Markd Y (Archives & Invocations)

by Catherine Sasanov

bill of lading image - for Sasanov poem in PY
“Bill of lading for slave, 1719.” Collections of the Maine Historical Society (Collection 35).

                          Pepperrell Cove, Kittery, Maine

In memory,
to ———-

Where did they bury your not figurative bones?
Who carried your name, passed it on

a few miles, a few years, a few minutes,
whole lifetimes or half
a world away?  Who carried
(who carries) the memory of your face:
blood eked out over generations?
stopped dead at Piscataqua’s shore?
A slave owner’s, slave trader’s
decomposing initial
sharing your grave.  No.  It’s dust
of the Biblical
slingshot.  Stone
finally reaching its mark.
Where did they bury you?  The centuries
of ice heaves, tree roots
dislodging headaches
of field stone
balanced on your skull.



The author, two or three years ago, received from a friend in New York, a package of papers, which he desired to use as materials for a Life of Sir William Pepperrell, the renowned ‘Hero of Louisburg.’  These papers had been exposed in an old shed on the Pepperrell estate, probably for half a century, and were much stained and defaced.  Indeed a part of them had become almost illegible, while others, on examination, proved to be of little value, being, in fact, mere business receipts, bills of lading, accounts, and memorandums.  They were saved from total destruction by Colonel George Sparhawk, who, allied by marriage to descendants of Sir William, and living near the Pepperrell mansion, arranged them according to their dates, in a sequence of years from 1696 to 1759.

                        Usher Parsons, Life of Sir William Pepperrell, bart: the only native of New England
                               who was created a baronet during our connection with the mother country (1856)




When, some years after [my grandfather’s] death, my godmother moved house, the cabinet was emptied and the letters packed up in two suitcases. 

Years passed; one day, at breakfast, for no perceptible reason, the clear thought came to my head, ‘Today is the day for trying to sort out the letters.’

I left the breakfast things on the table and fetched the two suitcases from the attic, dusted them and sat down on the floor to open them. When the light became too dim to read by, I realized the end of the day had come; the breakfast things were still on the table and I was still on the floor, surrounded by letters and half-defined people, some with husbands and children and cousins, others adrift in a world of anonymous, and usually undated, gossip.

No one else will ever be able to have the fun I had with these letters. That is my only regret in having done what I have done with them. I have made bits of them accessible to other Pepperrell descendants who would like to know a smattering of the Pepperrell past… but for anyone who wants a rather larger smattering I have made it impossible to wade into the sea of letters without a compass.

                        Virginia Browne-Wilkinson, Pepperrell Posterity (1982)




Lost Lesson:
New England Primer, 1719


YThe first letter

in a long list of grievances

to be inscribed on a back,

written with a whip, with a bit

of burning alphabet,



At the Port of Piscataqua,

Province of Maine,

                                 a man waits

to read a shoulder in the rain    –


Y The first letter

in a version of the game

exquisite corpse

any number of masters,

might play.



Maine Historical Society (MeHS)
Collection #35, Box 1, Folder 13
William Pepperrell Papers, 1705-1759
Pepperrell, Sir Wm., 1696-1759
Bill of Lading for Slave, 1719


Shipped by the Grace of God in good Order and well Conditioned by Benjamin Bullard

in and upon the good Ship called the Brigantine Sarah  whereof is Master under

God for this present Voyage Cap.t John Morris  and now riding at Anchor in the

Bay of Carlile  and by God’s Grace bound for Piscatequa


to say One NegroWoman, on the proper Account and Risque

of the said Bullard, and go Consigned to M: Wiliam Pepperell

Merchant there


being marked and numbered as in the Margent, and are to be delivered in the like good Order and

well Conditioned, at the aforesaid Port of Piscatequa  (the danger of the Seas only

excepted) unto the said William Pepperell


or to his Assigns, he or they paying the Freight for the said Goods Negro       Fifty Shillings


with Primage and Average accustomed.     In witness whereof the Master or Purser of the said Ship hath

affirmed to three Bills of Lading, all of this Tenor and Date; the one of which Bills being accomplished,

the other two to stand void: And to God send the good Ship to her desired Port in safety. Amen.  Dated

in Barbados Aprill the 11: 1719


           Mortality Excepted                    Jn Morris


Mark d with a

Yon ye right





For this present Voyage

          what reads something like prayer –

    Shipped by the Grace of God
     and by God’s Grace bound –

                                    And to God send the good Ship in safety.  Amen.

What reads in good Order

            and Well Conditioned

                                                One Negro Woman

in and upon the good


                                                One Negro Woman




by God’s Grace



                        (the danger of the Seas only excepted)


The agent has a name                                    Benjamin Bullard
The Ship has a name                                      Brigantine Sarah
The Cap.t has a name                                    John Morris
Water has a name                                           Bay of Carlile
Departure has a name                                   Barbados
Destination has a name                                 Port of Piscatequa
The receiver has a name                               William Pepperell
His job has a name                                         Merchant
The Goods have a name                                One Negro Woman
Cost of shipping has a name                         Fifty Shillings
The date has a name                                      
Aprill the 11: 1719
The Woman has a name                                        Markd with a Y on ye right Sholder




For this present Voyage

the good Ship and the Goods

                                                                                 have a sex

have a Master
                                under God                      have (the danger of


the Seas

                  Mortality Excepted


For this present Voyage

              Sarah and One
                                                                                   being marked and numbered


(the very hairs numbered                              ye of more value                              sparrows)



And to God send the good                                                                         to her desired Port
And to God send the Goods                                                                                         in Safety                  


                                                                                    to say
                                                                   the good Ship Brigantine Sarah

                                                                                    to say
                                                                         the said Goods Negro

                  with a right to


(209 words, but one

penned only once
to sex a chunk 

of floating wood.



About the Author

Catherine Sasanov is the author of the poetry collections Traditions of Bread and Violence, All the Blood Tethers, and Had Slaves, as well as the libretto for the theater work Las horas de Belén: A Book of Hours, commissioned by Mabou Mines. Poems written out of her current research into slavery in Colonial Massachusetts and its Province of Maine have been published in calibanonline 11 and Skidrow Penthouse 15. Others are forthcoming in the Fall 2014/Winter 2015 issues of Common-place, Salamander, and Skidrow Penthouse 17.

To read the next section of “Markd Y,” see Common-place, Vol. 15, Issue 2, Winter 2015.