547. Declared rebel for raid on Livingstones, 1580. Died at Craigneich, or was there. Born at Craigneich, or was there. Took John Makintalgart pris oner. Took 100 pounds Scots money, three milk cows, and house
hold goods. Charged with Malcolme MacGregor and others. Born at Craigneich, or was there, Died at Craigneich, or was there. Fined for deer‑hunting at Spittalsfield, Capputh Parish. Records of the Privy Council, Registrum magni sigilli regurn Sc.
orurn jacket II.
lie in wait
extractive industry foresworn
1646, three years before the regicide: King Charles is back in the cold embrace of Scotland's Presbyterians. Lord Calvert, struggling to keep his colony. Alexander MacGruther a traveler not found on any map. Nor any deed. Nor any regiment. Nor any bill of lading. At Preston, 1648, Dunbar, 1650, W(‑‑)rcester, 1651: Scots prisoners in large numbers. And not to be idle burdens to their captors: one hundred fifty Scots prisoners transported, via Barbados. 1652: Alexander Macruder, my servant. 1654: Alexander MacGregor takes oath to receive. Land. In the Royal colony.
Of sundrie slauchteris done by clangregoure this
In the 1650's, survivors among the Mattapanients, Aquintanacks, and Patuxents signed a treaty and moved together to a Mattapanient townsite up‑river from the English. [So much say now the histories. In the lexicon of the ethnohistorian: Scotsman spelled Englishman.] Alexander Magruder surveyed Good Luck in 1670: 500 acres upstream from the reservation. Three adjoining plantations were added within two years. He already owned an Assamocomaco cornfield, a strip of priceless alluvial soil he called Magruder Landing. He already owned Itichaffray/Anchovray/Anchovic Hills, the height above. lie had taken the oath. And signed his name. In twenty‑one variant spellings.
That no contest should arise
100 acres Magruder's Beginning
500 acres Good Luck
200 acres Alexander's Hope
500 Magruder Landing
200 misspelled Craignight
400 acres Anchovie Hills
in the Freshes of Aquasco Creek
Surveyed for him from a point of speech: marvellously wasted
From thence through the woods as far
A great part of the people of Accomacke
Not the sixth Savage in two hundred miles
Not then as many hundreds as they had been thousands
In no place but where we had been
In some townes about twentie, in some fortie, in one sixe score
That they neither knew what it was nor how to cure it
Ten thousand years of inhabitation
An indenture in which the one hundred and fifty
Half so which were widow
Alexander owned his land outright, but the Indian Reserve was feudal: seven hundred acres belonging to a Colonel Billingsley, low‑lying land at the mouth of the Western Branch. Good wintering ground for Canada geese. Plenty of malaria. Not one description of their life there. What kind of houses, how many fields. Oyster shells on the middens now no larger than thumbs. Pipe stone in the shape of desire. Very proper and tall, painting themselves with colours in oile a darke read, as blue from the nose downward, sometimes contrary. They all wear beade about their neckes, men and women, with otherwhiles a haukes bill or the talents of an eagle or the teeth of bestes. Their apparell is deere skins and otherfurrs, which keep them from offence. Admit the light, let forth the smoke: there is small passion amongst them..
After a studdie to answere in few words, and stand most constant to their resolution. As for religion, we neither have language yet to finde it out.
breathe for the simple
leap so whispered
no romance in the perishing
tutelage of ebb
this horrifying tenancy
to wander in the America and untraveled parts of Truth
sometimes wake at night to the sound of bees
crouched in the full catastrophe
plenitude as the measure of force
I arrived with a warrant
churring itinerant remorse
1654: Quiet in England, Cromwell installed. In Maryland, the first hysteria of Peace: Puritan repeal of the Act Concerning Religion: an open season. On Catholics, Jews, Quakers, and all dissenters, including moderate Protestants, who did not fancy whippings any more than drunkenness. March 25, 1655: Battle of the Severn, unprecedented malignity. a Sunday: Pro‑Calvert Protestant Governor Stone fought old Calvert enemy William Claiborne. October 3, 1655: Alexander Magrudder claimes of the estate of John Crabtree 170 pounds Tobacco. 1660: the Restoration, of Charles 11 and a new Lord Calvert, of order and the Toleration Act. Beginning of the end of the beginning. 1661: Alexander Magruder becomes possessed of a tract of land, a landing.
