new zealand electronic poetry centre


Mark Young

online works

A note for the coroner

He was found slumped at his computer desk. The screen was still active, continuous rows of the letter u. He had fallen forward, his nose pressed against the keyboard, forcing the u key down & causing it to replay itself endlessly on the monitor. The information at the bottom of the screen showed that it was up to page 213. It is calculated from this that he had collapsed 5¼ hours before being found. The first line on the first page read "This should be easy." Then a space, & then the uuuuuuus began.

There were two piles of paper on the desk. The one to the left of the tower was comprised mainly of hard-copy emails & three separate collections of poetry in manuscript, each held together by a bulldog clip. The remainder of the pile appeared to be variations on these collections. Two-thirds of the way down was a book, "Trout Fishing in America" by Richard Brautigan.

The pile under the monitor appeared to be variations of several poems, in strata. The top sheet of paper in each stratum seemed to be the final version of the poem, those below preliminary drafts. Many of these pages had hand-written notes on them. To the side of this stack were a stapler, a ruler, a roll of tape, a coffee-stained coaster & a ballpoint pen whose cap was off.

The top of the two-drawer filing cabinet set at right angles to the right hand side of the computer desk was also covered with papers plus several two-ring binders & some books. A folder under the books contained acceptance & rejection notes in receding date order. There seemed to be an equal mix, though the most recent ones tended to be emails accepting his poems.

There were seven books on the cabinet. Those that were closed were two books on the paintings of René Magritte, a road atlas of Australia, a book on birds & a novel called "The Flanders Panel" by Arturo Perez-Reverte. The fully open book was "The Concise Oxford Dictionary", at pages 1188 & 1189, silver to sinecure. We believe he had been using this for reference shortly before he collapsed because there was a hard-copy version of a poem on top of the pile with "Without Care" written on it, & there was a file still open on the computer where this title had been incorporated. This poem is reproduced below, without comment.

Without care

On the road
that runs along
the edge of the river
& which, naturally,
is called Quay St
there is an office
for both the
Harbour Master
& Customs. Since
no vessels other
than prawn trawlers
& pleasure craft
have tied up here
in over a century
I guess these
jobs are what are
classed as sinecures.

The final book on the cabinet, "The Oxford Companion to Philosophy", perhaps provides a clue to what may have happened. An attempt had been made to close the book, but a corner of one of the binders had prevented this. The page part exposed contains an entry on ‘solipsism’, "the view that only oneself exists". An examination of the directory in which he was currently working shows a very recent file called "solipsis ellipsis" which is a poem that could be interpreted as putting forward the case that everybody is imagined by someone else & as soon as the imaginer realises that they are no longer alone then they immediately attempt to extinguish their imagined one. This line of thought is being treated with some urgency, since if there is even the slightest element of truth it is possibly the first of an outbreak of serial murders on a scale almost impossible to imagine.
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© Mark Young

Last updated 14 July, 2004