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Theory #2: Experiography is not cinema.
It is not writing; it is not poetry or fiction.
Experiography is not art. Experiography is not history.

Roger Williams’ boy slave wears the little red cloth around his neck,
standing in a horde of children and mothers in June 1637, in 2068,
in the Brown University Experiography Lab.
The fathers were drowned yesterday.
Ask Stoughton and he’ll tell you it was the quickest
way to feed them to the fishes.

Theory #6: The experiographer is an academic.

You tell the responder to switch the red cloth out for a scar.
Then red wampum. The archive is unclear about the matter.
You settle again for the cloth. Trying to prevent further friendly fire,
Williams once proposed making allied Narragansetts wear red cloth.
You tell the responder to depict
Williams tying the red cloth around the boy Will’s neck.

Theory #4: An experiographer doesn’t write
about experiography; they design more experiences.

The intelligence takes care of the weather,
the rocking of the pinnace, the feeling of wind, the animals in view.
It is simple to feed
it all the research on the region’s archaeology, geology, and ecology.
Even history. But the history is where you have the most choices to make.

Theory #3: The experiographer is determined
to replicate accurate experiences, not create new experiences.
That would be art.

You have decided that Will could not have escaped.
When you experimented with the idea,
you found the escape experience extremely exciting.
Emotionally and physically exhausting, yet so enticing. Inspiring.
But you cannot in good faith say it occurred. Will belonged
to the most famous man in New England,
“advocate” for indigenous land rights, beloved by few, liked by many, disliked by some,
and known to all. Right?
How could his slave escape like the others? Too many people would know his face.
No one would want to betray Williams for the boy Will from Sasquakit.

Theory #5: An experiographer, unfortunately,
must also be a historian. But an experiographer is not a historian.

This is it. This is the decision that keeps you up at night.
The intelligence crafts widely different versions
of Will’s voice and language. To craft his Algonquin,
the intelligence employs Williams’ A Key into the Language of America,
among other things.
But the sound of his voice? The words he says? Only guesses. There’s nothing to go on.

First you try subservience. Will speaks when spoken to.
You choose a timid, high-pitched voice.
You reduce his age, also unknown.
He looks anguished
as he sweeps the household, picking up a stocking for Mrs. Williams to wash.
How would he have looked anguished? Universalistic theories of emocio-facial expression
had been thrown out long ago.

You try resistant. Will’s voice deepens.
You follow him out of the household
where he gets on a horse to Boston. He is still learning how
to ride. You witness him stealing a letter he has been ordered to deliver.
You raise the pitch of his voice and tell the responder to have him
swear when his horse stumbles over a fallen maple. Better.

Theory #1: Experiography is experience.

You try silence. Will spoke, you know that,
but we don’t have any idea what he said.
Is silence inaccurate, then? Is all-we-know accurate?
Art is about making something new. Fiction is about filling in gaps. Experiography is neither.

Will moves and performs duties. His silence is not particularly subservient.
It’s what he doesn’t do, you tell yourself.
He doesn’t preach or convert or legitimize the land deals like that Sassamon
and those praying indians. He doesn’t. He didn’t speak.
If he spoke, you could hear him.

[Editor’s Note: Publication of this poem was made possible by a gift from William Raillon during our annual Kickstarter.]



Jay Gomez is a labor organizer and co-host of the aptly named Jane Fonda podcast Fonda Fonda.
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