And the golden rod he has cast in
To see what the lake might yield
His second son was born that year. Second we know of, second who lived. Not counting children in Scotland, gotten on a loved wife. Or soldier's whore. Or servant, farm‑girl, tinker, daughter of some wealthy man he dared not face. Fifty‑one years old, and a reckoning cut by water. So let us look back dispassionately. Let us look back statistically, erect new trees as he fells them: of freedmen who survived, three out of four got land. Of freedmen who survived, three out of four had a chance to govern themselves: as juror, constable, sergeant, councilor, JP, sheriff, militia officer. The King was restored. The price of tobacco was down but shipping was up. (He owned a landing.) The river there half a mile wide, deep enough for ocean‑going ships, and backed by Indian old‑ fields, flooded each spring so the soil did not die. His sons did not die. In a country of young immigrants, he was an old man. Had he been twenty‑two, he could have expected to die at forty‑four. He was fifty‑one. Fredome all solace. The ax in his hands. He was woo'd and married and a, man. Money and land and no debt, as fast as he could, for his sons.
sgian dhu black knife
he forme of binding a servant
in the stranger's land are plenty of wealth and wailing
Each man to produce one thousand pounds (tobacco) in a year, five to six thousand plants, and learn. To pack in hogsheads, not in bales. Freight charged by number, not by weight, so pack it well. Access to the landing charged in kind. Taxables tripled in twenty years, and every one of them had to ship. Hold a pinch of tobacco above eye level. Offer it to the four winds. More ground cleared but most woods wet: don't live there. Look for high ground, such as it is, and still call yourself a Highlander.
build a hill, knee high, two minutes
Houselot 1/2 acre: garden, and milking pen, I acre for orchard, 6 for corn. Law required 2 acres of corn to be cultivated per man that worked tobacco. Yield: 3‑4 barrels shelled corn per acre. Legal ration: three barrels per man, including seed for next year. Store food and later garbage in the pits dug under your floor. Let rotting heat the long damp nights. One decade of your life what now they call jarm‑building. Watch it kill your neighbors, your servants, your wife. Get up each day to prepare the hills, transplant seedlings. Dream nights of smoke, of worming, topping, succering, cutting, pearing, hanging, stripping, curing, bundling, and prizing‑into hogsheads‑rolled to the landing.
don't bruise the fragile leaf
By the 1660s, up to fifteen‑hundred pounds per acre and man. Or stoop down here and examine the dirt. Ceramics, scissors, straight brass pins, butter mold. There were women here. There was life, not measured in pounds. An iron padlock: something of value. Wooden earthfast: house to survive no longer than a man. Throw garbage out the window. Root pit near the fire. Welch chimney: mud and wood. Time plotted by the change in pipes: the clay, the shape, a maker's name. And scraps of flint, from strike‑a‑lights, gunflints. Wine‑bottle glass, hearth ash, a coin, the DNA of human shit. Cow hooves, fish scales, crab claws, fruit pits, the bones of rabbit, deer, pig, grouse, duck, chicken, turtle, raccoon, squirrel, and dove. A finger ring, Love the Giver, brass buckle, thimble fragment, kettle fragment, bit and spur. Ceramics, some with brown salt glaze, some Indian and some imported, marked with the initials of the King.
but when I woke out of my dream
echo mocks the corncrake
discontent and carry yourself
Ifound my bosom empty
Anchovie Hills gone back to forest, rumor of a graveyard. Boat‑launch at the landing, new houses on Dunblaine: a strip mall and a theater. Marlboros for sale at the Quick Stop on Mattapanient Parkway. Goose preserve on the old Reserve at the mouth of the Western Branch.
beggarly and incident
signifies a frantique spirit
Waste intervening to the nearest enemy
element ground of passing
she's bound his wound with a golden rod
Came he landless subtle savage
Killed and reborn by the Ancyent Men
landing places for goods
unmaned wild country
codicil made in extremis