When they delved into the archives, which, after a very brief search, had been discovered in a cardboard box in the cupboard under the stairs, the excitement and sense of anticipation was, if not palpable, at least discernible, and definitely, if only a little bit, there. There were several other boxes, but they proved to be stuffed with comics, National Geographics, and pornographic magazines dating back to the 1960s, prior to the invention of pubic hair. Pubic hair, incidentally, was what a bin bag full of old clothes was suspected of also containing. 

So anyway, when they delved into the archives they were fascinated by the insect life that had set up home among the papers there. There were also loads of spiders, which not everyone knows are not insects but arachnids, because they have more legs but are, in most other respects, quite suited to life undisturbed in dark corners and among unread and largely unreadable poetry. Poetry, he had often remarked, could at times crawl from him in the same way that a woodlouse emerges from beneath a damp and rotting log, which image had inspired one critic to characterize his work as “what a woodlouse might come up with if it could be bothered to crawl out from beneath its log and tried to write sonnets.” Sonnets, the louse’s preferred verse form, have the same number of lines as the woodlouse has legs.

Anyway, it quickly became apparent that nothing of value was to be found there. There were legal documents relating to former wives, letters from a plethora of girlfriends, and a number of photographs taken from a distance of women who would never be identified and which were, as a consequence, of only limited interest. Interest in his work had been diminishing in his later years, not only from those who knew him but also within his own mind. Within his own mind he had begun to find it decreasingly worthwhile to get out of bed of a morning, especially if next to him lay one of a band of angels paid to render him solace, but the widening gap between what the head wanted and what the body might achieve made those occasions increasingly poor value for money. Money runs out; money always runs out, and “Money Ran Out” were, coincidentally, the words found daubed in red paint on a wall of his apartment when, his not having attended any events at The Bookshop for several months or replied to the one or two emails people said they had sent, the Poetry Police broke down his door to find the place stripped bare, and the bird conspicuous by its absence. Absence, it was agreed, meant he’d almost certainly evaporated, which was exactly the way he would have wanted it.



Copyright © Martin Stannard, 2023





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